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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8152

Mr NEUMANN (8:25 PM) —I acknowledge the contribution made by the member for Kooyong. He has a deep understanding of these issues and has campaigned long and hard on them in the past. I pay my respects to him and express my admiration for him for the lonely task that he has undertaken for so many years. Unfortunately, I never had the same faith in the Howard government that he obviously had during his many years sitting on the backbench. In 2002, the Howard government came to an agreement with the various states and territories on family law reform and made announcements in relation it. But what when it came to helping those in same-sex or de facto relationships to gain rights of property settlement and spousal maintenance, the Howard government simply did nothing during all those years. It has been left to the Rudd Labor government to introduce legislation in that regard, which it did just a few weeks ago. That is compelling evidence of the failure of the Howard government on law reform concerning same-sex and de facto relationships. That says it all, despite the valiant attempts by the member for Kooyong and other small ‘l’ liberals in the Liberal Party.

I speak in support of the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Bill 2008. It is the second phase of the Rudd government’s commitment to legislate so that all Australians and their children are treated equally in the eyes of the law. The first phase of this reform, the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—Superannuation) Bill 2008, was considered in June 2008. This bill received frustration and obstruction in the Senate from those opposite. They raised concerns about marriage and interdependency, yet the bill was effectively about children and partners in same-sex relationships receiving Commonwealth superannuation scheme entitlements—reversionary benefits in circumstances where there was suffering due to the loss of a partner or parent and all the tragedy that that brings. The first bill ensured that those people who were struggling with that loss would be provided for financially. It is difficult enough to cope with the loss of a loved one or a parent, let alone have to worry about financial security and safety.

The first and the second phases of this legislation are not about marriage, gay adoption, gay IVF or civil unions. They do nothing to denigrate the institution of marriage. Mr Deputy Speaker, you might wonder why I am talking like this. I saw the list of speakers from the opposite side and remembered that a number of them had spoken on the first bill when it was before the House. You would have thought that the floodgates were opening and marriage was under attack—the thin end of the wedge. It was nothing of the sort. There is bipartisan support for the classic high definition in the Marriage Act and the Family Law Act for marriage. It is the union of a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life. That is what the Family Law Act and the Marriage Act say—a formal monogamous heterosexual union for life. That is our position and the position of those opposite.

We know that, despite the legislative definitions in the Family Law Act and the Marriage Act, and despite the empowerment of the courts with legislative definitions about preserving and protecting the institution of marriage, the reality of human existence is that people break up. That is a fact. In my research into this particular area, I looked at ABS data, I looked at information from Relationships Australia, and I looked at information from the Australian Institute of Family Studies and my own experience as a family lawyer working in this area for nearly a quarter of a century. About 30 per cent of first marriages fail, often within the first five years of the union. Second and subsequent marriages are more likely to fail, perhaps as many as one in two. So marriage itself is a very uncertain thing. Those of us who wear a ring on our finger know how difficult married life can be. This particular bill—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The debate is adjourned, and the resumption of the debate will be made in order of the day for the next sitting. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.