House debates

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Constituency Statements

Commonwealth Law Reform: Same-Sex Couples

9:33 am

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Housing) Share this | | Hansard source

Prior to the last election, Labor made a number of commitments, including a commitment to remove discrimination against same-sex couples in all areas of Commonwealth legislation. I have been campaigning on this issue since before being elected to parliament and certainly since I was elected in 1998. In fact, I first raised the issue in federal parliament in June 1999. Many of my constituents have written to me over very many years detailing how this discrimination has personally impacted on them in their everyday lives. As soon as we came into government, our Attorney-General started to audit all Commonwealth laws to identify discrimination. There were a number of pieces of legislation that were identified by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report Same sex: same entitlements, but many other pieces of legislation were missed by that HREOC report. The Attorney-General, in his very thorough audit, has picked up many of those. The Rudd government has now introduced bills into the parliament that will achieve what we set out to do—to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from all Commonwealth laws. These bills will extend rights to same-sex couples in areas like taxation, veterans affairs, social security, immigration and Medicare.

As the member for an electorate that has one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples in the country, I know that my constituents will benefit enormously from these laws. One constituent, Neil Murray from Newtown, wrote to me about the discrimination that he and his partner face. He wrote:

I am a retired air force officer, having served for 21 years, including a tour of South Vietnam. Since retiring in 1986, I have received a DFR&DB pension appropriate to my rank—wing commander—at the time of my separation from the RAAF. Should I die, my male partner of 20 years will receive nothing in recognition of our relationship. However, if I was married for even one day or I was in a long-term de facto relationship, my female partner would receive a five-eighths widow’s pension.

Tim Evans, a former constituent now living overseas, is looking to move back to Australia with his partner. He wrote:

When looking into the requirements to buy a property, I realised with absolute horror that the Federal Investment Review Board is discriminatory. In short, it discriminates against same-sex couples. Opposite-sex couples, where one member is an Australian, are exempt from reporting requirements when they purchase real estate in Australia. To quote their website: “The exemption for foreign persons purchasing residential real estate as joint tenants with their Australian citizen spouse does not extend to same-sex couples. Foreign persons in a de-facto same-sex relationship must seek foreign investment approval for the acquisition of any residential real estate or vacant land.

I hope that the government’s legislation to eliminate this discrimination is passed quickly so that Neil’s relationship is given the legal recognition it rightly deserves and so that Tim and his partner can purchase property properly in Australia. (Time expired)