Greens criticise Labor on conscience vote

Issue 

BY DOUG LORIMER

SYDNEY — On May 8, NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon criticised NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr for his insistence that the state's parliamentarians vote on age of consent laws according to their personal views, rather than their party's policy.

"NSW is the only Labor state to let the conscience vote hinder reform on the age of consent discrimination", Rhiannon said, referring to legislation proposed by Labor attorney-general Bob Debus to lower the age of consent for male homosexuals from 18 to 16 years, bringing it into line with laws covering heterosexuals.

She called on Labor MPs to implement their party's policy, which states that "anti-discrimination laws [are] to be reviewed on regular basis to ensure they reflect a commitment to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of ... sexuality, age ... wherever it is practised".

"Labor commitment is weak because the conscience vote may mean that the bill does not pass the upper house, depending upon how many Labor MPs are too conservative to support gay rights", said Rhiannon.

Noting that the "conscience vote stopped the consent age getting lowered by only one vote last time it to the upper house" in 1999, Rhiannon pointed out that five ALP MPs who opposed it then are still in the upper house: John Della Bosca, John Hatzistergos, Henry Tsang, Tony Kelly and Eddie Obeid".

Rhiannon also criticised the ALP for including provisions for harsher penalties for child sex offenders in the age of consent bill. "Labor has made a distasteful association of gay and lesbian rights with sexual assault law", the Greens MLC said.

From Green Left Weekly, May 14, 2003.

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