Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 882 ..
felt some surprise that the law is in the state that it is, and actually applaud the fact that we are dealing with it.
MR STEFANIAK(3.56), in reply: I think the Attorney-General is being somewhat disingenuous by going through a number of very non-contentious basic little amendments to acts. This tends to distort the argument. As I think my colleague, Mr Smyth, said, the difficulties are with the definitions.
Members may not appreciate-maybe some of you do; I think Mrs Dunne made this argument fairly well-that the point is the time factor involved. I have been in this place for quite a long time, as have you, Mr Speaker, Mr Wood and Mr Cornwell. We have seen a number of bills passed in this place that might have had the same gestation as the bill we are now considering-as the Chief Minister indicated, the department went through it about this time last year. On the other hand, I have seen acts passed in this place which have had a gestation period of three, four, five, six or maybe even seven years.
The only time legislation comes to the public attention, the only time the public starts to get involved, is when something is finally put on the table. I think Mrs Dunne very clearly indicated some of the problems that arose between this bill being put on the table in December and the debate that we are now having in March. Apart from just the normal break over the Christmas period, very tragic events occurred in that period.
If this bill is not controversial in any way-and I think the Attorney-General contradicts himself here-why on earth have we been given so many submissions in relation to it? And what do those submissions say? Some of those submissions quite clearly say that people want consultation-they want more consultation; they want to talk more about this in order to make it perhaps better legislation. Mr Smyth read out something from the intersex people. I, too, received a similar email on 4 March in relation to that.
I will read a couple of comments from people who have written to Mr Stanhope as well as to me, and perhaps to some other members. Les Summers from Gowrie writes:
I have serious concerns for the proposed changes to the state law concerning definitions of people involved in the present recognised types of relationships. The first concern is that our representatives in the Assembly are making such life-changing decisions without any public consultation.
Les Summers has made a point and, quite clearly in his mind there has been not enough public consultation. Phillip Clayton of Canberra, in a letter of 25 February, says:
I disagree with the proposition put to me by Mr Stanhope's office-
he has obviously rung them-
that phase 1 of the bill contains no significant changes. In particular, its changing of definitions to diminish the pre-eminence of marriage among relationships is considered a significant matter by many people. I therefore strongly object to any part of the bill being progressed before consideration of phase 2 by the community.