Annerley Branch News – July 2022

Annerley Labor supports Criminal Code change

The Annerley Branch has joined growing appeals for the Queensland Government to update the criminal code, ensuring that language used excludes wording such as “maintaining a relationship with a child” and other archaic terms. Instead, advocates for change suggest that the code should simply and clearly state the offence.

Currently, Queensland is one of four Australian jurisdictions that still uses ‘maintaining’ or ‘engaging’ in a ‘sexual relationship’ in their criminal code. Queensland also includes terms such as “carnal knowledge of a child under 16”, which does not reflect modern language usage.

Advocates for change argue that a child cannot give consent and using ‘softened’ wording does not reflect the gravity of the crime. Instead, it feeds into victim-blaming attitudes, eases the conscience of perpetrators and gives license to characterise abuse as ‘romance’. The continued use of archaic language is also viewed euphemistic, hiding how harmful these offences are to victims and survivors.

The Branch has formally written to Queensland’s Attorney-General, Shannon Fentiman MP, expressing support for the changes.

Action on identity documentation urged

The Annerley Branch has called on the Palaszczuk Labor Government to implement the Party Platform on the issuing of birth certificates for transgender and gender diverse individuals in full, and before the end of 2022.

In 2015, the Queensland ALP State Conference amended the Platform to reform the way identity documents are issued to individuals who change their legally recognised gender, or who are intersex. Specifically, the Platform states that Labor will remove the requirement for transgender and gender diverse individuals to undergo surgical intervention in order for State Government-issued identity documents to ‘accurately reflect their gender identity’.

However, the Queensland State Government is yet to implement this crucial and overdue area of law reform. Supporters of reform cite that a transgender or gender diverse person without access to identity documents, which affirm their gender identity, is likely to experience increased difficulty finding employment, applying for housing and where providing legal identification is required.

Currently, in Victoria, only a statement of good faith is required from a person who has witnessed the individual living as their affirmed gender for more than 12 months. This system is also available to transgender youth with parental consent. Advocates believe that the Victorian system has worked well and would be a suitable model for Queensland.

Members survey reveals top priorities

The 2022 annual members survey, conducted by the Annerley Branch, has revealed three top issues for the new Albanese government to tackle in its first term.

Topping the list of responses was action on climate change, with most members citing this issue as the most pressing for the new government. True to its word, however, the Albanese government recently introduced its climate change legislation into the Parliament. This legislation was welcomed by many in the conservation movement, including the Climate Council.

Coming up a close second was support for the introduction of a federal integrity commission, a key promise of the Labor Party in the lead up to the May 2022 election. Latest reports indicate that relevant legislation could be introduced as soon as September.

The third top issue was media reform, with respondents expressing deep concern over the concentration of media ownership, the lack of diversity and the need for truth in political advertising. Although there is no clear legislative agenda for this issue, there is a growing number of Party members expected to press this issue over the course of the coming months, spurred on by former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd MP.

However, other issues also were prevalent in the survey, with members keen to see government action on a wide range of matters such as housing, mental health, education investment, the Uluru Statement of the Heart, human rights, tax reform, aged care and the cost of living.

Elections do change a nation

What a difference one election and one month makes. After almost nine years of an incompetent, unethical, divisive and mean-spirited Coalition government, the advent of an Albanese Labor government in Canberra has been a breath of fresh air.

Almost immediately after being sworn in, our nation has witnessed a new government ready to act. Among their first achievements was the adoption of climate targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and support for an increase to the national minimum wage.

On the international stage, Labor has wasted no time to inform the World that Australia would now be a responsible global player. Prime Minister Albanese, in his first international trip, flew to Tokyo to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting with his counterparts. At this meeting, Australia outlined its clear commitment to the goals of the Quad and confirmed that the new Labor government would seek to take stronger action in reducing carbon emissions. Not long after, Mr Albanese and Penny Wong travelled to Jakarta to further develop Australia–Indonesia relations. Importantly, after years of Coalition neglect, Foreign Minister Wong has already met with the governments of several Pacific Island nations to re-build and strengthen ties.

