Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 878 ..
much pressure on the Liberals for them to make a last-minute decision. I received an amendment from the Liberals this morning, so obviously they were feeling under pressure. Their amendment is easy to understand and I am comfortable enough to have a debate on it today.
There has been a lot of community interest in this legislation. I am surprised that the Liberals are saying that they do not feel there has been time to consult with the community. I find the opposite to be the reality. I have been contacted by a number of people. I have had long discussions about the issues with representatives of various Christian and faith groups and there are certainly very mixed views.
I spoke to one busy lobby group-I cannot remember its name; I think it is called the Christian Community Lobby-which put forward their understanding of Christian values in respect of this issue. But there are other Christians and theologians who have quite a different view, and that makes for a healthy debate. I have been having that debate for quite a while and I do not see that my situation is any different from that of any member of the Liberal Party. In fact, they would be better able to deal with this issue because they can share the work amongst themselves. As I said, I am quite comfortable about proceeding with this legislation.
MR SMYTH(Leader of the Opposition) (3.43): Mr Speaker, some of this may just be a matter of perception. There has not been an attempt to lay blame. Legitimate concerns have been raised by people who want more time to discuss the matter. As has been pointed out, it is not just the Liberal Party that is in this position. I have an email from the Australian Intersex Support Group-the AIS Group-dated 4 March, which states:
I was really horrified when I saw the proposed amendment and realised that the time frame did not allow for proper community consultation.
There are another references in the chain of emails from groups such as the AIS to the effect that they would like more time to discuss the amendments with their members. The AIS is a valid group in this argument. They have said to us that they think consideration is being rushed. Another email said that it seems the legislation is being rushed through. So that is not just the Liberal Party talking. Groups that have a genuine and keen interest in this debate are saying that they would like more time for consideration.
I think the government has, in the normal course of events, probably provided a good length of time for consideration of this legislation. The bill was put on the table in December, which means it has been with us for almost four months. But, as was pointed out on the radio this morning, Christmas and the bushfires have meant that there has not been a lot of discussion on this community issue. Some members have also made this point.
Some of the groups that I have spoken to thought that their submissions would be taken in the context of this bill, the discussion paper and anything else it might come up. I said to them, "Well, you need to make that quite clear to the government."They thought that this bill would not come on until the other work had been done, and that this would be considered as a whole. Maybe they were wrong in their assumption.