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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3483


Senator POWELL(11.09) —At the second reading stage I indicated that for a range of reasons the Democrats will not support the amendments of the Opposition. I reiterate, following Senator Peter Baume's comments, some astonishment that in two instances a provision which would in fact remove an obvious discrimination against men is being opposed. I think it is less of a concern while the Social Security Act is exempt. While we all understand why it is exempt-because of the enormous cost implications of a move such as this in that area-I think it is encouraging that the Government should be taking this move. I do not think there is a major concern as far as precedent is concerned, in the sense that women have had an advantage over men in their access to benefits in many areas. There are a couple of instances where that advantage has been removed and I think it should be supported. I would not like to think that one of the reasons for people being disturbed about this happening is that they do not want to see men labelled as old at 60. We are all approaching the age of 60. I am certainly hoping that, when I am 60, men are not old at 60. If that is a problem I do not think it would be a motivation for opposing these sensible amendments in this Act but I would hate to think it was.

The provision regarding the recognition of de facto relationships is the basis of the two other amendments. As I have said, I think it is important that anti-discrimination legislation accepts that there are a number of ways in which people choose to form households and that these should be recognised. I do not think we should be too concerned as I understand from the statistics that marriage itself is more popular than ever. De facto relationships have changed over the years. I would have thought, for instance, that the three-year provision in the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 reflected more the sort of thinking in society at that time that, if a couple had lived together for three years, they were probably fairly serious and perhaps they ought to be looked at in a serious way. I think what we term as a de facto relationship now quite often is a transitional relationship. As I read the statistics I see that it is increasingly the case that it is a transitional relationship. I do not think we should be opposing these sorts of measures on the basis that the institution of marriage might be at risk when the figures really show that the opposite is true.

Amendments negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.