The newly-elected Prime Minister of Australia has denied rumours that his Labour government intends to legalise civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Several news outlets reported that senior ministers had given assurances that significant legislation would be brought forward.

However, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said today that he stands by his comments during the election that he regards marriage as between a man and a woman, and he favours a form of registered partnerships.

“A relationships register, nationally consistent of the type we’ve had in Tasmania since 2004, we believe is a positive and productive way forward,” he said.

“Particularly if you add to it appropriate nationally uniform legislation and to remove any impediments to same sex couples in relation to inheritance law, taxation law and social security law.”

A report in June by Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) recommended that 58 laws need to be changed to grant gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights.

In 2004, under former Prime Minister John Howard, federal legislation banning same-sex marriage was passed.