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Thursday, 16 October 2008
Page: 6241

Senator BOSWELL (3:42 PM) —I would like to make some remarks on the opening clauses of this bill. On the face of it, the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill seeks to provide de facto couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex, with access to federal family courts on property and maintenance matters. The intent is to provide for national uniformity for all relationship breakdown matters and to confer jurisdiction on the courts with the best resources for resolving the breakdown of relationships—namely, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court—exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act. It is important to address this for de facto couples. The coalition, while in government, supported, and indeed initiated, moves to legislate to help de facto couples in this regard.

It is of paramount importance that the unique status of marriage be preserved in all legislation that comes before the Senate. That is why de facto couples are treated as distinct from married couples, although relationships in both may result in similar circumstances being treated in a similar manner. Significantly, the title of this bill refers to de facto financial matters, which reflects the intent of the bill, as I have just outlined. However, there is also the matter of ‘other measures’ in the bill’s title. It is about the other measures that I, like many other Australians, have a concern.

Firstly, de facto couples now include same-sex couples. I acknowledge that many people do not have a problem with that. They view relationship breakdown as a generic situation that should be treated the same wherever it occurs. Their reasoning extends to children—that is, if children are involved, the same law should apply regardless of whether the couple is married, heterosexual or same-sex.

But a child is not the biological creation of a same-sex couple. That is biological fiction. So there is a problem under law of treating children being cared for by same-sex couples when there is a breakdown of that relationship, assisted reproduction techniques in surrogacy and other dimensions to the problems, because of genetic material from a non-custodial but biological mother or father. We are left with legal distortions and euphemisms in order to convince ourselves we are treating everyone equally. The government’s proposed amendment to section 60H will effectively give parental status to a lesbian partner of a woman who undergoes an artificial conception procedure. This includes artificial insemination and IV.

Item 7 of proposed new schedule 3A of the bill would introduce a new section 60HB to the Family Law Act which would give parental status to any person for whom an order has been made under prescribed surrogacy law of a state or territory. This is despite the fact that surrogacy laws amongst the states are varied and incomplete. The coalition will be moving amendments to try to improve this situation, but I am concerned that, no matter how hard we try, we are taking steps here that extend the classification of mothers and fathers to people who are not mothers and fathers. In doing so, we undermine marriage, motherhood, fatherhood and the rights of children to a mother and father as we have understood them throughout the whole of the history of humanity.

The government’s amendments in the bill’s proposed schedule 3A state that for ‘children’ should be substituted the following: ‘whether or not the child is biologically a child of the woman and of the other intended parent, for the purposes of this act the child is a child of the woman and of the other intended parent’. The government is proposing that a child can be a child of two people of the same sex—that is, a child can have two mothers. At least the government is no longer suggesting that the child be defined as a product of the relationship of the two same-sex parents—as was originally proposed. A child is not a product, and humans are not the industrial system, with inputs and outputs and people who can be equal substitutes for parents. We are a society, a society that depends fundamentally on marriage and the family for security, survival, continuity and a future. I feel that, with bills like this and the ones to follow on the equal treatment of same-sex partners, we are almost under duress to pass them, such is the pressure and media conditioning of our times.

Bernard Salt, a partner with KPMG, points out in today’s Australian the extremes of political correctness occurring in the UK. He writes:

IN politically correct Britain last month the University of Manchester changed the signage on toilet doors. Apparently transgender students complained that the terms male and female made them feel uncomfortable. As a consequence toilets in the student union building have been relabelled toilets and toilets with urinals.

He described how potential contractors with the Greater London Authority have to complete a diversity monitoring form that includes listing the sexual orientation of their workforce. The categories, according to Bernard Salt, are bisexual, gay, metrosexual and lesbian—and if you want to add another category you are welcome to. Is this the direction in which we are heading? I am afraid it is. There is more persecution of those who are unhappy with this bill than of those who are the intended beneficiaries. Who can argue with equal treatment in these enlightened days? Yet how we deceive ourselves when we create, by law, the fiction that a human baby actually has two mothers! Everyone who was born in this world has been created by a man and a woman. Now we are asked to accept, and legislate for, a new dogma: there shall be a father, a mother and ‘fothers’, let us call them, for we are creating a new class of parent. A ‘fother’ is a person who is not the mother or father in any physical or biological way—or a person who replicates that role in a heterosexual relationship—but a person in a same-sex relationship. This bill will establish a legal structure that creates a second parent of the same sex for a child while denying that child a parent of the other sex. Do such statements make me a homophobe who should be reviled and hounded by human rights and antidiscrimination activists? No doubt they do, but I assert my right to say farewell to the nostalgic days of humanity when a child had a right to a father and a mother.

Question agreed to.