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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6755


Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (4:19 PM) —Family First is concerned that this bill, the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Bill 2008, would undermine marriage by treating other relationships as being much the same as marriage. The government says that this bill is to ‘eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples and the children of same-sex relationships in a wide range of Commonwealth laws’. Ending discrimination is reasonable, but we have to make sure we are talking about discrimination rather than differentiation.

This is a major bill that would change 58 pieces of Commonwealth legislation. A number of submissions to the committee inquiry made the point that there had been no public consultation and the Senate committee had inadequate time to properly consider the full scope of the bill. Yesterday I was forwarded 15 pages of government amendments which seem designed to respond to some of the concerns around definitions of children and parents in the bill, but of course this major revision of the bill has not been presented to a committee inquiry for more thorough examination. That is not a good way to make major decisions on such an important area of policy.

Family First is opposed to two other government bills that are part of the same general package: the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill 2008 and the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—Superannuation) Bill 2008. That opposition has been based on the concern that the legislation should be child focused and that marriage should not be undermined. Legislation should, as I was saying, be child focused and not adult focused. It is in the best interests of children to have both a mother and a father where possible. It is vitally important to promote marriage and not reduce its status, because it is marriage where children get both a mum and a dad.

In evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry, Professor Parkinson asked a valid question: is there evidence as claimed in the bill of discrimination against children? He makes the good point:

All that this Bill will do is to define someone as a parent who is not in fact a parent. That has nothing to do with preventing discrimination against children. It is all about the adult’s claims. As so often happens, children are being used to promote adult agendas.

Marriage is the relationship which provides children with the best chance of the stable family life that they need. It is the backbone and the core of our society. This should not be reduced by any measure. Without question, marriage is the best environment in which to raise children. Family First believes that the important and overriding principle to guide us when looking at this legislation is that marriage should keep its privileged status and not be undermined. A second important principle is that relationships other than marriage relationships should be recognised as interdependent relationships rather than marriage-like relationships. Interdependent relationships could include same- and opposite-sex couples in sexual relationships, but they could also include a couple of mates or two sisters who live together, who share housework, rent and other bills and who are genuinely financially interdependent. Family First will not be supporting this bill.