Queensland has becoming the first Australian jurisdiction, and one of few in the world, to ban "conversion therapy".
As indicated in our Briefing last year, the Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was introduced by Minister Stephen Miles into the Queensland Parliament on 28 November and prohibits health service providers from performing "conversion therapy" which is defined as "a treatment or other practice that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity". A breach of the law will result in criminal penalties including up to 18 months imprisonment.
Health service providers under Queensland law are not only registered heath practitioners but also any individual that provides "a service that is, or purports to be, a service for maintaining, improving, restoring or managing people’s health and wellbeing", a potentially very broad definition!
The Bill was the subject of scrutiny by a Parliamentary Committee which received a number of submissions opposing the passage of the Bill in its current form, including a joint submission from Christian school groups. As discussed in our Briefing, the Committee recommended earlier this year based on widespread opposition to the Bill, see extracts below, that the Bill not be passed in its current form and,
“be amended to provide greater clarity and certainty as to what treatment and care provided by health service providers are to be covered and what services are not to be covered by the conversion therapy ban.”
Despite this recommendation, and the widespread concerns, after sitting on the Notice Paper without any response from the Government to the Committee's Report, it was passed following little notice today. The Opposition, along with the KAP, NQF and PHON MPs, voted against the Bill.
LGBTIQAP+ advocates have claimed that the Bill does not go far enough and that (emphasis added) “This legislation effectively includes a religious exemption which completely undermines its purpose and misses the target.”
CSA is working on materials to assist schools in understanding the possible implications of the Bill.
Extracts from submissions on the Bill
“Unless conversion practices are narrowly and clearly defined in Queensland regulations, then doctors (including psychiatrists) using established approaches to assessing and treating patients with gender dysphoria may be in breach of the new Queensland legislation”.
National Association of Practising Psychiatrists (NAPP)
“The legislation could lead to the prosecution of health professionals providing evidence based practices”
”The Bill suggests that the evidence for conversion therapy occurring is clear and settled but this is far from the truth.”
”The current drafting of section 213F is extremely broad and does not provide sufficient certainty as to what conduct is targeted and what practices are excluded”
Queensland Law Society
”[Our main concerns are:] Potential for the legislation to limit therapeutic approaches supporting children and adolescents who present with gender dysphoria”
“The proposed definition is broad, … this could lead to unintended consequences whereby clinical practice may possibly be at risk of legal action despite there being no use of conversion practices”
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)
”QLS is concerned that the prospect of criminal prosecution may fetter otherwise legitimate aspects of psychological and psychiatric treatment”
Queensland Law Society