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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3487 ..

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Civil Law (Wrongs) Amendment Bill 2002 (No 2)

Ms Dundas, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MS DUNDAS (10.31): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I rise today to present the Civil Law (Wrongs) Amendment Bill 2002 (No 2). This bill seeks to amend the recently passed act that codified tort law in the ACT. The bill recognises people within domestic relationships as family for the purpose of legal action following the death of a loved one and legal action in regard to nervous shock arising out of the injury or death of a loved one. The Assembly would be aware that I circulated amendments to this effect when we were debating the wrongs bill in October of this year. At that time I was prescribing cohabitation as another prerequisite for accessing the law in this area.

Concerns were raised at the time that the amendments may include some share houses and yet not recognise same-sex couples who have been together for years. So between the sittings I consulted with the Parliamentary Counsel, members of the queer community and others and I have brought back the amendments in a private members bill without the prerequisite of cohabitation.

The ACT Democrats are proud of our support for the queer community of Canberra and we are pleased that the government has agreed to investigate all legislation and policies that actively discriminate against gay and lesbian Canberrans. We look forward to the review.

I note in recent media comments that the Attorney-General is bringing in all the non-controversial amendments first and then opening up for debate the other areas which are controversial. By "controversial", I think he means areas where members of the queer community are discriminated against and the discrimination is widely accepted-such as equal access to medical records or adoption. Just as an aside, Mr Speaker, the United Kingdom has just passed legislation allowing all couples to adopt, regardless of sexuality.

I understand that it may seem difficult to grant equal rights to members of the community who have been denied them for years, but I don't see the difference. These are not special rights: they are equal rights.

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