Late last week the Queensland Parliament committee delivered its report
into the proposed civil partnerships bill. What was not in the report was the main message- the Queensland LNP State MP’s are firmly against the recognition of rights for LGBT people. No other message could be garnered- when they sought to censor the evidence of submissions to the inquiry.
I have given evidence to a number of Parliamentary inquiries. I will give my view of the world. I will be accepted, rejected or ignored, but I didn’t expect that the LNP MP’s would seek to prevent ANY of the submissions or evidence of ALL of the witnesses from appearing in the report.
The message is clear. Do not assume that a vote in favour at the plebiscite is a done deal. It should be assumed that there will be fierce opposition, and that the plebiscite will only succeed with organisation and determination.
There has been no statement by the Opposition about why they tried to censor what was said. The message was one that certain members of the Opposition did not want to hear: the submissions were overwhelmingly in favour of the change.
The vote was split evenly along party lines, which meant that the Committee was unable to reach a recommendation to Parliament. When I checked with my local MP today, Labor’s Grace Grace, I was told in no uncertain terms that the vote would not prevent the Government from proceeding with the Bill. The Government qill be proceeding with its Bill. The silence of the Opposition members masked their opposition. Why didn’t they just say that they were opposed to the changes?
This is what chair Mark Furner (ALP) said:
government members of the committee express their disappointment that the committee was unable to reach agreement on this Bill, or present the evidence provided to the committee from those who gave us personal stories about how this Bill if passed would change their lives.
The ALP members set out the submissions and evidence to the committee. I am quoted here:
The Bill re-instates the opportunity for same sex relationships to have a public
celebration of their love.
Love is love. Those in same sex relationships are denied the ability to marry in
Australia. Their relationships are to all intents and purposes invisible.
Nevertheless, same sex couples wish their relationship to be recognised. The ability to merely fill out a form without any public celebration of their love is short changing these couples in having that love celebrated with their friends and family, and, if they are religious, with God.
The key to the 2012 amendments was to deny that public celebration of love. This short changed all the couples involved and as a result impoverished our society by not recognising, in an appropriate way, those relationships. The State should not be preventing those who wish to have the public celebration of their love by a means other than marriage from enjoying and cherishing that public celebration. Two autonomous adults should be able to make that choice without interference from the State.
An odd provision of the Relationships Act and it is continued under this bill is that a registered relationship is similarly [to its registration] ended by form filling.
Under section 18 the registrar of births, deaths and marriages is required to decide without any statutory criteria, other than possibly considering conflicting statutory declarations of the parties, as to whether or not a registered relationship has
ended. This function should not be left to bureaucracy but put in the hands of courts, as it was in the Civil Partnerships Act, where, if there is a conflict about whether or not a relationship has ended and when, it could be properly decided in an accountable way by the third arm of government to which appeals and proper processes are open to an aggrieved party.
Mr Page (a family lawyer) pointed out that the types of scenarios where there is disagreement about
the ending of a relationship relate to questions of whether the parties were in a relationship at all:
I can tell you that quite frequently there is litigation between couples as to whether or not they are in a relationship. Having a registered relationship or a civil partnership and certainly I prefer a civil partnership because of the ceremonial
aspect of it is essential because if the couple have done that then there is no dispute that they are in a de facto relationship and they might save, in the process I do not know
—$100,000 and $30,000 of Commonwealth taxpayers’
money. I know that is the Commonwealth’s, it is not the state’s, but nevertheless it is a saving to society. It is money that, instead of funding people like myself, could be put towards their children.
Mr Page indicated that the government had suggested QCAT was an option for reviewing decisions
made by the registrar, but considered it should be decided ‘…
in a court, make sure if there needs to
be evidence given there can be evidence given and a determination is made under law as to whether
or not the relationship has ended