30 March 2009


Mannie De Saxe, Member of Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne

PO Box 1675,

Preston South,

Vic 3072

Email: josken1_at_pacific_net_au

29 March 2009

Minister for Human Services

Senator Joe Ludwig

Re: Media Release: Government launches ‘Couples are Couples’ same sex information campaign

There are certain matters which need to be addressed by the Federal Government’s same-sex legislation in relation to Centrelink’s new guidelines:

1) Same-sex relationships have no legal recognition by the Federal government, which means discrimination, inequality, homophobia and other abuses in an ongoing pattern.

2) The Attorney General and you have persisted in stating, ad nauseam, that the gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) communities have had 15 months to adjust to the new legislation and grandfather clauses are therefore not warranted. This is patently not the case.

3) A minimum of publicity in the media has meant that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of these communities who are unaware of the changes and/or the effects they will have on them, because the Federal government has failed to publicise the changes in the media.

4) From 30 March 2009 to 1 July 2009 is three months, not 15 months as you are all claiming, and Centrelink has even now, by 29 March 2009, not sent News for Seniors to Seniors informing of the changes – and in fact from 15 months ago to the present, there has not been one word uttered in that paper about GLTH communities and possible changes mooted by federal legislation.

5) It should be pointed out that the Australian community is an ageing community, and that includes members of the GLTH communities as well. You will be aware of the inequities in pensions to couples where a couple receives pension benefits which are NOT equal to two single pensions. We now live in the 21st century, and it is many years since women are supposed to have achieved wage equality with men (which of course in practice is very often still not the case.) It is therefore ludicrous that two pensioners in a couple, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual – or whatever the genders of the partners - do not each receive single pensions, considering how costs and expenditures have risen over the years to the extent that many, if not most, households need two incomes in order to survive in the modern world.

6) To then refuse a grandfather clause to same-sex couples who have very often been forced to remain closeted, who have been abused, and treated with homophobia and discrimination merely perpetuates this discrimination. Your laws of the past forced us to hide our relationships and now you think equating us with de factos will suddenly get rid of religious bigotry and hate!

7) As your government has failed to investigate the numbers who will be affected by the legislative changes, costs to government will be minimal – all pensioners pay tax – the gst ensures that – but those who will be most affected by the changes will be people in their 70s, 80s and older, who are amongst the most vulnerable members of the community. The intrinsic homophobia in the federal parliament ensures that these people will be so seriously affected that same-sex partners – when outed by your government by whatever means you and Centrelink employ – will stand to lose up to $100 each per fortnight, reducing their spending ability and for those who have to pay rent for accommodation will now become the new poor below the breadline. This is what you are setting out to achieve.

8) Until such time as there is legal recognition in the form of some sort of federal registration of partnerships, it is unclear whether your legislative changes are, in fact legal, and may well be able to be challenged. Who defines what is a “couple” and in fact what actually is the meaning of “couple” in the context of the government’s legislative changes?

9) Finally, it is worth noting that, although many of us are already in our 80s and are therefore able to be defined as geriatrics, we are not all suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, are not demented and still have the ability to vote. A federal election is due in approximately 18 months time, and we will vote.

The proposed changes have been mishandled from the start, consultations with the GLTH communities have been limited and restricted, and many voices have gone unheard. In fact, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity was never consulted about the de facto status and when we phoned the number in your media release for the community information kit, the staffer didn’t know what we wanted. So how good is your staff education for telephone operators? The GLTH communities have suffered from state and federal governments and their homophobia for the last 100 years, and the forthcoming changes will not bring equality. When we attain equality in every aspect of the law, we will no longer have grounds for complaint.

In the mean time, homophobic comments and actions by federal parliamentarians such as Gillard and Roxon go unchallenged by the prime minister and his government which has staunch allies in the Coalition.

It would be a good idea for all parliamentarians to see a new US documentary on the sorts of discriminations which will shortly be entrenched. The documentary is called simply “For my wife."

A letter in the Sunday Age on 29 March 2009 about Centerlink concludes “. . . . . . never mentioned the humiliating experience of dealing with Centrelink. Even the design of Centrelink offices, where everyone in the long queues can hear about your personal life, only seems to shame the unemployed.” Imagine the situation of 70, 80, 90-year-old age and/or disability pensioners, possibly also hard of hearing and possibly also closeted for a lifetime, standing in such a queue at a Centrelink office and having to disclose the most intimate details of their lives. Is there no end to the humiliations to be heaped upon some of the most vulnerable people in the country?

Mannie De Saxe, member of Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm