Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2189 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
ACT law. Our comments about this amendment do not go in any way to the substance of the proposal that she has put before the Assembly today.
Our concern about the use of the Statute Law Amendment Bill as the vehicle for this change is about the way in which its use alters the nature of that kind of legislation. As far as I can remember, every year the Attorney-General of this place has brought forward a statute law revision bill or amendment bill in order to tidy up the legislative provisions of this territory, to deal with the language of legislation, to deal with outdated references, to change titles, to remove gender specific language, and so on. Invariably, they have been thick documents and we have never had any problem in waving them through this place, because we have had some satisfaction in knowing that the Department of Justice and Community Safety has approached the task of putting together such bills in the knowledge that they contain only information and changes to the law which are non-contentious, which are straightforward and which deal with minor matters about which there could really be very little or no dispute.
The amendment Ms Tucker has moved today is a significant change to the law of the territory. It is a matter that, if the government were moving it, it would create a press release about it saying, "We propose to remove discrimination against people in same-sex relationships." I have no doubt that today, if this amendment were to pass, Ms Tucker will put out a press release saying that a significant change in the law has been made. I think that she would make that point in the public arena. But it is also worth saying that the public of the ACT has had no notice of this change.
But for a few people in this chamber and a few advisers, nobody has known that this amendment was going to be moved today to the law of the territory. The public has no idea that this is happening. I do not believe that legislation, particularly significant legislation, should be made without there being some notice of it. It is a comment on the process, on the procedure. If this were a free-standing bill, there would be no problem in debating it and no problem in supporting it. But to use as a vehicle a statute law amendment bill is not appropriate. That is the reason that the Liberal opposition believes that this is the wrong format to use, that it is the wrong vehicle to use, and we should be putting such legislation in other forms for passage.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (11.26): I indicated earlier that the government will support this amendment. I also made some comments about whether it was appropriate for substantial amendments to law to be made through a statute law amendment bill. To that extent, I agree with both Mr Humphries and Mr Stefaniak; the government also expresses concern that a statute law amendment bill is being used as a vehicle for what is a significant amendment.
It is an amendment which we support and which I have no difficulty in supporting, but there are very significant issues involved in an amendment such as this which does widen the class of persons who now will have an opportunity, for instance, to claim funeral expenses or reasonable medical or hospital expenses as a result of the death of a person. We believe that it is appropriate that these changes be made. It is consistent with the government's policies and views on these issues that we extend these rights from heterosexual de facto couples to same-sex de facto relationships as well.