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Message No. 386, 2 December 2003, from the Senate was reported returning the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 with amendments.

Ordered—That the amendments be considered forthwith.

On the motion of Fran Bailey (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence), the amendments were disagreed to, after debate.

Fran Bailey presented reasons, which were circulated, and are as follows:

Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate

Senate amendments 1-4

These amendments propose that the Government recognise same-sex couples for the purpose of eligibility for the Defence Home Owners Scheme.

Existing Australian Defence Force Policy prohibits discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation. Accordingly, applicants for the Defence Home Owners Scheme are not asked about their sexual orientation, and sexual orientation is not taken into consideration when determining an individual's eligibility for the Defence Home Owners Scheme.

Existing policy arrangements for recognition of a member's spouse are based upon two pieces of Commonwealth legislation. The Marriage Act (1961)provides that `marriage', according to Australian law, is `the union of a man and a woman'. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984defines a de facto relationship being with `a person of the opposite sex'.

The amendments proposed by the Senate take an ad hoc and overly simplistic approach to this issue. Any decision to recognise same sex couples for the purpose of eligibility to Government-funded financial benefits would need to be taken in a whole-of-Government context. At this time, there are no plans to extend recognition to same sex couples.

Accordingly, the House of Representatives does not accept these amendments.

On the motion of Fran Bailey, the reasons were adopted.