Office sets a percentage for LGBTI staff
THE Australian Taxation Office has set a 3 per cent "benchmark" for staff to identify as gay, bisexual or transgender, under a plan that encourages employees to feel safe to come out of the closet.
Denounced as a waste of taxpayer money and discriminatory to heterosexuals, the benchmark has been lauded by the tax office, which also aims to increase the rate of LGBTI "self-identification" by next year.
An ATO spokesman trumpeted the diversity and inclusion plan because it meant "our staff are confident to bring their whole selves to work".
Liberal Party senator Eric Abetz denounced the plan as introducing "sexuality quotas", but Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said it did not relate to recruitment but a "benchmark against which future statistics can be compared" after the ATO tallied its LGBTI staff in 2017.
The Australian Public Service Commission last year for the first time included in its annual census a question asking whether employees identified as LGBTI.
The ATO said in a statement: "The diversity of our staff is one of our greatest assets, and ensures we are representative of the community we serve.
"We want to foster a workplace culture where LGBTI employees feel safe and comfortable in being themselves in the workplace, and where all staff are valued and respected.
"In 2017 the Australian Public Service Commission's annual census included a new question asking whether employees identify as LGBTI.
"Three per cent of our employees who completed this survey identified as LGBTI - this became our benchmark for the new measure.
"In the same question in the 2018 Census, 3.5 per cent of our employees identified as LGBTI.
"This increasing percentage mean that our staff are confident to 'bring their whole selves to work'."
The ATO said it had a similar commitment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, gender equality and disability initiatives.
Senator Abetz said it was one thing to make sure everyone felt welcome in the workplace, but another entirely to start introducing "sexuality quotas".
"It's of great concern that taxpayers money is being spent on this kind of nonsense, which is condescending and sends entirely the wrong message that people from certain backgrounds or who are not heterosexual are only employed to meet a benchmark as opposed to being on merit," he said.
"It is also somewhat concerning to me that government human resources departments are collecting and collating information about people's sexuality and sex lives, which could in fact leave departments open to discrimination claims."
Victorian federal MP Tim Wilson, who proposed to his gay partner in Parliament last year, said it should not be about quotas but culture.
"The test is not the number of LGBTI employees, but whether a government department has an open, inclusive culture that promotes tolerance and mutual respect, irrespective of a person's sexual orientation and gender identity," he said.