Saturday, 18 August 2007

Darren Hayes Slams John Howard: Qnews

Darren Hayes Slams John Howard

Brisbane’s own Darren Hayes, former lead singer of Savage Garden has slammed John Howard after his British husband was forced to fly to Australia on a tourist visa according to the Courier Mail.

Hayes is quoted as saying "It makes me angry and frustrated "I’m Australian and I can’t bring my partner home as my partner. "That to me is an infringement of my civil rights – a very un-Australian thing". "I would never have voted for John Howard and I encourage people not to. I don’t think he speaks for this country in the same way I don’t think George Bush speaks for the US". "Every time I come home there’s this whole kerfuffle" said Hayes who is in Australia to promote his new album and single that already is number 10 in the UK and hit Australian charts at number 29. The single "On the Verge of Something Wonderful" is listed on his new double album "This Delicate Thing We’ve Made" due for release on 20th August.

The Courier Mail’s website was inundated with comments when the article appeared attracting hundreds of responses.

Haye’s is also quoted as saying "We have to get Richard a visa. "He’s my partner, I share my life with him. I’ve inherited all the rights that normal couple have. "That’s my right as a human being. It really annoys me". "I’m in a loving, stable relationship".

"I love my record, I’d much rather be speaking about my record but at the same time I unwittingly became a spokesman for something I really do believe in".



Govt blocks same sex entitlements inquiry reports that Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett has slammed the federal government for using its Senate majority to block a Senate Committee from examining legislation seeking to implement the recently completed Human Rights Commission report into discrimination against same-sex couples.

The Democrats had introduced legislation into the Senate put into law the recommendations from the Human Rights Commission's report, Same Sex: Same Entitlements . The party sought to have a Senate Inquiry "to assess whether or not [the] Bill adequately reflects and implements those recommendations, before moving to have it passed by the Parliament prior to the election."

"The federal government repeatedly says it supports removing discrimination against same-sex couples, yet it repeatedly blocks every single effort by the Democrats to implement this basic principle in law," Mr Bartlett said.

PFLAG- latest lobbying for Change

Lobbying in Canberra

PFLAG Brisbane has outlined its most recent lobbying by convenor Shelley Argent...

On the 12th and 13th of July, Shelley went to Canberra with Rodney Croome (Tasmanian Gay Activist) and Mark Morein (of the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities) to meet with James Fox, Mr. Howard’s legal adviser and Phillip Ruddock, Attorney General.

Both meetings went for approximately 90 minutes each.Very briefly, Mr. Fox stated that he will put our point of view to the Prime Minister, but of course doesn’t know if Mr. Howard will act. He was friendly and listened to what we had to say. We believe that he took many of our concerns on board. Mr. Ruddock stated that there is a submission to be presented to parliament. He wouldn’t say when and he wouldn’t say what would be in the submission. When Shelley mentioned economic discrimination, he stated they do benefit from the taxes they paid, because theytoo drove on the roads.As Rodney Croome says, we just need to keep“chipping” away. Each time a group meets with these people it makes it easier for the next group and if it happens enough government will learn we are serious about equality and changes will happen.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Comment on case: Verner and Vine

I am grateful to my friend (and non-lawyer) Sue Kentlyn for bringing my attention to a case decided earlier this year in the Full Court of the Family Court, Verner and Vine.

Although one can understand at some level the process that the Full Court reached, in its limited capacity of an appeal court, I would doubt very much if it would have reached the same result if the appellant were represented at trial and if the sexuality of the appellant were different.

The facts

The parties lived together in some kind of relationship for 7 years from the age of 17 until 24, when the child was born, then within 2 years the mother had married, then proceeded to have 2 more children in the marriage.

The child the subject of the application was severely disabled.

The appellant stated that the mother and she had been in a lesbian relationship. The mother denied this, saying that they were just friends. Against this denial, the mother had applied for IVF treatment (resulting in the birth of the child)and represented that she was in lesbian relationship with the mother.The appellant and the mother also owned a home together.

Some considerable effort was spent at the trial by the appellant to show that the mother and she were in a lesbian relationship.

It was the mother's case that to expose the child to the existence of the mother would be extremely upsetting and that as a result there should not be contact between mother and child.

At trial, Lawrie J agreed with the mother, and dismissed the appellant's application.

Not a parent

The first point that her Honour made was that the appellant was not a parent under the Family Law Act or the NSW Status of Children Act.

The second was that she may be a person who was within the class of
other people significant to [the child’s] care, welfare and development
and therefore might have had standing to make application under the Family Law Act.

Her Honour was not impressed by the appellant's evidence of the nature of the relationship and then said:
“[w]hatever the nature of the relationship at the time A was conceived, it is now very different from a close friendship or a love affair”, and she proceeded to discuss the present state of the relationship between the appellant and the mother, concluding this discussion by saying:
The state of the relationship between these former friends which exists today makes it clear that it would be extremely unpleasant for the mother to be in a position where she was required to have any further contact with the applicant. I am satisfied that it would impinge on her and her family’s need for peace and tranquillity and cause upset in the child’s home which would not be in the child’s interest.

Her Honour also found that in 2 1/2 years the appellant had only seen the child 4 times.

Another issue pressed by the mother and accepted by Lawrie J was that the child's disabilities were such that she could not communicate with others and was very reliant upon the mother and stepfather.

The appeal

The appellant, who was now reperesented appealed unsuccessfully, the Full Court finding in essence that the various decisions by Lawrie J were within the ambit of her Honour's discretion.


What is extraordinary about the comments by Lawrie J about upset is that everyday in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court fathers (and occasionally mothers) seek to spend time with their children when it is clear that it would make the former partner feel "extremely unpleasant". Usually the courts have very little sympathy and press upon that parent the need for the child to know who she or he is.

On reading the appeal court judgment, it seems that the appellant, in being self-represented, made a number of basic errors in running a trial, which were simply too late to fix on appeal.

Elias Principle

It is all too common in property settlement cases where a party might make representations to a third party which are at complete odds to what they are now telling the court. A typical example is a woman saying to Centrelink that she was a single mother, whilst saying in property settlement proceedings that she had committed fraud on Centrelink as she was in a de facto relationship.

The rule in property settlement cases is a rule of family law that when people make representations of fact to third parties and gain advantage from so doing, they cannot in subsequent property proceedings of the Family Law Act lead evidence which contradicts those representations: Elias principle as explained in Jordan (1997).

The principle applied in Elias and similar decisions is more than merely a rule or presumption about credibility, to the effect that in some circumstances a party cannot be expected to be believed if he or she puts a proposition inconsistent with a representation made to revenue authorities. It is a rule of law that prevents a party asserting something in the proceedings.

Why should it have been any different here? The mother made clear representations to doctors that she was in a lesbian relationship with the appellant, and yet now says that she was not.

The relevance of course is that if she were in a lesbian relationship then, the clear inference is that the child was planned by the parties, and the involvement of the appellant in the child's life is obvious.

This case is a clarion call for lesbian couples to be very careful to protect the rights of their children. Whilst co-parenting agreements are not legally binding, they might be able to show clear evidence that the parties were in a relationship together and had planned the child together, and that therefore the co-parent should be recognised and at some level involved in the child's life.

WA, Vic: Feds' homophobia holding up evidence reform

Joint Media Statment - Western Australian and Victorian State Governments
The Hon. Jim McGinty MLA (left)
Attorney General
Minister for Health
Electoral Affairs The Hon. Rob Hulls MP (right)
Attorney General
Minister for Industrial Relations
Minister for Racing

A national approach to the rules of evidence admissible in court is in danger of being derailed because of the Federal Government’s continued discrimination against heterosexual and same-sex couples in de facto relationships.

The Victorian and Western Australian Attorney-Generals, Rob Hulls and Jim McGinty, said that the Federal Government needed to get its house in order so that further reform to evidence law could be properly considered.

“Most State jurisdictions include same-sex couples in their definition of de facto relationships, and Philip Ruddock needs to catch up with the twenty-first century and most other Australians in his attitude to legitimate relationships,” Mr Hulls said.

“Nationally uniform evidence laws are important because they would provide consistent rules across all courts on issues such as whether people in domestic partnerships are required to give evidence against each other.

“Philip Ruddock wants this reform, but he also wants to perpetuate discrimination by refusing to agree to a definition of domestic partnerships that goes beyond a husband and wife to include same-sex and heterosexual couples in de facto relationships.

“Enough is enough - Philip Ruddock cannot expect real reform on evidence laws when he is still refusing to act on powers referred from the States years ago to remove similarly discriminatory provisions in property, superannuation and other federal laws.

“Homophobia is just not an excuse for this ongoing discrimination against large numbers of Australians in de facto relationships, whether they are same-sex or heterosexual.”

The WA Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, said it was disgraceful that in most parts of Australia, only married couples had access to the Family Court to resolve their property matters.

“Every state, except South Australia, has passed legislation referring power to the Commonwealth to enable it to amend the current laws and give people who have been in a de facto relationship the same property rights as those who are married,” Mr McGinty said.

“It’s time that Mr Ruddock woke up and acknowledged the fact that many Australians choose not to marry and instead live in de facto relationships. These people should not be discriminated against because of their choice.

“WA is the only state which has been able to give its de facto couples access to the Family Court to resolve property matters.

“Because, unlike the other States, WA has its own Family Court, we have been able to give de facto heterosexual and same-sex couples, whose relationships have broken down, access to the Court’s specialist tribunal to resolve their property disputes.

“However for constitutional reasons we could not legislate with respect to superannuation, so like the other States, we referred those powers to the Commonwealth. Now, having done our part over the past few years, the States are still waiting to see de facto couples given the rights they deserve.”

Mr Hulls said Mr Ruddock had continually delayed introducing the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters) Bill 2007 into Federal Parliament.

“This means that in most parts of Australia, only married couples are entitled to use the Family Court to finalise their financial affairs, while de facto couples are forced to have their cases heard in non-specialised State courts,” Mr Hulls said.

“These courts are not as well equipped to deal with family matters.

“The Family Court of Australia uses modern legislation to decide property disputes between couples and specialised judiciary, whereas State courts use older and more complex laws which in many cases can lead to delays and increased expense.”

Source: Ministerial Media Release