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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . . Page.. 2033..


That leave of absence from 9 June to 14 August 2006 be given to all members and that leave be granted to Ms MacDonald for this sitting day.

Civil Unions Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra-Leader of the Opposition) (10.49): I will be relatively brief. As I indicated in an earlier debate, the opposition was happy to support the motion regarding the Governor-General. In fact, I am amazed at some of the convoluted ceremony involved in that. I could not quite believe it-Labor Party people dressed up in togs, with a mace, and trotting off to Government House. I do not know if we will be going on to that, but apparently that is true. In relation to this particular bill, we will be opposing it. Briefly, we always stated that the Civil Unions Bill was sailing very close to the wind in terms of breaching the federal Marriage Act. We wait with interest to see what happens from the other process. We have also always said that the Tasmanian model was the one to adopt.

This bill, as much as anything else, is bad law and is basically a stunt. It is a rather unfortunate stunt in that a number of people may well come forward and enter into a civil union which may ultimately then be nothing in a few months if certain things take their course via the Governor-General and in the federal arena. I think that would be unnecessarily hurtful to the people involved. As I said, we do not agree with the Civil Unions Act as it is-it has been passed-but by the same token we do not think that people should be needlessly put to grief as a result of a political stunt.

I note that this bill is rushed. It is rushed through because of what the federal Attorney-General has announced. It specifically shortens the minimum time frame, the requirement in section 11 of the act, from one month to five days. Section 11 provides that two people who have given the required notice of their intention to enter into a civil union may then enter into that union by making a declaration before a civil union celebrant and one other witness. That declaration must be made not earlier than one month after the date the notice was given to the civil union celebrant. This amendment shortens that minimum period to five days.

I know that the government has been at great pains to say that this bill does not really equate to marriage. But one thing I recall in relation to the Marriage Act is that there is a 28-day period when you have to give notice, and you cannot get married before that period of 28 days is up. I would imagine the one-month period was put in for a simple reason: a cooling off period to give people time to think-last thoughts, last worries-and not go ahead with it.

Mr Barr: Don't do a Britney Spears, hey.

MR STEFANIAK: I might have even had something in the registration scheme to that effect, Andrew. But, by bringing it back to five days, it is bad law. There is notice of cooling-off period. I think five days is a cooling-off period for a conveyance, but it is not a proper cooling-off period for something as emotional and as important as solemnising a relationship between two people, whatever sex they are-a loving couple, be they in a


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