10 March 2010


This was received by email on 9 March 2010 and is yet further support for what we have been saying for some time - the federal government's homophobia continues unabated:

Daniel Stubbs, co-ordinator of the Sydney Inner City Legal Centre, writes:


Sue-Ann Post ("The pink list: Centrelink couples register scaring the pants off gays" -- raises some important issues of discrimination and unequal treatment. But there are other issues at play.

I don’t deny such pink-list persecution is possible. But perhaps more importantly, recent law reforms -- an excellent first step, certainly -- are discriminatory in themselves.

The reforms to Centrelink entitlements for same-sex relationships do not include a grandfathering or extended delays provision. When the aged pension entitlement age was changed from 65 to 67 the implementation date was delayed by more than 15 years -- minimising its impact on those currently preparing for retirement and ensuring it didn’t alter the entitlement of anyone currently on the aged pension.

Similarly, the significant changes to entitlement arrangements for disability support pensioners saw current recipients have their existing arrangements grandfathered or, at worst, changes delayed to allow time to adjust their circumstances.

Couples in any relationship make life-changing decisions -- living together, living near one person’s aging parent, near the other's workplace, etc -- that are hard, if not impossible, to undo. If one or both of them are in receipt of a Centrelink entitlement the economics of the decision have just been seriously undermined.

Remember, no one gets rich on Centrelink entitlements -- they just get by, hopefully with some dignity.

Certainly, the gay community has benefited from dozens of other federal law reforms -- from changes to the health insurance rebate to spousal entitlements in Commonwealth superannuation. But it is regressive law reform that takes money from gay people on low incomes and gives it to richer couples.

Fiscally neutral perhaps, it has made many people more comfortable while causing others to change lives/living arrangements -- or consider breaking up from their current relationship.

Centrelink investigations can be intrusive -- they may take into account sleeping arrangements, sharing of bills, joint purchase of furniture and other factors indicating interdependency. To those couples not "out" -- and many are not, at least in some parts of their lives including workplaces, neighbourhoods, families and other associations -- it can be devastating.

It’s important to remember the 85 law reforms did not create equality for people who are gay or lesbian in Australia. For example, it was relatively recently that the federal government explicitly banned same-s-x marriage. On a last-in first-out basis it would have been nice if this change could have been reversed along with the many other long-standing discriminatory laws.

And then there are the state-based laws still in need of reform, including in New South Wales -- once the most progressive state for people who are gay or lesbian.

So, while it is true the "pink list" may provide for persecution due to inter-departmental data matching, privacy breaches and other inappropriate uses of personal information, it’s only a possible eventuality. These federal law reforms currently serve to highlight the marginalisation of people who are gay or lesbian in Australia by bringing into sharp focus the discrimination and unequal treatment of the gay and lesbian community.

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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