Page 3154 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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before the law and is entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination. In particular, everyone has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground. The scheme will ensure that people who were convicted of homosexual sex offences in the ACT are no longer discriminated against as a result of those convictions remaining on their criminal record.

The Victorian Human Rights Centre, in their background paper “Righting historical wrongs”, highlighted:

A criminal conviction can cause significant and lifelong damage to a person’s reputation, mental health and familial relations, their prospects for employment or volunteering and their self-worth. The potential negative impact of a criminal conviction is amplified when it is labelled a ‘sex offence’, a term that usually evokes images of non-consensual sexual exploitation.

The offences eligible for extinguishment will include former sections 79, 80 and 81 of the Crimes Act 1900 as they relate to the offence of buggery. The bill also provides a regulation-making power to allow an eligible offence to be prescribed for extinguishment. The offence must either capture a form of sexual activity with another person of the same sex or a public morality offence. A public morality offence is defined in the act as an offence the essence of which is the maintenance of public decency or morality, and by which homosexual behaviour could be punished.

The need for this regulation-making power was drawn to the government’s attention during consultation with the ACT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Ministerial Advisory Council during the development of the bill. The LGBTIQ Advisory Council indicated that men were often charged with a public morality offence for queer behaviour in the territory, such as cross-dressing, and anecdotally the council also noted lesbians being persecuted by police when meeting in public venues.

Due to the passage of time and amendments to the law, it is not possible to readily identify the offences used by police to charge people for homosexual behaviour. The regulation-making power will allow, therefore, a public morality offence to be prescribed if a person comes forward with a relevant conviction for the offence. This will allow such an offence to be extinguished if appropriate.

Although public morality offences can become spent and therefore not appear on a person’s criminal record after the relevant crime-free period—10 years for adults and five years for children and young people—the justification for allowing these offences to be extinguished remains. Similar schemes enacted in New South Wales and Victoria also provide for a regulation-making power to prescribe an offence as a historical homosexual offence eligible for extinguishment.

The bill before us today is another example of this Labor government’s commitment to ensuring that our territory laws do not discriminate on the basis of sexuality and demonstrates our commitment to supporting an inclusive and diverse community.

I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hanson) adjourned to the next sitting.

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