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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1365


Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 12 February 2008:

With reference to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report, Same-Sex: Same Entitlements :

(1)   Does the Government intend to:

(a)  

   introduce an omnibus bill to remove discrimination from the 58 Commonwealth laws identified by the report as discriminating against same-sex couples and their families; if not, why not;

(b)  

   remove all such discrimination from Commonwealth laws within a particular time frame; if so, what is that time frame;

(c)  

   enact legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality and/or gender identity and provide an avenue of legal redress to those who experience such discrimination; if so, when;

(d)  

   create a national relationship registry that would allow opposite-sex and same-sex couples to register their relationships and giving such relationships automatic recognition under Commonwealth law;

(e)  

   accept referrals of power from state governments over property division to enable the Commonwealth Government to treat same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples for the purposes of property law;

(f)  

   engage with state governments to achieve fairer laws in regard to parenting presumptions for, and adoptions by, people in same-sex relationships; and/or

(g)  

   create a phase-in period for the social security changes recommended in the report as a way of mitigating adverse effects of the changes on the lives of those concerned; if so, how long will the phase-in period be.

(2)   Following the enactment of legislation aimed at implementing the recommendations of the report, does the Government intend to:

(a)   conduct an audit of government policy and regulation instructions potentially effected by the legislation; and/or

(b)   initiate a public education campaign to notify same-sex couples of their new rights.


Senator Ludwig (Minister for Human Services) —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1) (a)   The Government is committed to removing same-sex discrimination in Commonwealth laws in a number of areas including taxation, superannuation and social security benefits.My Department has been undertaking an audit of Commonwealth laws to identify provisions that discriminate against people in same-sex relationships (taking account of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report Same-Sex: Same Entitlements). The focus of the Commission’s report was on financial and work-related legislation that discriminates against same-sex couples and their children. The Department’s audit covered other areas of life in Australia. The audit confirmed the findings of the Commission’s report and has identified federal legislation in these areas that discriminate against same-sex couples and their children. Areas of discrimination include taxation, social security, superannuation, workplace laws and education assistance. I am consulting with my Department and relevant Ministers about the implementation of these reforms, including time frames.

(b)  

   See response to Question 1(a).

(c)  

   I have asked my Department to provide me with advice on ways of approaching the implications and benefits of developing legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality and/or gender identity.

(d)  

   The Government’s stated policy is for the development of nationally consistent, state-based relationship recognition that will include the opportunity for couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life to have those relationships registered and certified.

(e)  

   The Government is considering the references of power that State Governments in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania have given to the Commonwealth Parliament on property settlement and spouse maintenance matters that arise on the breakdown of both opposite-sex and same-sex de facto relationships.

(f)  

   Each State and Territory is responsible for designing and implementing laws governing parentage presumptions for, and adoptions by, couples.The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) has been considering harmonisation of the legal issues surrounding surrogacy arrangements for some time now. A SCAG Joint Working Group is considering key issues relating to how best to harmonise surrogacy parenting arrangements, which includes parentage presumptions, on a national basis. Further work will be done on this at the next SCAG meeting in Adelaide in March 2008.

(g)  

   See response to Question 1(a)

(2) (a)   See response to Question 1(a)

(b)   See response to Question 1(a)