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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 820 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

It is probably quite unusual to find a circumstance such as this one where the states and territories combine and agree to make a reference to the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth-for whatever reason; one can only surmise why it is-refuses to accept a reference in relation to same-sex partners but accepts a reference in relation to other partnerships.

There are some implications for the ACT in relation to that insofar as we have a very good piece of legislation in the Domestic Relationships Act introduced by a previous Labor government to deal with the distribution of property in all relationships, whether they be gay and lesbian or otherwise, and the referral of powers in relation to de facto partnerships but not same-sex partners does create a problem for us in that we would have a two-tiered system, thereby engendering or generating obvious discrimination in the treatment of gay and non-gay partners in relation to their access to the courts in property issues. That is a very regrettable aspect of the Commonwealth's decision not to accept a reference in relation to same-sex partnerships. That is some of the work that is proceeding, Ms Dundas.

In relation to the other issues that were part and parcel of the package that the Labor Party took to the last election, you would be pleased to know that I have sought and received detailed briefings from the department of justice. Indeed, Ms Tucker has asked for briefings on the very same issue and I understand that those briefings will be proceedings. Ms Dundas, if you wish to be briefed by officers of the department of justice in relation to the potential that exists for reform in a whole range of areas that affects gays and lesbians, I would be more than happy for them to brief you likewise.

Indeed, in the last week I asked the department to obtain for me a copy of all the legislation that the Western Australian government either has just passed or is in the process of passing to cover the same range of issues-issues that go to superannuation entitlements, issues around travel entitlements and a whole range of workplace issues that affect gays and lesbians. The most progressive of the legislation that exists in Australia at the moment is that just passed or contemplated by the Western Australian government. I am not sure of the stage the legislative process has reached.

I am not inclined to reinvent the wheel in terms of state-of-the-art legislation. I have asked for details of that legislation. I have received significant briefings from the department. This work is in hand. We will, of course, carry through with it.

In terms of the specific point that you made, and I cannot recall the context in which I made the remark, one of the issues that you raised goes to matters around gay and lesbian union. Of course, issues that relate to marriage or the union of people are ones that are within the constitutional domain of the Commonwealth. We do not legislate for marriage at a state or territory level.

To the extent that I may have made a comment about an issue that has been taken as far as we can take it, I can only assume that it was in relation to matters over which we do not have any constitutional fiat. I would have to look at the comment because we are working to progress a whole range of issues in relation to gay and lesbian people, but we are doing so in a measured way. As the proposals progress, we will make those issues public.

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