On Thursday night Queensland Parliament voted to lower the legal age for consensual anal sex from 18 to 16. Before this, Queensland was the only Australian state or territory to differentiate between sexual acts and age of consent.
The change in legislation also amends terminology used in the Criminal Code, swapping "sodomy" for "anal intercourse," in an effort to reduce discrimination against young people in the LGBTQIA community.
These changes effectively upgrade the last of Queensland's "archaic" legislation around consent. The laws were originally written at a time when homosexuality was illegal, and sexual relations between men were punishable with prison time. Queensland only decriminalised homosexual sex in 1991, while these new changes bring the state in line with the rest of the country.
Health Minister Cameron Dick told the ABC that the reform would protect young people—homosexual or not. "By removing anachronistic value laden language and ensuring equality in the age of consent, the bill will not only improve sexual health outcomes, but also mental health outcomes for young Queenslanders," he said.
Prior to the bill passing, underage people who participated in anal intercourse could technically face a maximum of 14 years in jail. This provided a disincentive for young people to seek sexual healthcare and information, while creating some sense of legal uncertainty for medical professionals when treating patients.
Queensland AIDS Council executive director, Michael Scott, told the Chinchilla News these updates would alleviate these problems.
"Withholding [safe sex information] could have serious implications for a young person's medical treatment, particularly as unprotected anal intercourse is the highest-risk behavior for transmission of HIV," he said.
Twenty-eight LNP members voted for the new laws on Thursday, along with the Labour Government. Two members of Bob Katter’s Australia Party were the only MPs to openly oppose the amendments