Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 August 2021


Human Rights

7:50 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Tonight, as I do most Tuesday nights, I want to speak about human rights, because the Australian Greens believe that universal human rights are fundamental and must be respected and protected in all countries and for all people.

I want to talk first about the rights of LGBTIQA+ people here in Australia to be free from discrimination and particularly how damaging the approach in tonight's census has been for LGBTIQA+ communities. By not asking the right questions, the census is erasing the identities of queer people. Nathan Anastasi is a trans man who spoke to the ABC about what the gap in the census means to him. He said:

I've been excluded. For me, the census is the biggest data collection that occurs in this country and, so, it should be designed to include a collection of data on all Australians …

Anna Brown, the CEO of Equality Australia, wrote last week:

… the Australian Bureau of Statistics will collect a whole heap of data about my personal life – how much I earn, my religious affiliation and even my history of chronic health conditions. But they won't learn about something that's important to the picture of who I am – my sexual orientation.

In fact, once again, lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and queer people won’t be properly counted in this year's census, because the ABS and the responsible minister – Michael Sukkar – failed to add in questions about sexual orientation, gender identity or variations in sex characteristics.

This erasure hurts every individual member of our LGBTIQA+ communities. And this erasure flows on to policymaking, as the Australian LGBTIQA+ community census declaration noted in the their powerful statement:

We condemn the 2021 Census for continuing to render LGBTIQA+ Australians invisible and to make it harder to address the stigma, discrimination and lack of services we experience.

We call on the Federal Government to commit to following its own guidelines on recognition of sex and gender by including in the 2026 Census the best practice questions already developed in consultation with the LGBTIQA+ community.

This matters because of the impact it has on so many people's lives across health services, mental health provision, housing services, employment outcomes and more.

The government has already promised to introduce a religious discrimination bill by the end of the year, and when the census is done we will have detailed data on the religion of every person who chooses to answer that question. But for LGBTIQA+ people there is no question in this year's census that enables them to make their voice count. Equality is not negotiable, and we fight the stigma and discrimination that, tragically, LGBTIQA+ communities still experience.

Last week marked the second anniversary of Kashmir's loss of its special-autonomy status, and the Australian Greens share the grief and sorrow of activists around the world at the ongoing tragedy of human rights abuses in Kashmir. From well before 2019 we've seen very serious human rights abuses in Kashmir. We've seen a communications blackout, which is an incredibly serious violation of Kashmiris' human rights. We've seen weapons fired at crowds—incredibly dangerous and a fundamental attack on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. There have been extrajudicial killings. The Indian government's security forces in Kashmir have operated with impunity and are not being held accountable due to special protections in law. Worse than that, the Indian government's actions have been compounded during the COVID-19 crisis. Kashmir was not provided with resources to respond to COVID-19 and had fewer doctors and ICU beds than other regions of India. Many prisoners who should have been released were held for political reasons and placed at increased risk of COVID.

The attacks on human rights are horrifying and they must stop. We call on the Australian government to do everything it can to directly raise the issue of human rights internationally, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including with the Indian government. This is something I've raised multiple times here, and I will continue to do so. Most importantly, we call for the full right for self-determination for the people of Kashmir, as a fundamental human right both under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


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