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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6642

Senator BROWN (7:52 PM) —The Greens disagree because we think this is an important amendment and should be insisted upon. The direct injustice to people through enclaving politicians, as against the rest of the public—people I do not know about—is something that I will not stand for. We must not allow ourselves to be in the inverted position of believing that we as politicians must cave in to this sort of government prejudice when a point of principle like this is at stake which seems to apply to politicians. A much wider principle is at stake here. It is the principle that people who are not living with a marriage certificate in their drawer but who are nevertheless living as partners—and we are talking here about heterosexual partners—ought not be treated differently to those who do have a marriage certificate in their drawer. Their relationships cannot be separated, cannot be put into different categories, these days. The world does not work like that.

This government is stuck in the 1950s, but we as a parliament should not be. This Senate ought to be going much further of course, but it is not. It is making a stand by recognising, as we do in legislation right across the board from this parliament, that these days de facto relationships have, and ought to have, the recognition under the law of married relationships. To not stand for this is to subtly or overtly disagree with that principle in the year 2002, and we should not do that. It is difficult to think of any other parliament in the Western world, let alone in this country, that would be standing on the principle that when it comes to entitlements such as those being discussed here—and remember the Greens are opposed to the gold pass and think it should be abolished—the entree to those entitlements comes via a marriage certificate. That is not right. It is not the case under the law elsewhere and it should not be here. To accept otherwise is to accept the double standards of this government, and we should not do that.

It is very important that we make a stand on this matter. I believe that this should go back to the House of Representatives and to the Prime Minister's office—because that is where this philosophy comes from—for a rejig. The majority of Australians will not agree—and repeated opinion polls show this—with the government on the stand it is making tonight. This is a hark back to a past age and it reeks of a piousness—a false piety at that—that we should not allow the government to get away with. The government may select its institutions, but it may not force them upon the people of Australia, nor should it force them, through weight of numbers upon the representatives of the people of Australia. The Greens do not agree. We believe the amendment should be insisted upon.