HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.29 pm]: I rise because I want to express my concerns about the slow progress that this government is making to ensure that LGBTIQ people are afforded the same rights as the rest of the community. Over the past couple of weeks in this place, I have asked questions about the status of two Law Reform Commission projects that I think have the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of LGBTIQ people. I am talking about Project 108, which is a review of Western Australia’s legislation in relation to the registration or change of a person’s sex and/or gender status relating to sex characteristics, and of course the review of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. On both occasions, I was disappointed to hear that, in essence, there will be no actionable change in the foreseeable future. This is particularly concerning in relation to the Project 108 report, which was finalised in December last year, so it is getting close to a year ago now.
As members may remember, in January 2018 the Attorney General asked the Law Reform Commission to review and report on issues and inconsistencies in WA’s current legal framework relating to the legal recognition of sex and gender. That referral was made in part because the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 had been roundly criticised by the High Court of Australia.
We know that trans, gender diverse and intersex people in WA face a number of administrative challenges when different identity documents record conflicting sex and/or gender classifications. This, in turn, has significant and unnecessary impacts on a person’s life and wellbeing. The Law Reform Commission was given 11 months to undertake what ended up being quite a substantial body of work. To its credit, it delivered a high-quality report after extensive consultation with the community. The same cannot be said of the government. Ten months have passed since the report was tabled, but the Attorney General has advised that the government is still considering the recommendations made in the report and that he is not able to place a time frame on the completion of that work. If the government is taking this long to put together even a basic response to the recommendations, I despair at how long it will take before any bill comes before Parliament. I hold similar concerns about the review of the Equal Opportunity Act. In October 2018, two months before the release of the Law Reform Commission’s report on Project 108, the Attorney General announced that the state government would be undertaking a review of the Equal Opportunity Act. In response to my question last week about the time frame for the review, the Attorney General advised that the Law Reform Commission’s final report will not be available until 30 June 2021, after the entire fortieth Parliament has ended.
One section of the act that I have been particularly concerned about is section 73, which provides an exemption for religious schools that, amongst other attributes, allows them to discriminate against staff who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer. Although I wholeheartedly welcomed the announcement of the review at the time, because it is important that we also have a comprehensive review of that act, I also expressed concern about how long those review processes could potentially take. I suggested that we could still look at some sort of interim amendment, just as we did, for example, with the breastfeeding legislation. The Attorney General’s recent advice to this place apparently has confirmed that my concerns about the time frames were completely right, which fuels my calls for us to act now and simply remove and replace section 73, and not wait for the broader outcome of the review.
Realistically, as the experience of Project 108 demonstrates, it will be years before we see any amended legislation before this Parliament. Obviously, it will not even be contemplated that it will occur within this term of Parliament. I think it is bad enough that people from the LGBTIQ community have faced discrimination to date, but it is indefensible that they will continue to be subject to what is effectively becoming state-sanctioned discrimination for years to come simply because the government and, more accurately, the Attorney General are not seeking to prioritise reforms to ensure that the LGBTIQ community is able to enjoy the same rights as the rest of the community.