However, in other public policy fields, the new Labor government has been busy setting out its plans for much needed reforms. For example, the new Attorney General announced that Labor will introduce legislation to establish an anti-corruption commission by the end of 2022 – a key plank in Labor’s election manifesto.

As expected, Labor has confirmed its commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and within its first term.

On the industrial relations front, the Albanese Labor government has announced an employment summit, to include unions and business leaders, to be held in September 2022. It has also flagged several changes to industrial relations law, which would include criminalising wage theft.

In an important step, hailed by many as a sign of much needed compassion, the new government allowed the Murugappan family to return home to Biloela on bridging visas.

In mid-June, Jason Clare announced that the new government will make changes to give schools a choice of whether to hire a religious or secular pastoral care worker through the National School Chaplaincy Programme. This decision has been warmly welcomed by many across the education sector.

Overall, our new Labor government has demonstrated its eagerness to advance its policies as soon as possible, indicating that it won’t be like the last failed administration that sat on its hands, refusing to tackle important national issues. Indeed, the 21 May election has changed our nation and we will be the better for it.

Dutton choice a millstone

The Liberal Party, still in denial over its heavy loss in the 2022 federal election, is quickly demonstrating that it has no idea why it was so clearly rejected by voters.  Whilst quick to blame everything and everyone but themselves, the Liberals have failed to understand that their sordid brand of politics, which had especially alienated a growing number of women, contributed significantly to the deep electoral backlash.

As we know, the Liberal Party had no answer to two of the biggest issues of the election – climate change and government integrity. Voters, even in several blue ribbon Liberal seats, rejected this failure and voted for other candidates.

Interestingly, instead of using the electoral defeat as an opportunity to re-shape their battered Party, the Liberals doubled down and elected ‘hard-Right’ hatchet politician, Peter Dutton, as their new leader.

Dutton and his regressive brand of politicking will be hard for many swinging voters to swallow, especially given his poor track record. This will, however, be a decision that the Liberal Party will need to live with, especially as Dutton continues to advocate and defend their past policies.

Census affirms a changing nation

The recent release of data from the 2021 census reveals that our nation is rapidly changing and is now more ethnically and linguistically diverse and less religious.

Results show that more immigrants are now coming from India more than any other country, with the second largest intake coming from China. Also, almost half of Australians say they have at least one parent who was born overseas. Mandarin continues to be the most common language other than English with 685,274 people using Mandarin at home. This is followed by Arabic (367,159 people), Vietnamese (320,758 people), and Cantonese (295,281 people).

The proportion of Australians who stated that they have no religion has more than doubled and is now close to the number of those who identify with all of the Christian denominations combined. It is anticipated that the ‘no religion’ category will surpass 50% by the next census, due in 2026.

However, it doesn’t stop there, with the census results revealing some very important trends.

For example, in terms of where people live, the trend towards the major cities is continuing.

Of some concern is that outright home ownership has actually fallen to 31 per cent (thats right, on the Coalition’s watch), which is now the same proportion of respondents who indicated that they rent. The largest category is now those who own a home with a mortgage, at 35 per cent. The results also revealed that one in seven fall into the definition of ‘mortgage stress’, which means that their repayments account for 30 per cent or more of their household income. This could become a concern as interest rates start their inevitable climb.

Although we certainly do have an ageing population, the so-called ‘Boomer generation’ has shrunk to only 8 per cent, with millennials and baby boomers now the ‘equal-largest’ generations.

In terms of long term health issues, just over a quarter of Australians say they have at least arthritis, asthma, kidney problems or a mental health condition. This data will be vital to help our health system plan for the future.

As more data is released in the months ahead, our understanding of our changing nation will become clearer and present our decision-makers with more issues to address.

More information about the census is available at https://www.abs.gov.au/census