Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Attorney-General, represented in this house by the Minister for Corrections. The marriage equality debate is unearthing degrees of prejudice that I think we had all hoped would not exist in 2017. In recognising this the federal government is ushering through new laws that would penalise those who intimidate or threaten based on sex, sexuality, gender identity, intersex status, religious convictions or views they hold about the survey. Under Victorian law it is unlawful under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 to vilify a person or group of people on the basis of their race or religion. It was under those laws that United Patriots Front members were recently prosecuted. However, these same protections do not extend to vilification on the basis of sex or sexuality. Will the Attorney-General introduce new laws that permanently protect Victorians from this type of vilification, and if not, why not?
RESPONSE TO SUBSTANTIVE QUESTION
The Victorian Government is keenly aware that the Federal Government’s decision to conduct a national marriage equality postal survey is having a significant and damaging impact on the wellbeing of LGBTI Victorians. We have allocated additional funding of $500 000 to meet immediate LGBTI mental health and wellbeing needs arising from the survey process.
The Andrews Labor Government has taken legislative action on a number of fronts to improve the rights of LGBTI Victorians in this term. We have removed the outdated and discriminatory offence of intentionally causing HIV from the Crimes Act 1958. We have secured the passage of legislation to allow same sex couples to adopt. We have amended the Relationships Act 2008 to: make it easier for same sex couples to register their relationship in Victoria; to recognise couples who have formalised their relationships in other jurisdictions, including by way of same sex marriage overseas; and ensure couples have access to ceremonial services similar to those provided to couples married at the Registry. We also put forward legislation to remove barriers to new birth certificates for trans and gender diverse Victorians, and legislation to reinstate the inherent requirements test in relation to religious exceptions and employment.
We have made a formal State apology to those convicted under unjust and prejudiced laws against homosexual acts prior to decriminalisation in 1981. This followed the establishment of the scheme to expunge convictions under such laws which came into effect on 1 September 2015. The Government thanks Ms Patten for her demonstrated support of our progressive legislative agenda and appreciates her advocacy on behalf of people affected by this damaging survey.
The Victorian Government acknowledges the newly introduced federal laws, which are intended to increase protections for LGBTI people during the survey period. We are constantly looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of Victorian laws, and will carefully monitor how the federal protections are applied.