Page 2034 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.03): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, the Parental Leave Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 will amend the Discrimination Act 1991 to make it clear that parents in a same-sex relationship must not be discriminated against, especially in relation to parental leave. The bill also repeals the Parental Leave (Private Sector Employees) Act 1992.

This legislation has been introduced to address concerns that the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission identified in Same sex: same entitlements, the final report from its national inquiry into discrimination against people in same-sex relationships. The report was critical of the Parental Leave Act because it does not enable same-sex parents to access parental leave. HREOC recommended that the Parental Leave Act be amended.

Amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 2006 by the Work Choices legislation had the effect that the commonwealth has covered the field in regards to parental leave in the ACT. This makes the Parental Leave Act inoperable. I recommend the Assembly repeal the Parental Leave Act, thereby removing the discriminatory provision. The amendment to the Discrimination Act 1991 strengthens the law in the ACT in relation to prevention of discrimination for those in same-sex relationships.

The ACT Labor government has a proud history of advocating for the rights of people in same-sex relationships. This bill is yet another example of the ACT government’s commitment on this issue.

I welcomed the release on 16 June this year of the commonwealth government’s national employment standards which will, in a first for Australian employment law, give equal rights to same-sex partners. The national employment standards will form the new safety net for Australian employees. It is worth noting that the original draft standards did not allow for same-sex couples to have access to parental leave and carers leave and that the changes that were announced by the Prime Minister now reflect the acceptance of same-sex rights by the Australian community.

I believe these two changes together will make sure that people in same-sex relationships in the ACT have the level of recognition and protection that is expected by the ACT community. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.

Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2008

Mr Barr, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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