Documents leaked to a Tasmanian gay activist indicate that the Australian government plan to ban gay people from adopting children from overseas.

Even though adoption policy is a matter for state governments, John Howard’s federal administration attempted to attach a prohibition on overseas adoption to the 2004 law outlawing gay marriage.

The Labour opposition voted with the government on that occasion, with only small parties defending the rights of gay and lesbian couples.

The adoption of Australian children by gay and lesbian couples is premitted in Western Australia and the Capital Territory. The most populous state, New South Wales, is currently reviewing its policy.

With federal elections a year away, the incumbent Liberals appear to be ready to try again to impose restrictions on the rights of gay and lesbian couples. In 2004, the federal Attorney General explained why he thought a ban on overseas adoption was necessary:

“The government does not wish to leave itself exposed to a situation where a state or territory, for the purposes of making a political point domestically, would seek to prioritise same-sex couples ahead of heterosexual couples for the purposes of overseas adoption.

“We don’t believe that would be in Australia’s best interests or the best interests of the child.”

Rodney Croome, the gay activist who obtained the documents from a member of the parliamentary staff, accused the federal government of throwing yet another bone to the religious right.