Evidence about Qld’s proposed civil partnership laws
On the morning of the committee hearing, I had another look at the bill, and the earlier versions- the Bligh 2011 laws and then the Newman 2012 replacement.
While my commitment to the proposed laws had not changed, the new look resulted in me saying three things to the committee:
- that there is a disconnect between those who choose to have a civil partnership (or relationship as styled under the 2012 Newman laws) but do so by filling out a form, so that they are deprived of the ceremony. They can have a ceremony, but no connection with the legally recognised relationship.
- that there is an odd provision in the bill, taken from the Newman 2012 version, by which the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages decides, based on statutory declarations, as to whether or not the relationship between the parties has ended. I called for this to be decided by a court. In the 2011 Bligh version, this was a District Court judge. When questioned by Jim Madden MP, I said that I was fine for this to be a magistrate. I just saw that having the issue of the end of the relationship decided by a judge was a much more open process, to which evidence could be gathered, and that the appeal process was in my view more accountable than going through the Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal. No criticism of QCAT- but the decision to end a relationship in my view should be an open one in a court of law, before a judicial officer, not by a bureaucrat, who does not have the power to gather or consider evidence in an open, transparent way.
- that the regulations should recognise civil partnerships in non-Australian jurisdictions, such as the Tasmanian laws do with New Zealand and the Canadian provinces.
Chair Mark Furner MP took me to the submission of the Society of Notaries and questioned whether there might be confusion, because the people wh will officiate at the ceremonies will be called notaries. I said that I could understand the potential for confusion, and that may be some other title might be used (just not celebrant as that is designated under the Marriage Act).
Sixteen of the 18 submissions were in favour of the changes, including the Anglican Church, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, the LGBTI Legal Service and the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland. Commissioner Kevin Cocks spoke positively of the proposed change, and the need to remove discrimination. No surprise that the Australian Christian Lobby and Family Voice Australia were dead against.
The Committee is due to report in a couple of weeks.