Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 656..
MR SPEAKER: Order! Resume your seat.
MR STANHOPE: The Acting Leader of the Opposition has approached me to express his regret that the opposition were not provided with prior notice that this bill would be introduced today.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Are you going to proceed to this piece of legislation?
MR STANHOPE: I am. I apologise to the Acting Leader of the Opposition for any inconvenience caused.
MR STANHOPE: I present the Civil Unions Bill 2006, together with its explanatory statement and Human Rights Act compatibility statement.
Title read by Clerk.
MR STANHOPE: I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
I am pleased to present the Civil Unions Bill 2006. This is a very significant piece of legislation and a major step forward for equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex members of the ACT community. It is clear, from both the submissions received by the government in response to its discussion paper and from the letters received since I announced in December 2005 that the government would be moving to introduce this legislation, that a great many people are keen to take the opportunity to have their relationship formally recognised. The passage of this legislation will bring the ACT into line with a growing number of jurisdictions worldwide.
The United Kingdom Civil Partnership Act commenced in December 2005 and New Zealand enacted its Civil Union Act in 2004. A number of European countries, including Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and France now provide for formal recognition of same-sex relationships, as do Canada and a number of US states. Here in Australia the Tasmanian Relationship Act scheme for registration of personal relationships, including same-sex relationships, has been in operation since 2004.
The Civil Unions Bill is a reflection of the government's commitment to the principle that all people are entitled to respect, dignity and the right to participate in society and to receive the protection of the law, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The right to equal protection of the law is also stated in section 8 of the Human Rights Act 2004, which prohibits discrimination in law or in practice in any field regulated by public authorities, including on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated in its general comments that the term "discrimination"in this context means, "... any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms."