Friday, 29 June 2012

Civil unions in Qld: Attorney-General Bleijie

In conclusion, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie had to this to say about he civil union proposals in Queensland:

I just say this to Queenslanders who have been debating this publicly lately: all we are doing here
by amending this legislation is allowing a de facto couple who have existing rights under law at the
moment the opportunity to be able to prove that existence and if they want to have a civil ceremony or a
commitment ceremony they can do it, but no longer will we have state government sanctioned
ceremonies. Nothing stops people from privately celebrating that commitment. They can go about their
business and have that private ceremony. What we are simply doing is affording them the legal
protection and opportunity to prove the existence of that relationship for financial and health purposes.
We are then keeping our commitment, which was a solid commitment.

Civil unions in Qld: Mark McArdle: "common sense"

The Minister for Energy and Water Supply, Mark McArdle had this to say (edited) abou the civil union proposals:

In the election campaign the LNP made it quite clear that we would review this act if we were
elected but we also made it very clear that we were aware that rights were enacted as a consequence of
the act coming into force and that we would find a balance between the two and move forward in that
vein, and that is exactly what we did. We looked at the act. We took on board the fact that marriage
between a man and a woman is what the LNP believes in and not same-sex marriage. We took that
principle on board and the bill tonight does three things. One, it affirms the opposition to a process that
mimics marriage. That is, it opposes a process that puts in place a ceremony and a divorce application
procedure, as exists under the current act. Secondly, it provides for continuity of recognition of the rights
of people who are registered under the terms of the current act and, thirdly, it allowed further couples,
both same-sex and male-female couples, to register under the act and gain the rights achieved by way
of registration. In my opinion, this particular bill that we are debating tonight upholds the spirit of the
legislation; it upholds the spirit of allowing a couple—same-sex, male or female—to register their
relationship and thereby acquire rights under the terms of the act that flow as a consequence thereof.
Everybody in this chamber knows men and women who are either gay or heterosexual. We all
know people like that. We all have had conversations with them. I can guarantee that everybody in this
House will have had conflicting stories given to them based upon who they talk to. Gay men and women
have said to me that they are torn between whether the act does anything at all, whether they want to
use it and whether it is rubbish. Quite clearly only 600 couples have registered under the terms of this
act. Of those, 158 are heterosexual. Therefore, 451 gay couples have used the act, but there are
thousands of gay couples out there. I do not think that trying to say that a bill that guarantees gay
couples the right of registration of its own merit is sufficient to constitute continuation of the act. In my
opinion, what the act does do is secure those rights for those people who wish to utilise the terms
Sadly, the debate tonight has focused purely on the fact of same-sex relationships to the
detriment of the rights garnered by couples who register under the terms of the act. That is the true
purpose of this act. At the end of the night the LNP had made a statement very clearly during the
election campaign as to what we were going to do. There should be no surprises. We made it absolutely
crystal clear that we would review this act. We went out there on the election campaign and made that
commitment to the electorate over and over again. What we did was take a balanced perspective. We
understood the rights that had been given by the terms of the act to those people who had made an
application and were registered and we secured those rights but then further went on to secure and
garner rights for other people who wish to use the terms of the act. The ALP have tried to turn this into a
same-sex relationship issue. It is not; it is the issue of rights being garnered for people who want to use
the terms of the act. The bill we are debating tonight simply puts in place a common-sense alteration of
the terms and secures rights for many other couples for years to come.

Civil unions in Qld: Jackie Trad: "a day the Queensland Parliament used hate to crush equality and discrimination to crush love"

The newest member of Queensland's Parliament, Jackie Trad (ALP), Anna Bligh's replacement, had this to say about the civil union proposals (edited):

This amendment bill seeks to reintroduce inequality and discrimination by mitigating the rights of same-sex couples to fulsomely and officially enter into a union respected and sanctioned by the state.
I will now turn to the clauses. The first clause that causes offence is clause 3, which changes the
title of the act from the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 to the Relationships Act 2011 and the terms ‘civil
partnerships’, ‘civil partners’ and ‘cooling-off period’—
in relation to the change of name from ‘civil partnerships’ to ‘registered
relationships’, I want to point out that this is not just a simple case of semantics. Words have meaning
and the use of the word ‘civil’ has particular importance in this context. The word ‘civil’ is used to
describe and illustrate a connection and recognition between the state, its citizens and their
interrelations with one another. Simply put, a civil partnership is an acknowledgement of acceptance and
understanding from the state. By taking away this title, the government is saying that they do not accept
these relationships. They do not value these relationships. The Premier and the LNP want the same-sex
community to believe that this is a compromise, but in fact it is a backhander.
In his explanatory speech the Attorney-General asserted that this amendment was to ‘more
accurately reflect the purpose and objectives of the act’. That is not correct. The intent of the original act
was not to introduce a civil partnership system in Queensland that was devoid of dignity, respect and
celebration as this amendment bill seeks to achieve.
Secondly, the abolition of the state sanctioned ceremony is nothing more than an extinguishment
of rights. Even the explanatory notes accompanying the bill point to the fact that this bill breaches a
fundamental legislative principle. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw the attention of the member
to page 3 of the explanatory notes where it states that the amendments will remove the rights of a
couple to hold a government sanctioned civil partnership declaration ceremony to express their intention
to enter into a civil partnership with one another. This is an extinguishment of rights. This is an
abomination. That is the only way you can describe it.
The true intent of this change, this amendment, is the fact that the government, in their mean and
tricky manner—which has been displayed to date—will allow same-sex relationships to be registered
but not with any official celebration or acknowledgement. You can celebrate as loud as you like to this
LNP government, but they won’t hear you, they won’t see you and they will make sure that no-one
official is there to sanction your union.
The issue in relation to the number of ceremonies that have been conducted to date—some 23, I
understand—does not reflect the desire for a ceremony. But rather it reflects the very short period of
time that the act has been in force—some 16 weeks—and the lack of notaries trained and registered to
date. As anyone who has planned a wedding will tell you, it takes a lot longer than 16 weeks to organise
such an event—bringing together all the festivities, all your family and friends to make this occasion a
stand-out event in one’s life.
The issue in relation to the abolition of notorieties—
Mr Seeney: Notaries.
Ms TRAD: Notaries, sorry. The bill abolishes the civil partnerships notary scheme, which enables
civil celebrants to register to preside and officiate over state sanctioned civil partnership declarations—
which may include a ceremony. The amendments reduce what should be a celebration of love and
commitment to nothing more than a process of completing and exchanging bureaucratic forms, much
like registering your car. All you simply do is complete the necessary forms, sign a declaration—
—pay the application fee and submit it to the relevant government department. If you
want to cancel it, it is just as simple: fill in another form and flick it through to the relevant government
department, and gone—your registered relationship is gone.
The Attorney-General may claim that this amendment bill brings Queensland into line with other
states, but what it really does is downgrade Queensland’s civil partnerships legislation to the lowest
common denominator. It may be true that in Victoria and New South Wales there are no official
ceremonies, but two other jurisdictions do have officially recognised ceremonies—information the
Attorney-General used selectively in advancing his arguments. In the ACT a celebrant registers a civil
partnership at a state sanctioned ceremony. In Tasmania the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
recognises that a deed of relationship commences when a marriage celebrant and witnesses have
signed the deed of relationship certificate. So, rather than bringing Queensland into line with other
states, the Attorney-General is simply letting Queensland fall to the back of the pack.
It must also be said that the government has discriminated not only in the context of the bill but
also in its development. The Premier did not want to talk to the people most affected by the bill and
acknowledged as much in his press conference last week when he proudly stated that he had consulted
with only one organisation—the Australian Christian Lobby—but not one single person, gay or lesbian,
affected by this regressive move. And, in an extraordinary move late last night, the government sought
to deny every Queenslander an opportunity to have their say on this bill—to have their say on having
their rights taken away.
We know that many Queenslanders care deeply about this issue—this was reflected in the fact
that more than 6,000 submissions were received when the Civil Partnerships Bill went to the committee
last year. But then let us not forget that this is the same party that has always shown itself to be
intolerant of criticism, intolerant of protest and dissent. This is the party that gave rise to the Premier’s
political hero Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a man who less than 30 years ago, as Premier, described gay people
as ‘insulting, evil animals’ and said they should go back to New South Wales and Victoria from where
they came. Just three months later, Premier Bjelke-Petersen and his government pushed through, in
less than an hour, legislation prohibiting gay men from donating blood.
Well, here we are—almost 30 years later—and the conservative government is pushing through,
in less than 24 hours, legislation again targeting the rights of gay and lesbian couples. As I sat in the
chamber last night listening to the Attorney-General introduce this amendment, I could not help but think
of a young man I met at the civil unions rally held outside this parliament just a few weeks ago. His name
is Marshall and, as I was attempting to weave my way back through the crowd, he handed me this
necklace. He told me that it had belonged to a friend of his who had recently died. Marshall wanted me
to wear it during this debate tonight in honour of his friend who died at too young an age after what must
have been a lifetime of struggle with discrimination and bigotry.
Marshall also opened up about his feelings of isolation and loneliness because of the bullying he
experienced at school because of his sexuality. Stories like Marshall’s remind us that the views of our
leaders and the laws that we make have a profound effect on our community and the lives of people in
our community. Views like those expressed by Joh Bjelke-Petersen can leave deep scars on the psyche
of generations of gay and lesbian Queenslanders. And what those opposite have chosen to do today is
reopen old scars.
But while the Liberal National Party may not have progressed on this issue, the Queensland
people certainly have—just like the rest of Australia. Most Queenslanders listening today will be shaking
their heads—
Mr Newman interjected.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The Premier will withdraw that unparliamentary language.
Mr Newman: Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member has the call.
Ms TRAD: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your protection. Most Queenslanders listening
today will be shaking their heads at the absurdity of this relationships register and questioning if their
local MP truly represents their values. Poll after poll has public support for same-sex union at more than
60 per cent. That is support for same-sex couples being able to celebrate their union in a manner that is
public and sanctioned by the state.
Indeed, looking across this House during the debate, looking into the eyes of some of those
opposite, I would ask if this amendment truly represents their values. Does this truly represent their
conscience? Who would know? Those on the government benches have not been allowed to use their
conscience, their intellect or their hearts in determining their position on this matter. Are these the laws
the members for Mount Coot-tha, Brisbane Central, Indooroopilly, Bulimba and Moggill dreamed they
would champion for their electorates? Is this the great achievement for progressing humanity in
Queensland these members envisaged? Did these members dream of rescinding and denying the
people of their electorates the dignity of equality because a loud, conservative minority with a direct line
to the Premier have judged the celebration of their relationship as immoral and offensive?

I am greatly concerned about the impact of this bill on the mental health of LGBTI Queenslanders,
particularly young people. This bill sends a very strong message to some of the most vulnerable people
in Queensland. It sends the clear message that their relationships are not worthy and therefore their
love is wrong.
In the context of this debate, it is shameful to note that same-sex attracted youth are between five
and 15 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, although these figures are
almost definitely underreported due to obvious difficulty in collecting such data. Those who work with
these vulnerable young people suggest that suicide is more likely due to the internalising of homophobic
attitudes expressed by their peers, families and community leaders. Psychologist Paul Martin,
Queensland’s political liaison officer from the Australian Psychological Society and a psychologist with
more than 25 years experience in the mental health of same-sex people, states—
I have worked with Queensland Mums and Dads who have lost their same sex attracted young son or daughter and will never be
the same again. They have stated that they knew that it is because their much loved son or daughter believed what people said
around them. This included that they were defective, not worthy for social inclusion and that their relationships were a farce. This
results in hopelessness, shame, depression, anxiety and other precursors to suicide.
These stories of discrimination and hopelessness are a stain on our community and something
we should all be asking to remedy. I ask members opposite, knowing these facts, how they can justify
and explain today’s amendments to members of their community who are struggling with their sexual
The introduction of civil partnerships in Queensland is a great Labor achievement, an
achievement built on the shoulders of other historic reforms enacted by decades of Labor governments.
Indeed, it has been successive Labor governments that have removed discrimination and inequality
from Queensland laws. This is particularly true for the rights of same-sex Queenslanders in this state. It
has always been Labor that has delivered historic reforms for same-sex people in Queensland
including: introducing antidiscrimination legislation making it illegal in Queensland to discriminate on the
grounds of sexuality; strengthening protections for same-sex Queenslanders who are suffering from
violence, particularly domestic violence; ensuring same-sex relationships are protected under property
law, under succession laws; and enshrining countless other entitlements that people living in committed
relationships have come to expect in this state. These are great Labor achievements for which members
of our party and the wider community can be very proud. To them I say: we have taken a great step
towards equality together. While today’s vote will be a step backwards, we will turn this around and we
will move forward again together. Labor will always fight against discrimination. That is what the Labor
Party does.
The bill before the House is nothing more than a backward step for Queensland. It is about
extinguishing a right for same-sex couples and it is an abomination. The Premier wants to ram this
through tonight and get on with more important matters. Well, for many Queenslanders—for thousands
of Queenslanders—this is an important issue and this bill is an insult and a disgrace.
Last night Anna Funder was afforded the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel
All That I Am. It is a rigorously researched and superbly penned literary accomplishment and I can
personally recommend it to all members of the House. Today when asked about the Newman
government’s decision to scrap the Premier’s Literary Awards, Ms Funder said—
I have spent my professional life studying totalitarian regimes and the brave people who speak out against them.
And the first thing that someone with dictatorial inclinations does is to silence the writers and the journalists.
Well, as someone who has read this award-winning novel, I am compelled to mention—
(O)one of the other groups singled out for persecution and marginalisation in this novel is gay men in pre-World War II Germany.
History has demonstrated again and again that it is not a sign of strength to crush the spirits—
2 It is the action of those with ambitions of greatness who fall short in character and
nobility so that they then stand on those who are easily crushed before them. This day will be written
down in history as a day the Queensland parliament used hate to crush equality and discrimination to
crush love.

Civil unions in Qld: Jan Stuckey

This is an edited version of what the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and
the Commonwealth Games, Jan Stuckey told the Queensland Parliament about the proposal to change Queensland's civil union laws:

The timing of the introduction of the Civil Partnerships Bill late last year, when the Bligh Labor government was in its death throes, was manipulative and callous.
The opportunism of the former Treasurer knew no bounds. The introduction of his private
member’s bill—not the domain of a minister of the Crown—was nothing more than a cheap political
stunt in a desperate attempt to win votes rather than being about good policy. It was Machiavellian, a
cruel trick to play, using the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community like a political football,
geeing them up for blatant political gain. This kind of sneaky, slippery, devious behaviour was the norm
of the previous government. They would have you think they had ownership—a monopoly, if you like—on the issues related to the gay community. They are wrong. Many of us on the government benches have dearly loved family members and close friends who are not heterosexual. As the honourable member for Southern Downs has said, there are diverging views amongst the gay community on this topic as well.
As the Attorney mentioned when speaking to the bill late last year, it was designed as a
distraction from the critical issues facing our state due to Labor’s incompetent governance over the last
two decades. In discussions that the LNP had with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual
community at the time, we found that the major issues facing them, strangely enough, were the same as
those facing all Queenslanders and those in my electorate of Currumbin. They were rising cost-of-living
pressures, access to good public health facilities, getting our economy back on track, job opportunities
and job security. Might I add that not one constituent has contacted my office in Currumbin in relation to
this debate, and I have a very, very engaged electorate.

Civil unions in Queensland: Crandon

Here is an edited extract of what Michael Crandon (LNP, Coomera) told Queensland's Parliament about the proposal to change civil union laws: (emphasis added):

I am a Christian and I have friends in the gay community. I have spoken to people in the gay community about their true beliefs. As was brought to the attention of the House by the Minister for Health, not all people on all sides of this debate believe the same things.
Some people are interested in one thing only—and this is the perspective that I want to come from. The
perspective I want to come from is people’s rights. What are their rights?
A dear friend of mine passed away some 18 months ago. Jim and his partner—a same-sex
couple—were passionate about one another. They were lovely, lovely people. Jim passed away quite
unexpectedly. Fortunately for Jim’s partner, the rest of his family understood their relationship and did
not create any problems for him in relation to the estate and the estate passing to him. He was one of
the fortunate ones.
My background is 22 years in financial planning and I can assure the House that in that time—and
the Leader of the Opposition may think it is funny to be talking about these serious matters; by all means
laugh if you like—I saw many cases where not only same-sex couples but people who were living
together in a male and female relationship were denied their entitlements on the unexpected death of
their partner because the rest of the family vehemently disagreed with their relationship. All sorts of
stories would come out—‘No, she was his housekeeper,’ ‘No, they were two bachelors, just good
friends.’ Whatever else, the story was about money. That is all it was about. It was the money that the
family saw themselves losing because of this relationship that was a bona fide, genuine, loving
relationship between two people.
The position I am coming from with this is that we are not talking about whether or not we want to
mimic marriage here. As a Christian, I am against that concept of mimicking a marriage....
I am not against people having the right to pass their assets from one to the other or to deal with the individual who is in some sort of a serious health situation—in a coma, in a hospital—and be regarded as the individual that is thought of as their partner, as their next of kin. That is the position I am coming from.
I ask all of those people who purport to be Christians out there in the marketplace and who have
been making noise about this issue to think about the people who it really affects. The people that this
legislation really affects are those same-sex couples and indeed partners—whether they are male and
female partners as well—who have the opportunity now to come to a court and to register, if you like,
their interest in one another, to formally register, to legally register—...
I simply want to take the opportunity to ask all Queenslanders and all of our society to understand that
there are different views taken by different people in our community but that at the end of the day there
are loving, genuine relationships out there, whether they are between a man and a woman or whether they are same-sex relationships, that deserve the financial protection, and those people deserve the opportunity to be regarded as the next of kin in an emergency health situation. Those people are the ones and the only ones at the end of the day who are affected by this legislation—hence the reason this government has done the right thing in retaining this legislation on the books and, if you like, has appreciated the attitudes of some people, me included, who do not agree with the concept of marriage by simply taking that aspect out of the bill and allowing those people to have the opportunity to deal with one another’s life needs in a health situation or financial situation. I commend the bill to the House.

Civil unions changed in Qld

Last week the Queensland government introduced and passed in almost record time new laws altering civil unions in that State:
  • changing them from civil partnerships to registered relationships
  • removing the State based public aspects of celebrating them.
Here is an extract from Hansard of the speech by Lawrence Springborg, former LNP Leader, now Minister for Health:

Unlike the Labor Party, no-one in Queensland can be under any misapprehension about what we
took to the last state election. The Labor Party did not take to the previous state election its intention to
introduce civil partnerships legislation in Queensland and yet it did it at the death of that stagnant,
decaying government only late last year. By absolute contrast, the LNP went to the last state election
and clearly enunciated to the people of Queensland, regardless of their race, religion, creed, sex or
sexuality, what our intentions would be if we came to government in Queensland post 24 March. There
should not be one single person in this chamber or outside of this chamber who is under any illusions as
to the intent of the LNP, and that has now found its way into an amendment bill in this parliament.
Indeed, it was very, very refreshing because we told the people of Queensland what our
intentions were. Not only that, a large number of members of the Labor Party, who have now consigned
themselves to opposition through breach of trust and maladministration over a period of time, went out
and campaigned on this issue as if there was no other issue for the electorate of Queensland at large.
Look at the former member for Brisbane Central (Grace Grace) who campaigned so vociferously on this issue, the former member for Mount Coot-tha (Andrew Fraser), who campaigned vociferously on this issue, and the former member for Algester (Karen Struthers), who did little else but tweet and facebook about this issue in the lead-up to the last state election and where is she today? The people of Queensland had a clear opportunity to understand the contrasting views and the contrasting intents of the LNP and the Labor Party. Indeed, if we can be accused of anything, it is of not going as far as some people wanted us to go. I think we have struck a reasonable balance with regard to the issue that we are debating today....

 First, we made a clear commitment; secondly, it should be noted that we
were prepared to discuss that in the electorate; and, thirdly, no-one should be under any illusions about
the fact that we took it to the electorate and, therefore, we have the authority of the electorate to come
972 Civil Partnerships and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 21 Jun 2012
into this place and amend the law. Indeed, some people expected the law would be repealed altogether.
A moment ago I talked about the issue of balance. This is an issue of balance and this legislation strikes
an appropriate balance.
During the last state election, the now Premier indicated quite clearly that we would be making
changes to the Queensland civil partnerships law as long as we could preserve and protect those
people who had entered into a relationship under the existing law and that they did not suffer as a
consequence of our changes. That is unlike the Labor Party. From 1998 to 2012 when the Labor Party
was in government, it brought into this parliament a whole raft of retrospective legislation. We respect
the people who entered into those relationships prior to the proclamation of this bill, whenever that may
be if it passes the parliament tonight. They should have those rights preserved. That was not a right that
the Labor Party gave the farmers in Queensland. They took away the rights that the farmers actually
purchased with regard to vegetation management on their property. The Labor government took away
those rights retrospectively and never properly compensated the farmers. They have taken away
retrospectively a range of rights. We are preserving the rights that have been established to date.
Notwithstanding that fact, we have recognised that there is an argument for people who wish to
register their relationships for medical or financial reasons beyond that which is currently encompassed
in the laws of the land with regard to property and intestacy and all of those sorts of things. We should
be recognised for that. Last week, a range of people from within the same-sex community or
representing that community said that at least we have not gone as far as they expected we would go in
this legislation.

Our bill is unlike the Labor bill, which did not have the consent of the electorate at large, which
was not debated in the electorate at large and which was hidden from the people of Queensland at the
March 2009 state election. Fast forward three years and our bill was taken to the people of Queensland.
Labor’s bill was cynical. It was divisive. It sought to use the Queensland gay, lesbian, transsexual and
intersex community as a political football. That is what Labor did cynically on the eve of an election. The
LGBT community was used as a political football. Indeed, the former Premier did not have the courage
of her own convictions. She snuck the legislation—the act as it exists today—into this place under the
guise of a private member’s bill moved by the member for Mount Coot-tha. The Labor Party members
did not have the courage of their own convictions to take this forward. They did not want to actively
debate the issue in the community as a Labor Party proposition. That takes away from the proposition
and contention of the Leader of the Opposition that Labor’s legislation was so broadly supported that it
would not create any pain within the electorate for the Labor Party....

The Labor legislation was rushed to create a political circumstance with the community
that I have mentioned was the political football in the middle. It was cynical. It was also brought into this
place in order to create division at that time and in the most cynical way.
The concern of many people in the community—and a lot of people have talked about respect or
otherwise—was that it emulated marriage. To me, that was a major concern. From members on the
other side of the chamber I see far less tolerance and respect for opposing views than I see from
members on this side of the House. Some three or four weeks ago there was a protest out the front of
this place and members opposite went out there and said that there is a whole bunch of Christians in
this House and that they hold those views because of their faith. They said that it was terrible that
people stand up in this place and enunciate a particular Christian view. That is what they do: they preach
tolerance on the one hand, but they are not prepared to practise tolerance on the other hand. The
hallmark of the Labor Party is absolute intolerance when it comes to these sorts of issues.
No-one should be surprised about my views. I have always said that I believe that marriage
should be between a man and a woman. Many people in this place hold that particular view....

 What we actually find in the community is that people hold a diversity of views regardless of their
race, culture, sexuality or sex. It is actually honed by their personal views, their personal values and
their personal experiences. That is something that honourable members opposite seem completely and
absolutely incapable of understanding in this particular debate.
So to polarise it around those people in the LGBT community who are pushing for this because
everyone in that community wants it is as equally wrong as it is to say that those people in the
heterosexual community oppose it. That is what those in the Labor Party do not tell the people of
Queensland or do not want to recognise. It is also wrong to say that everyone who espouses that they
are a Christian and belong to a Christian church is necessarily opposed to same-sex marriage or samesex
adoption or civil unions for same-sex people in Queensland. We have heard people associated with
churches in Queensland come out and say that there needs to be reform along the lines of that which
the previous government introduced in Queensland. Equally, there are people from Christian churches
or from other faiths who do not support same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, civil unions or whatever
the case may be.
It is absolutely wrong to say that this issue is based simply around a faith and what Christian
churches are advocating. If we look at what the Anglican archdiocese has been saying about this issue
in the last week, we find that they have been advocating little or no change to the legislation, yet on the
Catholic Church side they are advocating change. There is an oversimplication of this debate. Those on
the other side seek to de-intellectualise the debate as they seek to use it as a polarising issue to create
a political football in the community.
I recognise that and I understand that. The members opposite do not understand that whatsoever.
I do not approach this personally from faith based values. From my enunciations in this parliament noone
knows what my faith is, if indeed I have one. That is a matter for me. But no-one should be
condemned because they have a faith or do not have one or because they have a view either in favour
or against what we are debating here tonight.
It should be seen in the electorate in the context of honesty and a commitment to the things that
you are going to do. As I have said, this is about the preservation of rights and about finding a balance.
There are people on both sides of the argument who are unhappy with what has been put forward in this
amendment bill which we are putting through the parliament. But we have struck an appropriate
balance. Indeed, when those opposite sat in this place in government they sought not only to hide from
the people of Queensland their intent but to not recognise the concerns of people in the community who
had an issue with regard to the emulation of marriage contained in their legislation....

So the electorate at large knew the proposition we were taking to the electorate. We understand
that there was concern within the LGBT with regard to this issue. We did recognise that there was a right
to register a relationship in Queensland. That is preserved in the bill which is before the parliament
tonight. It is just that there is no state sanctioned ceremony. That was the issue which we discussed
during the election campaign and the people of Queensland understood absolutely. When they went to
the ballot box they cast their vote knowing full well that that was the intention of the LNP tonight. We are
keeping our promise to the electors of Queensland as we enunciated during the campaign and as they
consented on 24 March this year.

Letter to Queensland Attorney-General

I have been asked to share my letter to the Queensland Attorney-General, the Hon. Jarrod Bleijie. Here is my letter:

28th June 2012

The Honourable Jarrod Bleijie MP
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
State Law Building
50 Ann Street
Brisbane Qld 4000

Dear Mr Bleijie

Proposed Changes to the Surrogacy Act 2010

I am writing to you because of your published remarks to the House about changes to the Surrogacy Act, both to reflect my concerns and those of intended parents and surrogates, but also because of my unique legal position.

I urge the Government to reconsider its decision to amend the Surrogacy Act 2010 to criminalise same sex couples, singles and heterosexual de facto couples of less than two years standing from seeking to have children; and to not recognise lesbian co-mothers as “parents”.

I want to make plain that I hold no animus towards the Government.  After all, it was I who managed to obtain the attendance of the then Lord Mayor now Premier, Mr Newman as a guest speaker at the Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network. The premier and I also have a long shared view of opposition to violence by men towards women.

My Unique Position

I undertake more surrogacy work than I believe any other lawyer in Australia. Uniquely, I have surrogacy clients from throughout Australia, and internationally. I am recognised as being expert on Australia’s surrogacy laws.

I have an extensive surrogacy practice.  This has arisen in part because for the last 20 years I have acted for LGBTI clients as part of my family law practice.

Sometimes the assumption is made that those who seek surrogacy must be primarily gay men.  That assumption is not accurate.  Most of my surrogacy clients have been married couples and heterosexual de facto couples, but I have also acted for gay couples, single men, single women and lesbian couples, all of whom have sought to become parents. Although each of their stories is, inevitably, unique, the common feature of each story is that they have come to the realisation that surrogacy, as the option of last resort, may be available to them to achieve the dream of becoming parents, a matter the rest of us take too often for granted.

All of them are well aware that adoption is in effect not available to them. As you are aware, the Adoption Act 2009 discriminates against singles and same sex couples. In recent years the number of children available for adoption has been very low, so low that married couples have given up hope and sought surrogacy instead.

As might be expected I have also advised surrogates.

In addition to my other memberships, I am:

·      A member of the Fertility Society of Australia;
·      An associate of the American Bar Association in particular the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Committee, namely the committee that deals with surrogacy matters. (I cannot be a full member as I am not a US citizen. I have been asked, along with two US members, to draft the American Bar’s position as to a proposed Hague convention on international surrogacy.

I am not writing this on behalf of any of my professional associations, as the opinions in this letter are mine.

I have spoken and presented about surrogacy extensively.  Last year, for example, I presented:

·        City Fertility Centre national training
·        Life Fertility Clinic training
·        World Congress on Reproductive Medicine
·        Queensland Law Society/Family Law Practitioners Association of Queensland family law residential
·        American Bar Association, world’s first conference on international surrogacy
·        LexisNexis family law summit
·        Fertility Nurses of Australasia conference
·        Surrogacy Australia seminar
·        Tasmanian Parliament Upper House inquiry into that State’s Surrogacy Bills

I and a colleague last year wrote a published article about a State by State guide to Australia’s surrogacy laws.

This year I have presented about surrogacy to:

·        City Fertility Centre
·        Surrogacy Australia inaugural national conference
·        LexisNexis family law summit

Further presentations to be undertaken are:
·        NSW Branch of ANZICA (Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association)
·        World Congress on medical law
·        Hunter Valley Family Law Practitioners Association conference

My first surrogacy client was a women who came and saw me in 1989 and told me that she had been paid to have a child for a couple, that she had had the child and that she had kept both the child and the money.  My then client was keenly aware that as all forms of surrogacy were illegal in Queensland by virtue of the then recently passed Surrogate Parenthood Act 1988, that in reality there was little that the intended parents could do as they risked prosecution by agitating for the child to come into their care and the arrangement being void, they could not sue for the recovery of the money.

That Act, seen nationally as a regressive approach to surrogacy, was a reaction by the  Queensland Parliament to the notorious New Jersey Baby M case. However, the legislative solution to criminalise surrogacy merely meant that surrogacy was driven underground. As the Lavarch Committee inquiry made plain, surrogacy continued in Queensland despite the threat of prosecution under the Surrogate Parenthood Act 1988.

What was made plain to me from that first surrogacy client was that desperate intended parents will ignore criminality to ensure that they achieve parenthood. That case also made plain that unscrupulous people can take advantage of the desperation of people who want to achieve parenthood.

This desperation was also seen in the case of Re Evelyn (1998). In that case, a South Australian couple offered to have a child for a Queensland couple. Following the child’s birth, and handing over to the Queensland couple, the South Australian birth mother took the child back, resulting in bitter Family Court proceedings. The significance of the case from this point of view is that surrogacy was not legal then in South Australia, and was a criminal offence in Queensland, but such was the desperation of the Queensland couple to proceed, they did so.

My Concerns About the Proposed Changes

The first concern that I want to raise is that the Premier, as Opposition Leader, told the Queensland electorate ahead of the last election that there would be no change to the Surrogacy Act.  No other member of the LNP, including you, told the electorate otherwise. The first that the electorate was aware that it was anything different was last week. I note that I specifically checked the LNP’s website several times before the election to see under Mr Newman’s vision for Queensland whether there was any reference to surrogacy. There was not.

My Concerns About Eligible Surrogacy Arrangements

When you spoke to the House last week, you said that the Government’s proposal was to adopt the previous Bill by Mr Springborg.  In my view, this Bill was objectionable as a matter of public policy for seeking to exclude and to criminalise intended parents who are same sex couples, singles or those living in heterosexual de facto relationships of less than two years.

Why I say it is objectionable from a public policy point of view is for six reasons:

1.      For the first time ever, Parliament granted a certain class of people rights, and will be removing those rights.

2.      The desire to have children does not change despite differences in relationships or sexuality.

No doubt you, as well as me, have always known that you wanted to be a parent. What has become apparent to me in having seen so many clients who wish to achieve parenthood that there is no difference in the desire of my various clients to have children, whether they are gay, straight or lesbian, married, de facto or single.

One of the most painful tasks that I have ever had to engage in, and I hope that you never have to do so, is to crush someone’s hopes and dreams of being a parent by telling them that to do so is to commit a criminal offence.  The pain is excruciating.

3.      The proposed changes are not likely to be effective.

Put simply, the desire of intended parents is so strong that they will avoid or evade criminalisation. This will happen either by their moving State, and engaging in surrogacy there legally, or they will undertake traditional surrogacy in Queensland and not come to the attention of authorities. They can go, for example, to NSW or Victoria and undertake surrogacy there without discrimination.

It ought to be said that the research has indicated that traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate is the genetic mother of the child (and in which case a clinic is unlikely to be involved), is more problematic than gestational surrogacy (when there is no genetic link). It is perceived that there is a higher chance of disputes regarding the child with traditional surrogacy than with gestational surrogacy.

4.      The proposed changes appear to be in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act.

That Act prohibits discrimination in the provision of a service based on marital status. Quite clearly, a clinic would be unable to provide services related to surrogacy when the intended parents were single, a same sex couple, or a heterosexual de facto couple of less than 2 years. This inability to provide a service based on marital status means that the clinic is in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Section 109 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides:

"When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid."

As cases in the South Australian Full Court and the Federal Court have demonstrated, with similar legislation in South Australia and Victoria, it seems quite clear that because of section 109 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the relevant State restriction will be overridden.

One must then wonder why there needs to be such a restriction, if it is not going to be effective law.

In the Victorian case, McBain v Victoria (2000), the proceeding related to the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act and the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act. Section 8(1) of the Victorian Act provided that to be eligible to undergo infertility treatment a woman must either be married and living with her husband on a genuine domestic basis or be living with a man in a de facto relationship. Dr McBain wanted to treat a single woman, Ms Meldrum.

Section 22 of the Commonwealth Act made (and makes) it unlawful for a person to refuse to provide services to another person on the ground of the other person's marital status.

The Court said in an explanatory statement:

The infertility treatment is a "service" within s 22 of the Commonwealth Act. Dr McBain is precluded by the State Act from providing the service to Ms Meldrum because of her marital status. The State Act is accordingly inconsistent with the Commonwealth Act, and the Court declares that by force of the Constitution, the State Act is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.

This means that women are not required to be married or in a de facto relationship in order to be eligible for infertility treatment, and Dr McBain is at liberty to provide that treatment to Ms Meldrum.

In the South Australian case, Pearce v SA Health Commission (1996), Ms Pearce sought IVF treatment. She had separated from her husband. The relevant South Australian law provided:

"… a person must not carry out an artificial fertilization procedure except in pursuance of
a licence granted by the Commission.

    (3) A licence will be subject to-
    (a) ...
    (b) a condition preventing the application of artificial fertilization procedures except for the benefit of married couples in the following circumstances;
      (i) husband or wife (or both) appear to be infertile; or
      (ii) there appears to be a risk that a genetic defect would be
to a child conceived naturally;

    (4) In subsection (3)-"married couple" includes two people who
are not married but who are cohabiting as husband and wife and who-
    (a) have cohabited continuously as husband and wife for the
    immediately preceding five years;or
    (b) have, during the immediately preceding six years, cohabited as
    husband and wife, for periods aggregating at least five years."

The South Australian Full Court made a declaration as to inconsistency, thereby allowing Ms Pearce to have treatment.

5.      The proposed changes are in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations.

I endorse the words of the then President of the Queensland Law Society, and now Deputy Speaker Ian Berry, in a letter to Premier Bligh in 2009:

“…same sex couples should be able to become legal parents of a child. I believe that limiting access to surrogacy arrangements based on the sexual preferences of the parties is highly undesirable. More specifically, it would offend:

·        The Family Law Act 1975(Cth) which recognises the parentage of children of same sex relationships;
·        The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws- General Law Reform) Act 2008 (Cth) which was enacted to address discrimination against same-sex couplesand their children in Commonwealth laws, and for other purposes; and
·        Australia’s human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Therefore I strongly urge Queensland to reconsider the current discriminatory practice of denying same sex couples the opportunity to become the legal parents of a child.”

6.      The proposed changes target an already vulnerable group.

Research has shown that LGBTI people, who consider that they are often marginalised, will suffer worse mental health outcomes, than those of the broader community, in part because the LGBTI people will feel that they have been targeted because they are perceived by the wider community as being different.

The proposed changes to lesbian co-mothers

Again I endorse the words of Mr Berry.

There has been a lesbian baby boom in Queensland, as has happened elsewhere. As Justice Crisford stated in the Family Court of Western Australia in 2009:

In recent years the use of artificial insemination procedures has risen dramatically, both here and overseas. They were once procedures of last resort for infertile heterosexual married couples. They have now become a mainstream solution for various reproductive challenges including absence of a heterosexual partner. New groups such as single women seeking to raise a child alone, same sex couples and gay men who have arranged for a mother to carry their child have used these procedures.

Whilst technology has grown and the ambit of artificial insemination procedures has expanded the legal system lags behind. This can lead to complicated child custody disputes between the parties.

 It has been empowering to my lesbian clients to have their role, as the other parent, recognised for the first time by being named as “parent” on the birth certificate.

I note that what is proposed, aside from being inconsistent with the approach say in NSW, will mean that Queensland lesbian co-mothers will not be recognised as “parents” under Queensland law at a time of joy, i.e., at the birth of the child, but will be recognised under Federal law, as Mr Berry stated, including at times of pain, under the Family Law Act.

Since Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was instrumental in enacting the Status of Children Act in 1978, as part of a co-operative scheme between the States and the Commonwealth under the Family Law Act, both Queensland and the Commonwealth have recognised new families and have sought to have a co-operative scheme involving the Status of Children Act and the Family Law Act.

It would be an odd outcome, contrary to Sir Joh’s legacy, that Queensland would not recognise lesbian co-mothers as parents under the Status of Children Act, but that they would be recognised under the Family Law Act.

Form of Bill/Retrospectivity

I ask that any Bill is properly put out to community consultation first, with the ability of MP’s to listen to constituents first. I also ask that adequate time be given to consider the changes.

I ask that any changes not be retrospective. I have been asked if clients who have participated in surrogacy arrangements but not yet sought parentage orders will now be criminalised. I have also been asked if women who are now named on birth certificates as “parents” will now be removed. I have been asked if the changes will be retrospective.

I cannot answer any of these questions because, aside from a brief unattributed news article, I simply do not know. It would be good to be able to give clear advice on these points.

Further consultation

I seek to meet you as soon as possible to discuss these matters further. I would also seek that if I were to meet you that a member of Surrogacy Australia, which represents intended parents nationwide, also be able to attend.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Page

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Qld Government to change surrogacy laws in 2 months: ABC

The ABC has reported that the proposed changes to Queensland's surrogacy laws will not occur for a couple of months:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Qld: to exclude lesbian co-mothers from birth certificates

Last week the Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced in debate on the changes to the Civil Partnership Law:
“What we are also going to deal with is the other issue that that bill dealt with and that is parentage presumptions and parentage orders. Honourable members will recall at the time that the member for Southern Downs supported two lesbian women, who had a natural birth, both having parentage orders. I make it absolutely clear that going forward the government will be amending the provisions around altruistic surrogacy and the Surrogacy Act to repeal the provisions with respect to same-sex couples, de factos of less than two years and singles. That is the policy position we took years ago when we debated the Surrogacy Act.”

What the Attorney General was saying in effect was that the amendments to the Status of Children Act 1978 (Qld) contained in the Surrogacy Act 2010 (Qld) and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 (Qld) was that lesbian co-mothers will no longer be recognised on birth certificates. 

This recognition was brought about by virtue of the Surrogacy Act 2010 (Qld) and has resulted in a number of lesbian co-mothers being recognised on birth certificates as “parent”.  The legislation to allow this has been consistent with other States such as New South Wales.  It is not known if the Government proposal is that women who are now recognised on birth certificates as “parents” by virtue of being a lesbian co-mother will be removed from the birth certificate or whether  it is only to apply in the future.

The proposed change will mean that co-mothers will not be recognised in a moment of joy namely at the time of the birth certificate as a “parent” but will be recognised as in a moment of pain if and when their relationships break down because the effect of their actions under the Family Law Act will be that they are “parents”.

Even worse for a lesbian mother seeking child support, although the Family Law Act specifies that the co-mother would be a “parent”,  internal procedures with the Child Support Agency are not always so clear cut and I have been advised of difficulties in establishing “parentage”  in dealing with the agency.  The planned move will in my view make it more expensive and tie up tax payers resources in the Federal Magistrate’s Court unnecessarily as to argument as to whether or not the co-mother was a parent, a step that is easily avoided by having her named on the birth certificate.

I will be speaking at a forum tonight at the Sportsman’s Hotel, Leichhardt Street, Spring Hill at 6.30pm on this point.

Qld: to criminalise same sex couples and singles seeking surrogacy

The Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced last week to the parliament a debate on the changes to the Civil Partnership laws that Queensland would be changing its surrogacy laws along the lines of those previously proposed by then Opposition Justice spokesman now Health Minister Lawrence Springwood.  The Attorney stated:
“The second issue is surrogacy. In this debate and in the correspondence that the government received with regard to this debate there was much talk about mixing these issues with surrogacy. I can also advise the House tonight that the government will be changing the surrogacy laws in the future. We will be introducing amendments similar to those introduced by the honourable member for Southern Downs when he was the shadow minister. We will be repealing the provisions in the Surrogacy Act that deal with same-sex couples, de factos of less than two years and singles. That was a clear commitment given many years ago when that original debate took place. The government will proceed to amend the Surrogacy Act.”
So that it is clear, what Mr Springborg proposed, aside from being in breach of Australia’s fundamental rights obligations including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and aside from being apparently in conflict with (and therefore invalid) so far as it is in conflict with the Federal Sex Discrimination Act, is intended to criminalise same sex couples, singles and those living in heterosexual de facto relationships of under two years who seek to pursue surrogacy.  Mr Springborg’s Bill provided that only those people who have entered into an eligible surrogacy arrangement could proceed and that those who entered into a surrogacy arrangement that wasn’t an eligible surrogacy arrangement committed an offence punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.  Eligibility was defined as the intended parents either being married or in a heterosexual de facto relationship of not less than 2 years.
If the changes become law, then the likely outcome is that some couples will continue to defy the law and undertake traditional surrogacy irrespective of the changes and others will simply move interstate where there are not discriminatory laws.
It is not known whether those who have undertaken surrogacy but don’t fit the anticipated guidelines as to whether they will now be punished or whether their children will still be eligible for parentage orders.
Tonight I will be speaking at a forum at 6.30pm at The Sportsman’s Hotel, Leichardt Street, Spring Hill about this very issue.