Friday, 29 June 2012

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
identity.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment