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NSW’s “Equality” bill ignores needs of the bush, says MP

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Helen Dalton MP. Photo: Supplied

Members of a committee examining New South Wales’ LGBT “Equality” bill voted against more than a dozen amendments to their report aimed at bringing clarity to a “rushed” process before it was tabled in parliament this month. 

Helen Dalton MP, the Independent member for Murray, raised 16 amendments to the seven-member committee, all of which were defeated, before the report was released on 3 June recommending the draft legislation be considered by parliament. 

She says the bill goes further than simply promoting the equality of LGBT persons and, if passed, will direct much-needed resources from the bush to city electorates. 

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The green light for debate comes despite an online survey by the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Community Services indicating 85 per cent of more than 13,000 respondents were opposed to the bill and the vast majority also opposed to its specific recommendations. 

Dalton first moved that the report recommend the parliament not proceed to consider the Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023. 

Failing that, she sought to include several key arguments presented to the committee that had not made it into the report, including from the Catholic Bishops of NSW and the Australasian-Middle East Christian Apostolic Churches, that it is “inappropriate” to amend the state’s anti-discrimination laws while a review of them is underway by the NSW Law Reform Commission. 

Also voted down were Dalton’s attempts to insert arguments from advocacy group Women’s Forum Australia against the decriminalisation of prostitution due to its “harmful and exploitative nature,” and the Feminist Legal Clinic against reducing prohibitions against commercial surrogacy laws. 

Both proposals are in the bill, which recommends changes to 20 different laws. 

Helen Dalton MP in Parliament 2022. Photo: Supplied

Dalton wanted the testimony of Genspect Australia about new evidence of harms associated with the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on children and young people, and the growing number of detransitioners, to be included in the report, which only mildly notes that “stakeholders called for caution” on providing access to these. 

She also sought to move amendments to include concerns about allowing sex self-identification on birth certificates and the potential for negative repercussions of the draft legislation on women’s sport. 

Some amendments were supported by Nationals MP Tanya Thompson, but all were defeated. 

“I just think every part of this bill should be dealt with separately, it’s brushing over some really significant changes to legislation,” Dalton told The Catholic Weekly. 

“The time frames for this have been so rushed and when you’re looking at things like surrogacy and birth certificates [laws] there are a lot of consequences with this and it’s unfair to not give it the time it deserves.” 

Dalton’s regional electorate is the second largest in the state and includes the Griffith, Murrumbidgee and Murray River shires. 

She said correspondence from her constituents asked her not to support the bill. The MP is concerned that her electorate, which she says already lacks support for essential health and other services, will be further disadvantaged if it becomes law. 

Helen Dalton MP. Photo: Supplied.

“I’m not at all discriminatory but I think that this bill is really bad for women and girls and is a real step back for us in the bush,” she said. 

“It just shows the divide that is there. Something people are quite concerned about is transvestite [women] coming into change rooms at swimming pools and things like that.  

“Most of our pools have been built years ago, we don’t have little change cubicles that can give you privacy, and I don’t know if I want my eight-year-old girl getting changed in the same room as basically a man who’s expecting to be [regarded as] a woman.  

“I don’t think that’s acceptable for most people. We haven’t got any equivalence with medical care [in the cities] or anything like that.  

“We’re just so far behind and I can just see if this bill passes that it will be even worse for us when we’re trying to just get the basics for the majority of people.” 

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