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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 5239

Senator MURRAY (10:35 AM) —I move Democrat amendment (R2) on sheet 2661, revised 2:

(R2) Clause 4, page 5 (lines 14 and 15), omit the definition of spouse, substitute:

spouse in relation to a person, includes another person who, although not legally married to the person, lives with the person on a permanent bona fide domestic basis.

At a quick glance, I could not see a difference when the revised sheet was circulated, but it refers to a different clause and places it in a better part of the act. So that was useful. This amendment arises, as did my second reading amendment, from the unanimous committee report. At page 25 of the committee report, the committee said the following with regard to the definition of spouse:

The Committee notes the widespread opposition to the proposed definition of spouse in Clause 4, Part 1 of the Bill. The Committee considers that the definition of spouse is too limited and should be broadened to reflect current mores. The Committee also notes that, while in accord with the definition applied by the Remuneration Tribunal, the definition is inconsistent with that in the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990. It considers that consistency should be pursued in definitions applying across related legislation, wherever possible, and that it would therefore be appropriate for the definition in the proposed Bill to be consistent with that in the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990. The financial implications of extending the definition can be expected to be minimal.

The Committee recommends that the definition of spouse be amended so as to be consistent with the definition applying in the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990. That is, that spouse, in relation to a member, `include(s) a person who is living with the member as the spouse of the member on a genuine domestic basis although not legally married to the member'.

As I understand the amendment to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that is precisely what the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has done. However, when I looked at the amendment, I thought it was inconsistent, and since I am neither a lawyer nor a marriage celebrant—

Senator Robert Ray —Win-win!

Senator MURRAY —`Win-win' says Senator Ray. I accept the interjection. I think that there may be some definitional meanings to it. It seems to me that if you are not legally married you cannot really be a husband or a wife, so I thought it was appropriate to drop that out. I also had regard to the Senate standing orders and interests definition that was introduced with the specific intervention and wording of the Leader of the Opposition. That has the definition as a `partner', meaning a person who is living with another person in a bona fide domestic relationship. Already, in terms of parliamentary declarations, they have gone in the direction which my amendment goes. Simply put, whether you are de facto or same sex, you cannot really be `liberated', I guess, by the opposition's proposed amendment. Nevertheless, if my amendment gets knocked off, I will be supporting the opposition's amendment because it is an improvement on the current situation and does in fact advance the cause of greater consistency between legislative definitions. In summary, the definition proposed will enable people who are not married but who live on a bona fide domestic basis to access the scheme. My expectation of that is that it would be an additional financial cost, but of a lower order. Despite our opposition to the life gold pass, this is an issue of equality and equity. You cannot have one set of people able to access provisions under the law and another set not.