Mar 29, 2006

Albanese calls for relationship recognition

Albanese calls for relationship recognition


29 March 2006

Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Member for Grayndler, yesterday rose in Parliament to again call for an end to the legal and social inequalities that are still faced by lesbians and gay men across Australia everyday.

Mr Albanese said, “All individuals are entitled to the right to participate fully in society and to receive the support and protection of the law regardless of their sexuality.”

“The past 10 years have seen the greatest advancements in lesbian and gay rights of any period. Almost every state and territory now provides a system for formal recognition of same sex relationships. These reforms, introduced by Labor governments committed to equality and fairness, have progressed with broad community support including, in some cases, support of members of the coalition parties.”

“Yet what have we seen federally in the past 10 years? It is a pretty grim picture. The only legislative reform that has recognised same-sex couples as family members has been the antiterrorism legislation,” said Mr Albanese.

Mr Albanese provided various examples of how the governments stanch devotion to continued discrimination effects the every day lives of gay and lesbian couples.

In areas such as taxation same-sex couples are not recognized for the purposes of benefits like the dependent spouse rebate, the superannuation rebate and the parent rebate.

Mr Albanese also presented examples of discrimination in the area of health such as the Medicare safety net and the private health insurance rebate, and in the area of family law where the Howard Government has refused to accept the referral from the states for same-sex couple breakdown.

“This means that, for same-sex couples, property division will occur in a state court but, if there is a dispute about child custody, this will be heard by the Family Court,” Mr Albanese explained.

“How can it be in the best interests of children for the relationship breakdown to be dragged through two courts, two legal systems and two lots of hearings?”

Mr Albanese also examined issues relating to superannuation where the Howard Governments so–called reform has fallen well short.

Mr Albanese said, “Same-sex couples were not specifically recognised in superannuation legislation. Instead, they were given a second-class form of recognition as part of a grab bag of other dependent relationships.”

“Further, the many gay men and lesbians who have spent their working lives in the Public Service were excluded from the changes, meaning that they still face the reality that their partner may be denied access to death benefits, regardless of how much they may have contributed to superannuation over the course of their career.”

Mr Albanese said, “The record of the government is clear. As a result of this discrimination, lesbians and gay men pay more tax and receive fewer services and benefits than other Australians.”

Labor’s shadow Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has recently announced that Labor has commenced consultation on models for a system of relationship recognition.

“This is an important step forward”, said Mr Albanese.

“I believe that Australia should and ultimately will follow the lead of countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom and introduce a system for recognition of civil unions. I note that in the ACT assembly today just such legislation was introduced.”

“This should be pursued in cooperation with the states and territories so as to remove any constitutional uncertainty and achieve a uniform system across the country,” said Mr Albanese.

“It is time for the nation to move forward and remove this discrimination.”

To read the full transcript of Anthony’s speech see the link below

Grievance Debate – Gay and Lesbian Issues, Same-sex Relationship Equality