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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1026 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In an Act or statutory instrument, a reference to a person's domestic partner is a reference to someone who lives with the person in a domestic partnership, and includes a spouse.

A spouse includes someone who is legally married. The government's view is that that is perfectly clear. You cannot get it clearer than that. The definition specifically refers to a spouse.

Concern has been expressed to me because the definition of domestic partnership will come into play only when dealing with couples who are not married. A court, therefore, presented with a married couple would look no further than the definition of domestic partner, because it explicitly states that it includes a spouse.

A court looking to see whether or not a particular provision applies to a specified couple looks to the definition of domestic partner, sees that it includes a spouse, knows that a spouse includes somebody legally married-in the words you have used, Mrs Burke-and that is it. The court does not go any further. It does not look to add to that definition.

The department has provided me with an example of the potential confusion which the amendment might cause. It is a little complex. If A and B are a longstanding couple, but B is still legally married to C, Mrs Burke's amendment may be interpreted as meaning that A and B cannot be found to be in a domestic partnership while B is still married to C, notwithstanding that B and C perhaps have not seen each other for, say, 10 years.

The amendment ignores the reality of so many domestic partnerships that are part and parcel of our society. There are a lot of married people who remain married but leave their partners and form other bona fide domestic relationships. Our community is full of people who have left their husbands and wives but have not divorced, so they remain married. That is such a common domestic relationship within our society.

Your addition, Mrs Burke, might render that second relationship not a domestic relationship because one of the partners in that relationship is married to somebody else whom they never divorced but whom they left a lifetime ago.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

Land rates-new system

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Treasurer, Mr Quinlan. Treasurer, your budget shows that revenue raised from general rates will be $117.7 million in the year 2004-05 and that it will rise to $121.5 million in the year 2005-06. You are planning to introduce an untried rating system for the 2004-05 budget year. Many people in the community think that this new system will dramatically raise the ACT government's income from rates.

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