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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4881

Senator HARRADINE (6.16 p.m.) —I have now received the Hansard report of what Senator Crowley said this morning. She has compounded the offence and she has misled this parliament. I remind the committee of what I said this morning. I referred to the minister's words on 23 and 24 November. I also indicated that the original legislation was a try-on—a deliberate attempt to include in the definition of `family' same sex couples. I had this to say:

  This minister is saying, on the eve of the International Year of the Family, that same sex couples are able to be defined as a family.

I indicated that that was an attempt to set a precedent. In response, Senator Crowley said:

Senator Harradine is not correct in saying that this is the first time that legislation has defined families or couples in this way. I refer Senator Harradine to the migration regulations legislation, 1993. It is not as though it is without precedent.

The fact is that the minister's words to the Senate on 24 November were without precedent. Now she gets up and tells us that she was not really referring to families or couples; she was referring to part 305 of the migration regulations, which deals with interdependency, temporary visa, and exit and entry permits. I will not go through this matter, because Senator Jim Short, who knows a lot more about this than me—and probably most people in the parliament—has clearly stated that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the definition of family, much less including in that definition a one sex couple.

  So the minister misled the parliament. The Minister for Family Services was trying to con this Senate into thinking that there was a precedent. There is no precedent. She does not even have to say she was wrong—she has been proven wrong—but, as Minister for Family Services, she ought to get up and say, `There is absolutely no precedent in federal legislation which would enable same sex couples to be defined as a family'. She will not even do that, much less say, on behalf of the government, on the eve of the International Year of the Family, that that will not be the case anyhow.

  I do not want to delay this debate, but this is a very important matter, because the family is the fundamental group unit of society. It is the unit which develops the values that are important to the individual and to society. If we are going to accept a situation in which, as the minister says, the family is simply a self-defining unit, then we are going to have anything, and that unit is going to be unprotected. That unit—which even the Family Law Act defines as the fundamental group unit of society based on a marriage of a man and a woman, voluntarily entered into—will not have the protection of the government now or in the future. That is what the situation is coming to. That is what is happening in the taxation system now.

  The minister must get up and make it clear to the parliament that there is no legislative precedent in the federal jurisdiction, as she asserted there was and that, so far as the government is concerned, this is not a matter that is going to be left to some self-defining exercise in the International Year of the Family.

  Clause, as amended, agreed to.

  Clauses 6 to 27—by leave—taken together, and agreed to.

  Clause 28.