John Howard has said that despite a new opinion poll showing 71% of Australians favouring equal rights for gay people, he is still opposed.

His hardline stance came on the same day as a new Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) report was presented to the federal parliament listing the 58 laws that need to be changed to grant gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights.

“We are not in favour of discrimination, but of course our views on the nature of marriage in our community are very well known and they won’t be changing,” Prime Minister Howard said in an interview with Sky television.

Howard is due to stand for re-election at the end of this year.

In 2004 he passed federal legislation banning same-sex marriage and earlier this year said that HIV positive immigrants should not be allowed into the country.

He refused to comment on today’s report.

Other politicians welcomed the recommendations to equalise treatment for an estimated 20,000 same-sex couples in tax, pensions, old age care, health benefits and insurance.

“We’ve got to be looking at all Australians equally and I think there’s room for reform in that area because they pay taxes and we shouldn’t discriminate against our fellow countrymen,” federal Liberal MP Don Randall told reporters.

The audit of federal laws and their impact on same-sex couples and their children was undertaken by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.