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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3316


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (10:45): In considering in this place the marriage celebrant charge, I recognise an increasing tendency of governments, both state and federal, to charge significant fees to Australians who are participating in the private sector. It is something we are aware of at state level, particularly in Queensland, where the Bligh and Newman governments have introduced significant charges—first, under the Bligh government, for locksmiths; and then, most recently, for tattoo artists, of all people, by the Newman government. This concept of charging $690 for the privilege of being a tattoo artist can only be sustained under the grounds that we are trying to identify and remove bikie gangs from this sector. Once we have identified that tattoo artists are not members of bikie gangs, with respect, I do not think they should be paying that charge. This rapacious tendency to move into all levels of public life and invent government charges is of great concern. I am glad that next to me is the member for Kooyong, who I hope will take a closer look at this tendency.

What we are doing here today is simply recognising the fiscal booby traps introduced by the previous, Labor, government and the necessity for us to meet our obligations to the Australian people and stick to our election promises, and that means introducing and supporting this bill—but this is a Labor bill at its heart. I do not care what the excuses are; this federal government is receiving way too many phone calls from marriage celebrants about details under the act and the fact that, while it was once two per cent, now 71 per cent of weddings in this country are presided over by celebrants. There are certain things you should be able to do with general tax revenue and this is one of them.

With great respect, I do not see anything like even an ephemeral connection between marriage celebrants and bikie gangs. I do not see that there is a need to register them in just the same way as we do doctors and specialists and health experts. I understand that need for registration, but, finally, a new government with a new vision in this area should be looking to peak bodies to do this job and not involve government in this area. As a person who believes in small government, I hope that this legislation, difficult as it is to swallow, will eventually be repealed. I apologise to the over 10,000 marriage celebrants, who, in small country towns, only do two or three weddings a year and are obliged to charge those new couples around $200 just to recover their own costs. I do not support that at all. I know many people in this building do not. It is unfortunate we have been left in this fiscal position and I hope that, as quickly as possible, this very bill ends up in the lap of the member for Kooyong, to be repealed at some date in the near future.