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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 857 ..

These are fundamental belief issues for a number of people, and they are fundamental issues of discrimination for other people who feel there are some areas in this bill which offer them great potential. There is great potential there, yet they want to have their say. They do not feel that, to date, they have had a chance to do so. An Assembly committee inquiry would do all that.

I think it would be somewhat hypocritical of this Assembly if the majority does not agree to send something as important and contentious as this to an Assembly Committee, to look at all the issues that have not been looked at to date. I believe that would complement very nicely the outstanding issues in relation to the paper issued by the Chief Minister and on which people are still making submissions. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (12.21): The government will oppose the referral of this matter to an Assembly committee.

As I explained before, it is not as if this law reform proposal were dropped on the Assembly without notice, or as a surprise. As I indicated before, in around March last year, I asked the department to undertake a full audit of all legislation on our statute books to identify laws discriminating against same-sex partners-gays and lesbians or transgender people-in the ACT.

The Assembly was aware of that. Indeed my colleague, Mr Hargreaves, moved a motion in private members business, when these issues were discussed. The government set out its commitment to progressing law reform in relation to these areas. As I said before, shortly after that, I announced a process. We agreed to a process, we drafted legislation and we tabled the legislation in December. I am now advised that the legislation was tabled on 12 December-three months ago. On the same day, a discussion paper was tabled and widely disseminated.

Mr Stefaniak has just said that the only other issue on which he can recall a similar level of representation was the abortion issue. Mr Stefaniak concedes in that statement that the consultation process was effective and that he has received, in the term of this government on this matter, a number of representations second only to the abortion debate. That is, it is either equal with or second only to abortion, in the term of this government. That is in 15 or 16 months.

To that extent, more people have made their views known to you on this subject than on any subject other than abortion. Yet you stand up here and say there has not been an opportunity to consult. This matter has been sitting on the table. I set out explicitly the government's attitude to a two-phase reform process-one was those matters, and many are matters of unintended or petty discrimination.

We are not dealing here with groundbreaking legislative change that is going to change the nature of society or strike down marriage. There is a second phase of reform. As I say, in relation to that, the government has not declared a position. We are supportive of the reform process and we have issued a discussion paper which not only raises the issues but stimulates the possibility and prospect of debate across the board.

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