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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26565

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (5:05 PM) —The government will not be supporting the Democrats' amendments for the reason that neither this bill nor the act deal in any way with de facto or same-sex relationships. There are, in the government's view, some pieces of legislation where it is appropriate that the government look at some of these issues. Quite apart from empty rhetoric and promises, as Senator Greig knows, the government has taken action in a number of areas. I want briefly to note the immigration area, for instance, where interdependency visas allow application for permanent residency of a person's same-sex partner. The superannuation laws, where the definition of `dependant' has been changed, have no doubt been canvassed in earlier speeches. I have initiated a review of Commonwealth superannuation schemes for consistency with the government's policy to recognise interdependent relationships for superannuation death benefits. The Workplace Relations Act contains a range of measures intended to help prevent and eliminate discrimination, including on the basis of sexual preference.

I am not going to give an exhaustive answer, but I think it is appropriate to say that this government takes it seriously where there is an appropriate response required in relation to some of these matters. This is not the right place for it, in the government's view, because these amendments seek to alter the fundamental nature of the legislation and it is contrary to what the government is trying to do here. The government is seeking to reinforce and confirm the special status the institution of marriage holds in our society. The bill we are debating responds to fundamental concerns in the community about the institution of marriage. It does reinforce the commonly accepted definition and also has the effect, as we have said earlier, of preventing the recognition in Australia of same-sex marriages that may be performed overseas. But this is not the place for any sanctimonious talking about audits. I agree with Senator Greig: this government has taken action where it was considered appropriate.