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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31463

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (10:07 AM) —I will not keep the House long in responding to the comments that have been made. I would, in relation to the comments of the honourable member for Cunningham, simply make the observation that nobody is being discriminated against in relation to entering into a relationship. In fact, we are more than happy for the states to—as they have in large part—order both the maintenance and the dissolution of those relationships and interests that might be created by them, whether they are de facto or same sex. The question is whether or not the institution of marriage means a union between a man and a woman for life, which it does for most people in the Australian community. That has been the expectation and that has been the understanding of the law; what we are seeking to do is to maintain that.

I recognise that the member for Cunningham would like to change it. His amendment suggests that that is what he would like to do. But that is not the government's position, and we understood that that was not the opposition's position. We were of the view that the opposition—in good faith, having said that they supported this measure—would not seek to put it off, when the issues are being addressed now in legal proceedings, to have a parliamentary inquiry which would inevitably ensure that it was going to be put off for months.

Ms Roxon —You can't do anything in the proper timing, can you?

Mr RUDDOCK —This is the time in which to deal with it. You have an opportunity to indicate whether you will deal with it now and effectively or whether in fact you are walking away from the commitment that you have given to support this measure. I am sure, in terms of the issue of the Senate timetable, that a matter that clearly is seen as being of a noncontroversial nature between the government and the opposition would be afforded a speedy passage. I am sure that you could facilitate that if there were a bona fide effort to ensure that this measure were able to be enacted today. I think that should be the effort, and I am affording you the opportunity to be able to play that part. I commend the measure to the House and look forward to its speedy passage, at least here.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.