Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1751 ..
policies and accept everything. You had a consultation period and a discussion paper, which had, I think, over 400 responses. Some were individual responses; they were all very varied. I do not think that really constitutes an actual mandate. But we came to the conclusion pretty early in the piece that the Tasmanian registration scheme was something that the vast majority of people in the ACT would accept. It seems to be something that the vast majority of people in most Australian states seem to accept—Tasmania, followed by Victoria and now South Australia.
I have a letter here, which I will have to answer tonight, from someone who is perhaps homophobic. He certainly has a huge problem. He is saying, “Don’t vote for a registration scheme.” Well, sorry, we actually have gone into this in some detail. We put up our own bill, based on the Tasmanian model, which you should have accepted. By the way, if there is something wrong with this, you are still welcome to pick it up and do it. Again, I simply have not had the time to say definitively whether this actually hits the spot or not.
But it is a system which is growing in acceptance, and I think there was considerable merit in what the federal Attorney-General said in terms of a nationwide approach. A nationwide approach on these things is very important. I make one point. It is an interesting debate in terms of states’ rights and territories’ rights and commonwealth rights.
One thing that has been missed a bit here and which makes us a bit different, say, from the Andrews bill is the fact that there is a section in the constitution which states that if there is an existing federal act, a state or a territory cannot enact legislation that is inconsistent with that. Two successive federal governments with completely different political persuasions have had a problem with what has been put up by the government. We have said on a number of occasions that we support the existing federal act—the federal Labor Party supports it and the federal Liberal Party supports it—which supports the sanctity of marriage, as defined in that act.
That is a slightly different situation from a situation where there is no relevant federal law. There is nothing to be inconsistent with and the territory or a state passes its own law. Under the states’ constitutions it is all over, red rover and the commonwealth cannot do anything. But the commonwealth can, of course, pass an act which effectively kills off a territory act, and that happened in Andrews. I had problems with the Northern Territory legislation, as indeed I think did most of the government at the time, but it was not inconsistent with any federal law because there was no relevant federal law. The commonwealth, through a private member’s bill, stepped in and overrode that existing territory law. I think everyone was right to complain about that.
In this particular situation, though, we are dealing with an existing federal act. Perhaps to some people that is a minor point, but it is important legalistically and constitutionally. I think a lot of people have missed that in the debate. More importantly in the debate, we enact laws for good government. We enact laws to ensure that society moves on. We do things to protect society. We do things to ensure fairness. It seems to me we are now at a stage that we could have been at two years ago—a stage where people in a loving relationship, regardless of their sex, can have it registered and get the benefits that flow to them through law.