Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 87..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
This is a further development that has caused a lot of angst in our community. The government put out a paper and asked for community consultation, and it received 336 responses on a wide range of issues. It is interesting to look at the government's breakdown of how those responses panned out. In many instances there was a lot of support amongst our community for taking away unnecessary discrimination against certain classes of persons. But there was one area where close to 90 per cent of the persons responding opposed what the government was suggesting: same-sex adoption.
Three rallies have been held to protest the government's decision to go ahead, despite the obvious opposition of a significant proportion of people. When you are looking at 300 responses, 90 per cent is fairly indicative of the attitude in a community, and the government should certainly take that into account if it is serious about consultation and what the community actually expects. It is especially important considering that those persons and groups responding had very different views on some other aspects of what the government was seeking consultation on. That gives all the more force to the fact that nearly 90 per cent opposed this issue, which the government is now forcing through.
On 16 October, 1,600 people turned up in the rain, close to 1,000 turned up last Sunday, when it was 37 degrees-extremes of climate there-and a further 500 turned up just before Christmas to a rally that was called very quickly. This was one of the bigger demonstrations against a government proposal since self-government. I cannot recall many that were bigger than the one with 1,600.
For a government that prides itself on consulting, it has adopted a very arrogant attitude, forcing through a bill that goes against the views of so many people who contributed to a request by the government for community views on certain issues, and on this issue in particular. I find that very disturbing. The government is engaging in a form of social engineering, despite the very clearly stated views of so many people in the community.
Since the government decided to go ahead with this, members have been inundated with letters of concern from the public-and not the standard type of response organised by a community group to send to government, where you just put your name on and sign it. The ones I have been getting are very individual and from a wide range of persons. The vast majority of the ones in my office-over 90 per cent-are against it, so quite clearly the government is arrogantly pushing through this piece of legislation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we in Canberra are a tolerant society, which has been proven by the responses to the government's inquiry paper and the fact that people have very different views on a wide range of things. But there are areas where the community draws a line in the sand, which the opposition draws as well in response to community feeling in relation to this issue.
The paramount concern in the adoption of children is the interests of the children. We are talking about children who will be put up for adoption and whom people will seek to adopt who have no real say in it, and the best interests of the child should be of paramount concern. Indeed, as I will mention later, the UN conventions on the rights of the child-the very things that Mr Stanhope and the Labor Party are so keen on and push in terms of human rights issues-indicate that the best interests of the child are paramount.