Aug 1, 2009

Same Sex Reforms – Address to the 45th ALP National Conference

Chapter Seven: Same Sex Reforms

Address to the 45th ALP National Conference

Sydney

1 August 2009

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

Thanks Comrade Chair.

Delegates there has been considerable debate at this Conference from the Fifth Estate. They’ve argued that this is a boring Conference. They’ve argued that because the ideas and the debate – which the Labor Party holds dear – and the role of this Conference has been conducted in a mature way.

There are very strong views about a range of issues that will be debated over these three days, and one of those areas where there are strong and divergent views is in the area of equality for same-sex couples.

I want to put on the record my appreciation for the effort that Robert McClelland, as Attorney-General, has made in making more significant reform to achieve equality for same-sex couples in the last twelve months, than was achieved in the previous 108 years of Federation.

And Delegates that is consistent with the great values that this Party holds dear. The values of equality and recognising that all men and women are born equal regardless of their sexuality.

Now as those great political philosophers Jagger and Richards said “sometimes you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need”. The resolution before this Conference provides the latter. It is certainly not my ideal position.

I have a view, that my relationship because I happen to be heterosexual is not undermined by someone else’s relationship because it is homosexual. I have a view that history is moving forward on these issues.

When I proposed equality for same-sex couples in superannuation in 1997 in the ALP Caucus – that was a controversial issue. Today that is an issue of consent. That is an issue of reform. It is an issue in which our Government has received a great deal of credit, not for moving just on superannuation, but indeed for removing discrimination in 84 pieces of legislation.

This debate will move forward, it will move forward regardless of what resolutions are carried at this Conference. People’s deeply held views will not be changed by resolutions of this Conference.

We will continue as a mature political party to engage in this debate, but it is important that we are able to move forward, in a way that is constructive, in a way that advances the cause of equality and this resolution before the Conference today does just that.

It is consistent with the Prime Minister’s commitment prior to the last election that there would be no change to marriage under the Rudd Labor Government. We made that commitment at that last election.

Now, regardless of what I think of that particular commitment, what we do as a political party is that we are united by the things that we need to move forward and we deliver on all of our commitments, and that is one of the areas that has characterised this Rudd Labor Government.

So this resolution before us today that I am moving and will be seconded by the Attorney-General is undoubtedly a compromise.

The truth is that it is a resolution in which probably very few people in the room would agree with each and every component of, but as a political party what it is, is consistent with both the principles that we need to move forward but also the commitments that have been reached, and I thank the fact that as part of very difficult negotiations we have been able to move this debate forward.

It allows for progress to be made to remove discrimination against same-sex couples. It enables advance in terms of the opportunity for all couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life to have their relationship officially recognised.

There were two components carried in the last Conference, the first was about removing discrimination from legislation – we have achieved that totally. The second was about the recognition of relationships.

The fact is we have not achieved that much as was indicated by our platform at the last Conference. We need to advance on those issues, and hence we also need to ensure – and this resolution will – through the review of relationship recognition arrangements to ensure national consistency – that in the different arrangements that have been introduced by state and territories, that there is consistency across the board there.

So I commend the resolution to you. It isn’t the ideal resolution that I would have liked to have moved.

The views that I hold, I will continue to argue for very strongly within our great Party and we will continue to have a debate within our great Party because I believe, very strongly, that the issue of equality for all is something that is unstoppable and that is consistent with our great Party leading those reforms.

When you look at issues of race, or gender, or sexuality it has always come down to the Australian Labor Party to show courage and leadership. We have done that in the last twelve months, we shouldn’t forget that.

We shouldn’t allow those who want to take opportunistic positions such as the Greens to undermine that. We have made more difference to the real lives of gay and lesbian people in this country in twelve months than they could ever do with purist resolutions in the Senate.

I commend the resolution to the Conference and I conclude by once again expressing thanks for the support that has been there, certainly from the Branches in my electorate, for the work that Robert McClelland has paved in terms of achieving those great reforms.”