Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 14 February 2017) . . Page.. 369 ..
immediate family of the deceased person, the risk to public safety and whether or not it is in the public interest to de-identify the report.
Keeping in mind the public importance of coronial reports, redacting reports will not be the starting point for the minister. However, these amendments recognise the need for discretion, which can be exercised according to the circumstances of each case. Where it is appropriate to do so, de-identifying a coroner’s report will help protect families from unwanted media scrutiny while ensuring that issues of public safety are still placed before this Assembly for the government’s consideration and response.
The tabling of coroners’ reports in the Legislative Assembly is important for public accountability in circumstances where the government should be made aware of and respond to serious risks of public safety. However, we should not lose sight of the potential impact the tabling of coroners’ reports may have on members of our community. Clarifying the circumstances in which coroners’ reports should be tabled will minimise unnecessary tabling of these reports.
It is also appropriate that we should provide the minister with the discretion to de-identify reports where it is appropriate to do so. These are important changes that will assist members of our community who are enduring tragic circumstances, and I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (12.18): I am very pleased to speak today in support of the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (No. 3). I want to particularly focus on part 1.1 of the bill regarding recognition of civil unions under corresponding laws. The amendment to section 27 of the Civil Unions Act 2012 will recognise international same-sex and other-sex relationships in the ACT. This is another historic step by the Labor government to legally recognise and value the relationships of same-sex partnerships.
This amendment means that couples who enter into same-sex marriages will automatically be registered in the ACT. The law currently provides for automatic recognition of heterosexual couples who enter into marriages at the federal level. This has not extended to same-sex couples, and this amendment will provide them with recognition under our civil union laws. It also provides all people in a formally recognised relationship overseas, like a civil union, with recognition as a civil union here in the ACT.
This amendment is similar to recent changes made by the Victorian government, which has also introduced broad, automatic recognition. This amendment will, at least, ensure some recognition of marriages here in the ACT, be they civil unions. This is important to remove red tape for couples seeking recognition so that they do not have to enter into a separate partnership; and, by doing so, it also ensures that from a legal standpoint all couples are recognised as being in a legally binding union. For too long we have heard the heartbreaking difficulties that same-sex and other couples face in being recognised, whether it is as their partner’s next of kin or otherwise. This can have very significant financial and emotional implications. So this change has a very pragmatic side to it because registration for a civil union may provide access to things such as health information in an emergency.