Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (11 May) . . Page.. 1626..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
intention of the provision to imply in any way that a civil union is the same as a marriage, only that it is to be treated in the same way as a marriage for the purposes of ACT law.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (8.55): These amendments will obviously go through. The opposition will speak to some of them. I intend leading on this one. This seems to be, on the face of it, a major attempt to make a differentiation. The opposition has obtained some legal advice.
Mr Stanhope: From whom, Bill?
MR STEFANIAK: I will tell you in a minute, Jon. I must say that we got these amendments basically last night and there has not exactly been a lot of time for any member of this Assembly to go through them in detail. I am a lawyer. I have been through some of them. There may well be some problems I have not seen and there may not be. That is probably not the best way of handling this. If the government is serious about trying to have a bill that is inconsistent with federal law, it should allow a bit more time for scrutiny of its amendments. But it has not. There we go. Who knows what is going to happen as a result of these amendments.
We have received advice from Associate Professor Tom Altobelli, school of law, University of Western Sydney, and Professor Patrick Parkinson, faculty of law, University of Sydney. They have a done a general advice on the bill and a covering note in the short time they have had to see these amendments. In relation to this particular amendment, which says that a civil union is different to marriage but is to be treated for all purposes under the territory law in the same way as marriage, they state:
This is a transparent and unsuccessful attempt to get around the problems that have been identified about the inconsistencies with the Commonwealth Marriage Act as raised by myself and Professor Patrick Parkinson.
It then refers to the general advice, which I will read because of that proviso. Despite this seeming attempt by the government, there are still problems. It refers back to general problems in the original legislation. On the other amendments, I will certainly be brief, but it is worthy to put this on the record. This is their advice in relation to the Civil Unions Bill:
A. The Proposed Civil Unions Bill 2006
Section 5 Civil unions—general
(1) A civil union is a legally recognised relationship that, subject to this Act, may be entered into by any 2 people, regardless of their sex.