Page 1596 - Week 05 - Thursday, 11 May 2006

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Standing orders—suspension

Motion (by Mr Corbell) agreed to, with the concurrence of an absolute majority:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent order of the day No 8, private members’ business, relating to the Registration of Relationships Bill 2006, being called on and debated cognately with order of the day No 2, executive business, relating to the Civil Unions Bill 2006.

Civil Unions Bill 2006

[Cognate bill:
Registration of Relationships Bill 2006]

Debate resumed from 28 March 2006 on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: On the understanding that it is the wish of the Assembly to debate this bill cognately with private members’ order of the day No 8, Registration of Relationships Bill 2006, I remind members that, in debating order of the day No 2, executive business, they may also address their remarks to order of the day No 8, private members’ business.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.29): Mr Speaker, the ACT Liberal Party supports and believes in marriage as defined in the commonwealth Marriage Act and we stand by the principle enshrined in that act, which is that marriage represents the union of a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life to the exclusion of all others. This act has been amended and I make the point that the current provision has had the support of the Liberal and National parties and the Australian Labor Party in the federal parliament.

Archbishop Carroll, who heads the Catholic Church in the ACT, has described marriage as one of the cornerstones of our society. As indicated too by our relationships bill, which we tabled and which is being debated cognately, we believe that recognition should certainly be given to longstanding, loving and caring relationships, regardless of the sex of the people involved. I am pleased to say that in that stance we are supported by a lot of ordinary people in the Canberra community. A petition was lodged with the house of 1,613 or so signatures from residents who, whilst they oppose the Civil Unions Bill of the government, would accept a registration model that applied to same-sex couples and non-sexual caring relationships. As well as that, although it was probably an out-of-order petition, there were another 28 signatures from residents opposed to both civil unions and registration. I also am told there are a further 94 signatures from residents outside the ACT who, whilst opposed to civil unions, did not mind a registration model. So that is, in a fairly short time, not an insignificant number of people.

The government’s civil unions law is flawed law because it is in breach of the commonwealth Marriage Act. There are some problems that I will deal with when we come to the detail stage of the bill. Section 51(xxi) of the Australian constitution gives the commonwealth the power to legislate in respect of marriage. This is a point that Labor, both here and federally, have struggled to understand, although they certainly

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