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Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Page: 287

Ms PLIBERSEK (Minister for Human Services and Minister for Social Inclusion) (10:33 AM) —Last year the Gillard government passed a motion calling on members of parliament to gauge the views of their local communities on the issue of same-sex marriage. Over the parliamentary break, I launched a formal consultation on this issue and I received over 2½ thousand submissions from residents in the electorate of Sydney. I am pleased to present the results of this consultation to the parliament today. The main argument from most of those who made submissions in my electorate is that Labor’s task of ending discrimination against same-sex couples is not finished yet. Whilst my constituents gratefully acknowledge the historic reforms made by the Labor Party which delivered complete equality for same-sex de facto couples in 2008 in every piece of Commonwealth law, in areas as diverse as superannuation, social security, veterans affairs, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and many others, 89 per cent of respondents believe that the government should legislate for further relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The clear preference from residents in the Sydney electorate who made a submission to me is to amend the Marriage Act so that same-sex couples can get married. Eighty per cent of survey participants supported same-sex marriage, 57 per cent supported a national civil union scheme open to both same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples. Only nine per cent supported a national civil union scheme which was open to same-sex couples alone. Obviously, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would see that a number of people were happy with any one of those three suggestions, while some people were focused only on marriage as a suitable solution.

In addition to the survey responses, I received a number of very moving comments and stories from people about their own relationships and the relationships of their family and friends. One woman said to me, ‘We live an extraordinarily normal life, as though we were married. We cry together. We argue about the kids. We do school drop-offs. We garden. We clean. We cook. Why then can we not get the basic recognition of getting married?’ Of course this belief is supported not just by the gay and lesbian community in Sydney, not just by their friends and family members, but much more broadly throughout the electorate of Sydney. The residents of Sydney who wrote to me in support of same-sex marriage came from many different backgrounds. What they shared was a belief that no law should discriminate against people because of their sexuality, a belief that I share.

The Prime Minister has indicated that this issue will be debated at the Labor Party’s national conference later this year. I believe that that is the right time to renew Labor’s program to deliver this final measure for full equality for same-sex couples, and I will be making a case for change at that conference.