Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will start a national inquiry into workplace and financial discrimination against same-sex couples today.

The research will conduct an audit of Commonwealth, State and Territory laws to develop a full list of circumstances in which same-sex couples and their children may be denied financial and/or work-related benefits and entitlements that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Individual stories about the impact of these laws on people in same-sex relationships will also be taken.

The inquiry will be conducted jointly by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission president John von Doussa and Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes.

Mr von Doussa said: “The right to non-discrimination is one of the most fundamental human rights in international law, many of Australia ‘s laws exclude same-sex couples from financial and work-related entitlements and benefits that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples. In 2006, this is simply not acceptable.”

Mr Innes welcomed amendments to a small number of Federal laws and some recent changes in State and Territory laws, but said the changes have been piecemeal, “The nature of your relationship should not determine access to things such as taxation benefits, superannuation and Medicare.

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“This is about just treatment for people who live together in a genuine relationship, gay or straight. For a war veteran’s partner to get a pension when the veteran dies; for a partner of a person killed at work to get workers’ compensation; for a couple to claim tax rebates and the Medicare safety net.

“These basic rights taken for granted by most heterosexual couples are denied to many people in de facto same-sex relationships.”

Mr von Doussa added, “The purpose of this Inquiry is to identify discrimination, hear about its impact and make recommendations for change.”

Recommendations on changes needed to eliminate discrimination will be made to the Federal Parliament at the end of the consultation process.