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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26566

Senator GREIG (5:07 PM) —I will respond briefly. I was not aware that the Howard government had made changes to the immigration laws. I knew that changes had been made but I understood that that was under the previous Labor government, when Senator Bolkus was the minister. I do not think the coalition can claim credit for that. I would make the point that, while there have been some timid steps towards partnership recognition in immigration, it is still clumsy, inadequate and discriminatory. It is still very difficult for an Australian citizen who establishes a same-sex relationship with a foreign citizen to bring their partner into the country and to gain citizenship for them. There are many more difficulties and hurdles placed in front of them than there are for other relationships. That includes heterosexual de facto relationships. There is not equality by any means.

While I thank the minister and acknowledge the work she did do in bringing about some superannuation reform, it is still not 100 per cent and there are still some hiccups and difficulties within that legislation. While it is no longer the case that a surviving same-sex partner will face great difficulties establishing that there was a previous relationship or getting access to a death benefit—that has been removed—the fact is that reversionary pensions do not apply to same-sex partners. So that discrimination is still there. It is also the case that, under the scheme that Senator Coonan has introduced and endorsed, to establish an interdependency relationship under the definitions of the act you have to demonstrate that you were living together. That is not the case if you are married. From time to time couples who are still married live apart—that is not so unusual—but they do not have to prove that they were living together. In order to access the death benefit, there is no requirement for them to have cohabited. That is the case under the interdependency provisions. So there is still work to be done in those two areas, even though timid steps forward have been taken.