Premier Barnett claims to have always supported removing discrimination

Colin BarnettWestern Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett has declared that he does not support marriage equality but does favour creating civil unions for same sex couples.

In an interview with PerthNow the Premier states that he has always supported removing any form of discrimination.

Speaking to PerthNow’s Kara Vickery, Mr Barnett said he supported civil unions, but did not see same-sex marriage “as an equality argument”.

“I have always supported removing any form of discrimination that may take place and my view is people are free to live their life as they wish,” Mr Barnett said.

“But I don’t believe in changing the nature of marriage itself.”

Mr Barnett’s claim that he has always been a supporter of removing discrimination has raised some eyebrows in Perth’s LGBTIQ community.

Looking back at a 2002 position statement from the WA Parliamentary Liberal Party a different picture is painted.

The ‘Family First – Defining the Difference’ statement which was published when Mr Barnett was Leader of the Opposition describes the gay and lesbian law reforms as highly socially divisive legislation that undermines families and their important role in society.

The position statement outlines the party’s opposition to allowing homosexual couples to adopt children. At this time the party was also against single women or lesbians having access to IVF treatment.

Under Mr Barnett’s leadership the proposal was to increase the age of consent for homosexual sex from 16 to 18. In 2002 the Liberal party argued that the lowering te age of consent from 21 to 18 had not taken into account the risk of predatory and exploitative older men.

Allowing any mention of homosexuality in school was also off the agenda in 2002, and the Liberals announced their intention to deny access to the family court. The statement reads, “The Liberal Party does not support homosexual couples having access to the Family Court”, suggesting that homosexual couples should deal with property disputes through the civil courts instead.

It’s a policy platform that Mr Barnett unsuccessfully took to the 2005 state election. Speaking to Lesbian magazine ‘Women Out West’ in December 2004 Mr Barnett confirmed his plan to review gay and lesbian rights if he was elected.

“We will look at it objectively.” Mr Barnett told editor Ruth Wykes, “It won’t be the first thing we deal with but it’s something we plan to do.”

In the interview, published in OUTinPerth’s December 2004 edition, Mr Barnett said he did not agree with the age of consent for homosexual acts between men being the same as the age of consent for heterosexual acts.

“I don’t agree with the age of consent being sixteen. Now I’m not saying we’re going to try and stop young teenage men from being together. My concern is the predators – the older men who prey on young boys, and I feel it’s important to protect young men from this.” Mr Barnett said.

Mr Barnett was also clear about his opposition to adoption rights and single women having access to IVF technology. “I don’t have a problem when a woman with a child has a female partner, and they raise that child together. However I don’t believe in lesbian couples being able to adopt a baby.”

On the issue of IVF Mr Barnett said that it should only be available to married or stable long-term couples. In his 2004 interview the Premier said he supported equality in other areas such as the work place and that he didn’t support discrimination at all.

Graeme Watson