A series of proposed changes to legislation from the Federal Government to end discrimination against same-sex couple will target aged care and veterans entitlements.
Commonwealth Attorney General Robert McClelland announced that the Government would introduce bills to provide equality of treatment under the law in the upcoming session of Parliament.
Mr McClelland described the changes as overdue.
“They will make a practical difference to the everyday lives of a group of our fellow Australians who have suffered discrimination under Commonwealth laws for far too long,” he said.
The proposed reforms come in response to a 2007 report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission entitled Same-Sex: Same Entitlements.
That report found that same-sex couples often pay more than opposite-sex couples for aged care and when they do, it said, “the impact can be devastating”.
It also identified that under the Aged Care Act, a same-sex partner is not recognised as a partner.
“Consequently, a member of a same-sex couple entering an aged care facility cannot exempt his or her home from the assets test, even though his or her partner is living in it,” said a summary of the report.
The report recommended that the legislative definitions contained within the Act be broadened to include same-sex couples.
The announcement from the Attorney General came a day after High Court Judge Michael Kirby identified aged care as an area where same-sex couples face inequality.
Other areas to be affected by the proposed reforms include tax, superannuation, social security, health, workers compensation and employment entitlements.
The changes are expected to be implemented by 2009.