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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 10426

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (4:22 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The Democrats welcome the government response and I seek leave to incorporate the remainder of my remarks in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Government response to Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade review of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Annual report.

The Democrat welcome the Government's undertaking to make clearer what entitlements and conditions of service apply for defence personnel and veterans.

The Democrats welcome plans to compulsorily survey ADF personnel a few months after returning from operational deployment—this is certainly in line with the recommendations of the recent 1991 Gulf War Health report.

Anything we can do to identify problems and get people help earlier is desirable.

Lastly we support the Government's agreement to amend the ADF census to more accurately ascertain the marital and partner status of ADF personnel.

The 1999 census asked only whether a member was married or in an ADF recognised de facto relationship.

The 2003 Census will offer a number of options: married, defacto (ADF recognised); De-facto (ADF not recognised), separated, divorced, widowed, and single or never married.

I will take the opportunity to again put on the public record that the Democrats support changing the discriminatory laws which deny the same-sex partners of men and women in all Australian defence forces, the same relationship recognition, counselling and financial support as their heterosexual colleagues.

The ban on homosexual people serving in the ADF was lifted in 1992, but Governments have continually refused to recognise the many same-sex relationships in the forces. Social, moral and financial support for couples is only made available to married personnel and those in heterosexual de facto relationships.

With gay and lesbian personnel amongst the Australian troops being sent to the Gulf, the Government must treat all ADF members and their families with the same levels of compassion and respect and stop this cruel discrimination.

If a gay or lesbian defence force member is killed or injured in Iraq, their partner in Australia is not entitled to grief counselling, death benefits compensation or a veterans spouse pension, even where children are involved.

I look forward to congratulating the Defence forces on further advancing equity to its members.

Senator BARTLETT —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.