Australia’s foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, will urge Commonwealth countries to decriminalise homosexuality.

Heads of Commonwealth countries are to meet in Perth next week for the annual heads of government meeting (CHOGM).

According to the Sidney Star Observer, Mr Rudd’s spokeswoman said: “Australia is a global advocate of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Australia encourages all countries to decriminalise homosexuality by removing all laws imposing criminal penalties for homosexual conduct.

“Mr Rudd will be raising these matters with Commonwealth foreign ministers at CHOGM.”

Earlier this week, retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, the Australian representative on CHOGM advisory group The Eminent Persons Group, said Commonwealth countries will be asked to repeal anti-gay laws to help combat HIV rates.

The vast majority of the 54 Commonwealth countries retain colonial-era bans on homosexuality and some have been accused of persecuting LGBT people.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is calling on people to lobby Commonwealth leaders, said the effort was “paying off”.

He said: “The Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd has announced that he will urge the decriminalisation of homosexuality at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth next week. Great news. Very positive.

“Australia did not push for decriminalisation at the last Commonwealth summit, held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. This is progress. As the summit host, Rudd has great influence.”