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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5096

Senator CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Sport, Territories and Local Government)(5.30 p.m.) —I have been listening to both Senator Margetts and Senator Brown and the issues raised are important ones. However, the government will not be supporting the amendment moved by Senator Margetts for three reasons.

Firstly, as Senator Margetts and Senator Brown would know, this issue is currently before a Senate committee. Indeed, the desirability of federal legislation in relation to transgender identity is before that committee. I am sure that Senator Brown and Senator Margetts would understand as much as any other Senator or any person in the broader community that these are matters that deserve detailed consideration. I am sure that those senators who support the aim of this amendment will ensure that it gets that sort of consideration through the committee process and through further deliberation.

Secondly, as Senator Brown and Senator Margetts would know, there is a private members bill before the Senate dealing with this matter. That is not to say that it precludes, on any legal ground, the matter being dealt with here. Lastly, it is questionable whether the Commonwealth has power to legislate in respect of transgender identity discrimination. The scope for the use of the external affairs power is limited because at this stage there is no international instrument ratified by Australia that refers to the issue.

We do not treat the matter lightly. We believe that the Senate committee's work is important and that the human rights of the people referred to are important. But so is the detailed consideration, and I do not believe that this is the right place or the right time to deal with this issue.