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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (17 April) . . Page.. 1012 ..




Debate resumed from 28 March 1996, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with the Family Provision (Amendment) Bill 1996? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of day No. 1 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 2.

MS FOLLETT (3.13): Mr Speaker, the Opposition will be supporting these two Bills. The Bills together grant to non-married domestic partners rights to the estate of a person who has died without having made a will. A domestic partner is defined as a person who lived with the deceased in a domestic relationship where one partner provided personal or financial commitment and domestic support to the other for at least two years continuously. At present such domestic partners have no rights to the deceased's estate. They must fight legal battles through the courts and it is entirely conceivable, Mr Speaker, that these legal battles may cost as much as, if not more than, the value of the estate which is in dispute.

This legislation continues very extensive work done by Labor in government to give proper recognition and rights to people in relationships other than legally sanctioned marriage. My former colleague Mr Connolly tabled a discussion paper and draft legislation on this subject in the Assembly in October of last year. I think it is a shame that in his speech in presenting these two Bills the Attorney-General was not generous enough to acknowledge the work that had previously been done on this subject.

Mr Speaker, the ACT Assembly has led the way for other parliaments in the definition and recognition of domestic partnerships - that is, people who live together in circumstances of mutual care and support, in conditions where an expectation of common property holdings, or at least a claim by one party to a share in the property held by the other, will arise. The concept has been very carefully crafted to depend not on the sexual nature of the relationship but on the concept of shared support and care. We have had previous domestic relationships legislation which dealt, in effect, with the rights of the living, and the current Bill deals, at least in part, with the rights once one of those partners has died. I think that the Bills quite properly give property rights to people such as same sex partners, carers, de facto partners with children of that relationship, and so on.

Mr Speaker, this is a further step forward in law reform in the Territory. It is one which I very much welcome and, as I said, it continues a law reform process which was commenced and promoted by Labor in government and which my former colleague Mr Connolly sought to continue even though he was in opposition at the time.

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