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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 131..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

be deferred by six months after the date of its notification. I listened with interest to what Mrs Cross had to say. Those who have responded to the significant lobbying that has been part and parcel of this debate have certainly been pulled and pushed from pillar to post. For some, this has been a difficult decision and issue.

Mrs Cross made the point that there will continue to be much debate and some dissent in the community about the decision that will be taken tonight. If the bill passes through the chamber tonight I do not believe this issue would be well served by putting off its commencement date for a further six months. Despite many of the comments that have been made, the government has consulted exhaustively in relation to these proposals. These reform proposals had their genesis 23 months ago. For a full two years we have consulted on a raft of proposed changes relating to the removal of discrimination against gay and lesbian people in the ACT.

Almost three years ago this government was elected on a platform and a policy of removing all legislative discrimination against gays and lesbians in the ACT. We identified more than 70 pieces of legislation containing legislative discrimination and we embarked on a process to remove that discrimination. This has been an open, patent and public process. Some people opposed parts of it along the way and some members of the community made significant representations in relation to it. We made our decisions and we incorporated our policy and our views in legislation. This legislation has just received the in-principle approval of this Assembly and we are now debating the detail stage.

The government is of the view that nothing will be achieved by putting off for a further six months the commencement of this legislation. In my view nothing would be gained if we allowed consultation on legislation that had already been enacted. The government accepts that there will be some disappointment and some disagreement with the decisions that have been made relating to adoption and that that will continue. However, it is important that we accept that this will be the law in the ACT. We must accept that and move on in the firm knowledge that we have removed unsustainable discrimination against a group of fellow citizens.

MR STEFANIAK (9.59): The opposition supports the amendment that was moved earlier by Mrs Cross. If the commencement date of the bill were adjourned, the government might come to its senses. However, given the views of government members, I doubt whether a period of six months would make any difference. We can only hope and pray that it does. I refer to one other issue about which government members might be aware. Some Scandinavian countries have very liberal laws relating to same-sex partnerships. There are registered gay relationships and even gay marriages, but they do not permit same-sex couples to adopt children.

I do not know whether the government has considered that aspect. Perhaps it could take on board some of those issues over the next six months. A six-month adjournment of the commencement date of this legislation would give everyone a chance to look at the evidence and consider various views. The opposition is happy to support this amendment. The Liberal Party remains firmly opposed to this bill. If this amendment were agreed to it might not necessarily change our position, but it would give the government and others an opportunity to rethink these issues. I hope that some common sense prevails.

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