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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 15 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 5410..


MS LE COUTEUR (continuing):

The committee received a public submission in relation to this report on 3 September 2009 and a briefing from the Auditor-General on 8 September 2009. The committee has resolved to make no further inquiries into the report. As the report refers to the management of respite care services, the committee has written to the Standing Committee on Health, Community and Social Services to bring the report to its attention.

Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill 2009 (No 2)

Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, by leave, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.19): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The last bill to amend the Civil Partnerships Act was presented in this Assembly on 26 August this year. That bill restored to the act all the provisions relating to the legal recognition of ceremonies as a means of entering into a civil partnership that had been removed by the government in 2008 to avoid disallowance of the act by the commonwealth.

The Labor government supported the bill that was presented earlier this year. It was, after all, a significant component of the government's original legislation presented in 2006 and was removed under duress in order to secure the survival of the remainder of our amendments. In supporting the 2009 bill, the government also proposed a number of small but significant amendments aimed at further distancing the Civil Partnerships Act from any argument that it is inconsistent with the commonwealth Marriage Act or mimics marriage.

When Labor and the Greens passed this bill on 11 November this year, the commonwealth government had already flagged that its position in relation to these matters was unchanged. As a result, discussions began immediately and on Friday, 27 November this year, I was able to confirm that the government had reached an agreement with the commonwealth on these matters. This bill therefore reflects those amendments achieved through that negotiation. These are amendments that the government would have preferred not to make. Our position is that the act in its current form meets all of the legal concerns that have been raised by the commonwealth in relation to civil partnerships.

There is, however, a need to be pragmatic in the way we address this debate. The commonwealth government has, in good faith, proposed a number of changes that address its remaining concerns, both legal and political, about the perceived impact of the Civil Partnerships Act on the Marriage Act and the institution of marriage. I believe that the commonwealth itself wishes to avoid a disagreement with the territory on this matter and therefore the government has taken the decision that we needed to hear its arguments and engage in those discussions in good faith.


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