Baillieu cops flak from MPs over gay committee
Illustration: Matt Golding
PREMIER Ted Baillieu is facing internal dissent over plans to create his government's first gay and lesbian ministerial advisory committee.
Senior ministers David Davis and Mary Wooldridge will appoint representatives from the gay community to advise them on issues such as HIV treatment, homophobia, ageing and youth suicide.
But while the so-called Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) Health and Wellbeing committee has been broadly welcomed, some MPs claim they weren't consulted, while others have questioned what the point is.
''I don't see what used to be known as 'poofter bashing' happening and I don't see overt discrimination. It's unnecessary. You don't need a committee for everything,'' one senior MP told The Sunday Age.
Health Minister Davis said it would give advocates and health experts the chance to shape government policy by providing direct information to ministers and departments. He also revealed the government was considering ''different testing approaches'' for HIV - including the prospect of ''rapid'' testing, which would allow people to get their results within 30 minutes, rather than having to wait weeks.
While-you-wait testing is common in the US and Europe, but experts say Australia's HIV-screening methods have fallen behind the rest of the world.
''We are closely looking at what sort of trial might work,'' Mr Davis said. ''We're aware of some of the international approaches, and this would be a useful point for the ministerial advisory committee to give some direct advice on.''
Mental health advocate Rob Mitchell said the ministerial advisory committee was long overdue, but urged Mr Davis and Ms Wooldridge to show some leadership on it, particularly in the party room.
''How are we going to get youth suicide down if we don't address the GLBTI component? It's something that requires decisive systematic action,'' he said.
Victorian AIDS Council executive director Matt Dixon said he was ''optimistic'' about the possibility of a community-based trial of rapid HIV testing.
''A Melburnian must wait up to two weeks for their HIV result, while a Londoner or a San Franciscan waits 20 minutes. Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world regarding this,'' Mr Dixon said.
The idea for a GLBTI ministerial advisory committee was pushed by both parties before the 2010 state election as they sought to sway voters in progressive seats such as Melbourne, Richmond and Prahran.