Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1062 ..
MS DUNDAS(4.50): I move amendment No 2 circulated in my name [see schedule 2 at page 1083]. The amendment reads:
(3) For subsection (2), 2 people may be taken to be living together as a couple on a genuine basis even though they have never lived together or have not lived together during a particular period, if there are significant indicators of their being domestic partners.
We have just agreed to the insertion in the legislation of an example of indicators that discusses whether two people are in a domestic partnership. I just want to make it quite clear that, if we are talking about the reality of the situation, then there are a number of people who have raised this specific issue with my office and the amendment today addresses their concerns that they should not be forced to reside together in order for their relationship to be recognised.
The government's proposal leaves uncertain, I think, whether two people who are not living together can be recognised as living in a domestic partnership. I do not believe that this legislation should be prescriptive about how people structure their living arrangements. The ACT Democrats believe that Canberra residents should be able to determine the nature of their relationships themselves and not be excluded from having their relationships recognised simply because they choose not to cohabit during their relationship or for some period.
I note that there is no requirement for people to live together if they are married. In fact, we have already had some discussion today about married couples who no longer live together but who have legal rights under our system of law. I fail to see why we should have a different expectation of people who do not or cannot get married.
This restriction of the definition does not accurately reflect the reality of modern relationships in which a not insignificant number of people are in highly committed personal relationships, often with a degree of financial dependence, although they do not live together for practical or personal reasons. It would be unjust to exclude people in this situation from the right to make medical decisions in relation to their partners, the assistance of the courts in the event of a breakdown in their relationship, or even the entitlements in the event of their partner's death.
It has been pointed out that this narrow definition will disproportionately affect GLBTI people for two reasons. Firstly, because they are unable to formalise their relationships through marriage, they cannot ensure that their relationship is recognised by other means. Secondly, it appears that a disproportionate number of GLBTI people do live separately from their partners for reasons associated with living in a still less than tolerant society. For example, some couples are unable to live together because the relationship cannot be disclosed to their families, perhaps even due to issues of personal safety. Alternatively, some couples may delay cohabitation when there are children from a previous relationship who are taking time to adjust to a new person in their parent's life.
We have inserted the indicators for a domestic partnership, which does mean that there is an additional framework for interpreting what is a domestic partnership and it ensures