Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1286 ..
MS DUNDAS (11.32): Mr Speaker, I rise in support of Mr Hargreaves' motion. I move the amendment that has been circulated in my name, which reads:
Insert after "discrimination against other couples." the following:
"This Assembly therefore calls upon the Government not to agree to any reference of power to the Commonwealth in relation to de facto couples unless it includes all couples regardless of their sex."
The Australian Democrats have spent 25 years advocating for equal rights for same-sex relationships. I am proud to be a member of a party with such a strong record on this issue.
As you know, Canberra has a diverse and active queer community. I intend to continue to argue in this forum that they need to be included equally in the laws that exist in the territory and the rest of this country.
Mr Hargreaves' motion has arisen out of existing anomalies in the governance of the property settlements of de facto couples. It is my understanding that, currently, the division of property between de facto couples in the ACT comes under the Domestic Relationships Act, and, whilst de facto couples can resolve issues of child custody in the Family Court, under federal law they have to resolve property issues in the territory Supreme Court. Thus, de facto couples often have to run around, going through both federal and territory courts, in order to resolve relationship issues.
This is obviously not the optimal solution. The Democrats support the general principle that this situation would be improved if the Commonwealth were to accept a reference of power from the states and territories in relation to property rights for de facto couples. However, I understand that the position of the Commonwealth is to reject the reference of power, if it includes the condition that same-sex de facto couples are treated equally to different-sex couples.
This is to be deplored for the direct and unmistakable homophobia that it is. Such a position by the Commonwealth is unacceptable and indefensible. Not only does it reinforce the discriminatory attitudes held by a few members of our community-it also prevents necessary and positive law reform for de facto couples.
I welcome Mr Hargreaves' comments about making a stand on this issue. Hence, my amendment calls upon the ACT government to stand firm against the discriminatory attitude of the Commonwealth and to not further entrench discrimination against same-sex couples in federal law.
It has come to my attention that, despite the eloquent words of the Attorney-General after I questioned him on the rights of same-sex couples and queers in the ACT, the ACT government is likely to accept a referral of these powers to investigate the relationship property rights of de facto couples, without the inclusion of same-sex couples. I think this