Crossbench MP says WA LGBTIQA+ law reform does not go far enough

Upper House MP, Dr Brian Walker, says the recommendations from WA Law Reform Commission to update the state’s Equal Opportunity Act don’t go far enough.

The East Metropolitan GP, elected for the Legalise Cannabis Party in 2021, insists that the need for reform to LGBTIQA+ legislation should be as much about improving mental health as it is about simple amendments to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

“The recommendations from the WALRC are good, but two in particular are weaker than existing laws in Tasmania and I see no reason for WA to go backwards on those,” Dr Walker said.

The two areas where the crossbencher said the government needs to beef-up the proposed laws were in relation to religious exemptions and hate-speech laws.

“One recommendation is to allow religious organisations that provide a service, but don’t get public funding, to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ employees, volunteers and those it offers services to. This might, for example, be a soup kitchen to the homeless.

“I see no reason why such discrimination should be allowed and note that Tasmania outlawed this discrimination 25 years ago.

“The second area is in relation to anti-vilification. The recommendation is to prohibit harmful speech that ‘threatens, seriously abuses, or severely ridicules a group, or a person as a member of a group.’

“This falls short of Tasmania’s anti-bullying laws which have been in place for a quarter of a century. Their laws also cover ‘humiliates, intimidates and insults’, which has been of greatest benefit to people with a disability.

“I believe WA laws should at least equal that benchmark and not step back from it.”

Dr Walker confirmed that he had written to Attorney General, Mr Quigley, to urge that the Government lift the standard of the proposed recommendations to meet national best-practice.

“I also want to see the government address the issue of identity documents and birth certificates for trans, gender diverse and people who are intersex, so that this discrimination is fixed in parallel with updating the Equal Opportunity Act. It just makes sense to deal with these issues simultaneously given they are related.”

“While the government does not need the support of crossbench MPs to pass the coming legislation, it’s clear that our support is needed to advocate strongly for the best results.

“I see these issues as being measures we can take to improve the mental health outcomes of LGBTIQA+ people, as well as banning conversion practices at some point soon”, he said.

Dr Walker added that, if the government did not upgrade recommendations 77 and 113, he would look to move amendments in Parliament to press the case of more substantial reform.

The politician is not alone in his call, LGBTIQA+ rights group Just.Equal have also highlighted the issue.

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