Page 2742 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013

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Nine months into this term, the government has made excellent progress on advancing our vision for the ACT. Seventy per cent of our election commitments are commenced in the budget, we are delivering on the parliamentary agreement, and we are bringing forward important legislative reforms in areas of human rights, marriage equality, justice and safety in the workplace, economic reform and red tape reduction.

We are proud to be the jurisdiction that others look to as a leader in legislative reforms, particularly in the area of human rights and equality for all. We will proudly, once again, be the first government to bring forward legislation that delivers equality for same-sex couples—legislation that promises them the right to marry. This is a reform that a growing proportion of Australians, including the Prime Minister, want made. It is a matter of time. We would prefer to see the federal parliament legislate for a nationally consistent scheme, but, in the absence of this, we will act for the people of the ACT.

The Marriage Equality Bill 2013 will enable couples who are not able to marry under the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 to enter into marriage in the ACT. It will provide for solemnisation, eligibility, dissolution and annulment, regulatory requirements and notice of intention in relation to same-sex marriages. The government is determined to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. With this legislation we will state loud and clear that all people have equal rights in our society and are treated equally by our laws.

During the spring sittings the government will also introduce the Births Deaths and Marriages (Transgender) Amendment Bill 2013, which will give effect to the government’s response to the Law Reform Advisory Council’s beyond the binary report. The bill will create full recognition and equality before the law for transgender Canberrans and provide the right to privacy and reputation.

The government is equally determined to make sure the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are covered by our laws and respected in our community. Canberra is a city that celebrates diversity of cultures, faiths and ethnic backgrounds. The Human Rights Amendment Bill 2013 will amend the Human Rights Act 2004 to make it clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to enjoy and maintain their culture, including their language, kinship ties and special relationship with land and waters. The bill will also show the clear support of the ACT government for proper recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

Canberra is also a city that believes in fairness for those with disabilities or medical conditions, which is why the government will amend important legislation to improve equality and opportunity for these people. The Payroll Tax Act Amendment Bill 2013 will honour a commitment we made during the election last October. It will provide a $4,000 payroll tax concession to medium and large businesses which employ a recent school leaver with a disability. The national conversation around disability care has shown that one of the greatest opportunities we can provide for a person with a disability and their family is the opportunity to be a full part of the community and to enjoy independent lives. This policy will increase opportunities for young Canberrans with a disability to achieve those things, and it will deliver some very high quality employees to local businesses.

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