Page 1077 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 3 May 2006

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Wednesday, 3 May 2006

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Registration of Relationships Bill 2006

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.31): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Indications are, from statistics collected elsewhere, that this will not affect very many people at all. Nevertheless, it is a very emotive issue and people in our community have very strong views either in favour or against. Because of this, one must wonder whether the introduction of such legislation by the government at this point of time has an ulterior motive, especially given the government’s disastrous handling of the economy. Still, the government has introduced this bill and the issue will be debated in this assembly.

The opposition has debated and consulted widely on this issue and, after much consultation, we have decided to introduce a bill of our own which does not cause the same problems the government bill does. It is a bill that is not inconsistent in any way with the commonwealth Marriage Act. It is a bill which does give due recognition to persons in longstanding, loving and caring relationships. It is a bill, too, like the government’s bill, that will not please everyone and we do not shy away from that. There are some people already in the gay and lesbian community who want nothing short of marriage who do not agree with the steps we are taking and there are others in the heterosexual community who want no recognition of gay and lesbian rights at all. I have received a few representations from them as well.

We accept that our bill will not please everyone, but that is the way, I think, with a lot of pieces of legislation. But it is an honest attempt to recognise loving and caring relationships, regardless of the sex of that person, and also it extends registration to caring relationships, just as the Tasmanian legislation does, as well as dealing with members of our community who are either heterosexual or gay and living together and want due recognition of their relationships.

It is not marriage. Marriage is unique and the Liberal Party in the ACT accepts that. We have listened long and hard to various views on this issue and we accept what the Federal government has done in relation to the institution of marriage, as I understand the Federal Labor Party has too, and as is defined in the Federal Marriage Act. Historically, culturally, traditionally and by definition, marriage has always been in our culture and nearly all other cultures and a formal recognition accorded by law between a man and a woman. It is a cornerstone of our civilisation and we do not resile from that.

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