House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Constituency Statements

Marriage Celebrants

9:45 am

Photo of Don RandallDon Randall (Canning, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government) Share this | Hansard source

I wish to bring to the attention of the House another case where this Gillard Labor government has successfully alienated a group of Australian people trying to go about their business and provide a function for our community, which now has been severely hampered. I raise the issue of marriage celebrants, or celebrants in general. Last week I visited Sylvia Watts, a registered celebrant in my electorate at Lake Clifton. She needed me to visit her because she was extremely upset and alarmed by the fact that, when coming to power, this government decided that, rather than continue to manage and control the number of celebrants in Australia, they would open the gates. Opening the gates and allowing as many celebrants to be registered and in a position to perform their functions has meant that it is open slather. As a result many people are putting out their shingle as a celebrant, generally marriage celebrants, and that has undercut and undermined those who have done so over a number of years.

This needs to be put in context. Many of the people who decide to become celebrants are generally those who have retired or who have more time to spend providing this function. The real effect of opening the gates and allowing so many celebrants into the industry is that it has diluted the ability of celebrants to earn a reasonable income. In the case of Sylvia Watts, she explained to me that she gets three or four weddings a year and quite often $600 or $700 is the fee. The problem is that there was no fee before, but there is now a $600 fee. So, if you are a marriage celebrant and the first thing you have to do now is to provide $600 to register, that takes out one of the few functions you get per year.

This fee—after, I understand, there having been no fee—is is to monitor and manage the number of celebrants in the industry. So the government have created a problem and then put in a tax—and this is really a tax—to manage the number of celebrants in the industry. They have not even gone to the celebrants to see how they are going. The celebrants were not consulted. The government are talking about continuing to monitor the progress of the celebrants in the industry but they do not even get to them to do this function.

My point is that here again is a problem of the government's own making. It has successfully alienated so many other people in the industry when there was no need to. The fact is, we have had the issue of the live cattle trade and all the other things they have done to people in this sector. This is just another case of bloody-mindedness that has caused the destruction of a decent industry. (Time expired)


Rona Goold
Posted on 22 Dec 2011 11:32 pm (Report this comment)

Dear Don

One of the non-profit associations has established a website to inform the community and the media about this issue. See:

The peak body CoCA (Coalition of Celebrant Associations is preparing a detailed submission to government, and is hopeful a way can be found for cost recovery to be fair and equitable. However it is a complex issue and one that few MPs and others understand.

However we have one Marriage Act in Australia, so all the basic principles should BE FAIR and apply across the board for ALL couples and their marriage celebrants whether a religious ceremony is involved or not.

This "cost recovery" fee is discriminatory in that the Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants will be able to have their Authorisations revoked (ie be sacked) on grounds that do NOT apply to State Registered celebrants.

What most people do not realise is that independent marriage celebrants are not supported by a church stipend, house or car etc like Recognised religious celebrants, nor do they have a government wage like a Registry Office celebrant. So are the least well placed for the government to be planning to charge them any fees, let alone the $600 pa as originally proposed.

And 60% of the marrying public will be bearing the cost of this "Cost Recovery"!

The Celebrants Equality website carries a lot of information on this topic as well as contacts for further information.

Thank your for raising this important issue.