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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29383

Mr ORGAN (2:30 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of the United Nations Human Rights Committee's finding of 18 September 2003 in the Edward Young case that Australia is in breach of article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by refusing to recognise that Mr Young is entitled to a veterans' affairs pension due to the war service in Borneo during World War II of his deceased same-sex partner of 38 years? Why does the Prime Minister think that gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex Australians should be treated differently and actively discriminated against?

The SPEAKER —In fairness to the member for Chifley, with regard to whose question I raised this matter yesterday, I should also indicate to the member for Cunningham that, like the member for Chifley's question, his question is allowed to stand but the use of a name is generally seen as unhelpful in the question.

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In answer to the honourable member for Cunningham, I am aware of that finding. It has been the longstanding policy of governments of both persuasions to pay a veterans' affairs entitlement according to criteria which apply in relation to relationships in the rest of the community—namely, married or de facto relationships as commonly understood. It has not been the disposition of governments of both persuasions over the years to change that.

I have announced today on behalf of the government certain changes in relation to superannuation which we think are fair and will expand the categories of people who will be able to exercise superannuation benefits and entitlements without tax penalty, and it goes significantly beyond extending that to people in same-sex relationships. Indeed, it includes quite a lot of other relationships that can be regarded as characterising financial interdependency, including sisters and brothers, adult independent children and their parents and also, very importantly, an extension in relation to handicapped children of elderly parents—or indeed parents of any age—who may, for understandable reasons, not be living with those parents. I think they represent very important, very positive changes which I know will be widely welcomed in the Australian community.