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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 838 ..

relationships that were hidden away because of fear of discrimination and persecution to come forward into the community. I certainly hope this is the case. I hope we are creating a more acceptable environment with this legislation today.

One of the reasons the people of Canberra voted for the Labor Party at the last election was that we stand for progressive social reform. They did not elect us to sit here and do nothing. After seven years of conservative government, the people of Canberra elected us to change things for the better. Today we are changing things for the better.

This ACT Labor government supports the right of all Canberrans to live their lives free of fear, hate, prejudice and discrimination. I congratulate the Chief Minister and his department for their months and months of work on this legislation. I also congratulate the officers who work for the Chief Minister for their courage and their strength to do something that has needed doing for many a long year. I also congratulate the brave people in our society who have had the courage to stand up for their rights during this process.

This legislation had its origins in an average ALP branch meeting about three years ago. A rank and file member of that ALP branch took the policy to the ACT ALP annual conference in 2001 and lobbied to see it adopted unanimously as ACT Labor policy. Two years later it is being debated in this Assembly. This is important recognition of the value of grassroots involvement in the Australian Labor Party. It is also testimony to how a single person in a community can see something wrong, find a vehicle for change and have that vehicle deliver change.

I have received many hundreds of emails, letters, petitions and messages supporting this legislation. It is worth supporting. I hope the Assembly will agree with me today.

Mr Speaker, I mentioned at the beginning that I became aware of bigotry and ostracism because of difference at the age of 10. I did not know much about it because I was only a 10-year-old, but it struck me inside as being wrong. Nobody told me that you should not have a prejudice based on race or a prejudice based on disability. Most people in those days had a prejudice, but I knew it was wrong, as I did with the Down syndrome kids in my early teens. Inside my heart I knew that it was wrong. Now in my early 50s I know that discrimination against gays and lesbians, particularly at law, is wrong.

I have quite a number of gay and lesbian friends. I count myself lucky to have those people as friends. I am happy to put it on the public record and say it in public if anybody wants to listen to me.

In closing, I would like to echo the words of the Western Australian Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, during a similar debate in the West Australian parliament a few years ago:

Social progress is made by people occasionally taking bold steps to achieve new norms, followed by the conservatives accepting those steps after the event.

The ACT Labor government prides itself on being socially progressive. We are in touch with the broad social views in the Canberra community. I commend this legislation most strongly to the Assembly.

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