Popular push for compulsory gender-neutral toilets
GENDER-neutral toilets would have to be provided in public and commercial properties under a PC push to be considered by the country's building ministries.
A proposal for dedicated facilities for transgender or genderqueer (non-binary) people to be made compulsory has been submitted to the National Building Codes Board.
It has refused to include it in a review of the National Construction Code on the basis that unisex disability access toilets are already available.
But The Sunday Mail believes that the matter will now be referred for consideration at the Building Minister Forum when it meets in the New Year.
Supporters say the move is important to spare transgender people the embarrassment they frequently experience when using male or female toilets.
But the builders' peak body argues it is an unnecessary measure that will push up construction costs.
"I struggle to see the need for this," Master Builders Queensland deputy chief executive Paul Bidwell said. "We already have unisex toilets, parents' rooms, men and women's toilets. It's a significant requirement already.
"The proponents would have to make a very strong case that there are significant benefits to be achieved given the substantial extra costs that would be incurred," he said.
But the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer) community says gender neutral toilets are an essential part of creating an inclusive society.
"It's about choice and dignity,'' Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Queensland president Shelley Argent said.
"Going to the toilet is a normal every day function. But for trans or non-binary people, it can be a difficult experience."
She said they were often abused in male toilets or accused of dressing as a woman to prey on women in female facilities.
"You better believe it happens," Ms Argent said. "The trouble with saying they can use unisex disability toilets is that they don't have a disability so why should they have to use them?"
Disabled toilets are often locked so transgender people have to request a key to use them.
"For the cost of a toilet, compared to the cost of a building, I really don't think it's going to stretch their budget," she said.
Institute of Public Affairs think tank director of policy Simon Breheny said red tape cost Australia $176 billion a year.
"We should be looking at ways to reduce this burden, not increase it," he said.
Australian Building Codes Board chairman John Fahey has confirmed that a proposal for change was received by the ABCB, to consider inclusion of gender neutral toilets as part of the NCC (National Construction Code).
"The rationale was that the NCC does not reflect the diversity of the Australian community when it comes to the labelling and regulation of sanitary facilities," he said in a statement.
The ABCB refused to disclose who put the proposal forward "for privacy reasons".
The code sets out the minimum standards required for safety, health, amenity and sustainability in new buildings.
Mr Fahey said the board did not believe a justifiable case had been made to change the National Construction Code because "unisex toilets are already provided for and the NCC does not prevent people without a disability using unisex accessible sanitary facilities.
"Nor does the NCC prevent the provision of gender-neutral facilities in addition to required male, female and unisex facilities."
The issue is now expected to be discussed as a policy matter at a meeting of building ministers from each state and territory next year.
A spokesman for Queensland's representative on the forum, Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni, said the Government was yet to receive the proposal.
The minister's focus is on improving building safety measures through the forum to protect against the dangers of flammable cladding, as highlighted by the deadly Grenfell Tower inferno in London.
Earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission said the provision of gender neutral toilets on university campuses around the country would be a positive step towards including LGBTIQ students.