Media Release: Wednesday, 5 December, 2007

The ACT Government’s push for civil partnerships is in defiance of the new Federal Government’s election commitments and the Labor Party’s own National Conference resolution from April this year, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and his Government seem prepared to break with the will of the people and the policy resolutions of their own party in order to fulfil a radical social engineering agenda. However, he is confident that Federal Labor has more integrity.

“This is an article of faith for the new Federal Labor Government,” Mr Wallace said.

“It has committed itself not to support civil unions or anything that mimics marriage and we expect the Labor Government to honour its commitment.

“We have complete confidence in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s integrity. Federal Labor would also not want to be seen to break an article of faith with the Christian constituency so soon after winning office.”

Mr Wallace said that the Labor National Conference in April passed a resolution which said Labor would support state-based relationship registration only. The resolution explicitly committed Labor to ensure that any such scheme would not mimic marriage.

“I do not remember images of Mr Stanhope leaping to his feet at the National Conference to oppose this – as he should have done if he knew he would be causing the ACT to break it,” Mr Wallace said.

Mr Wallace said that Tasmania has a relationships register and that Victoria has now tabled legislation for a register, in keeping with the Conference resolution.

“If Jon Stanhope is so determined to undermine marriage by pushing through civil partnerships instead of state-based relationship registers, surely the place for him to argue this was when he attended the National Conference.

“Clearly the decision taken then was meant to apply to State and Territory Governments, otherwise it would not make sense. Why can’t he accept this and stay with the decisions and commitments that have been made by fellow ALP members?

“Mr Stanhope has already led the way in breaking down the meaning of family in Australia. In 2004 his Government passed laws to allow children placed up for adoption to be given to same sex couples, thereby denying them the right to a mother and a father.

“In doing this at a territory level, with no Upper House as a source of effective review, the Stanhope Government used its office to create the pre-conditions for similar laws to be passed in Western Australia and to be mooted in Victoria.

“He is now obviously hoping that his agenda to undermine the special status of marriage in society as being between a man and a woman will have national repercussions too. This is particularly the case as his proposed legislation has extra territorial application – meaning it is available to anyone in Australia.”

Mr Wallace said ACL is not opposed to relationship registers such as the one in Tasmania as they don’t include an official ceremony or celebrant and are extended to all people in caring or interdependency relationships, rather than solely applying to homosexual relationships.

“The registers effectively remove unreasonable discrimination for same sex couples, such as in terms of an individual’s ability to allocate their own finance and property, without mimicking marriage in the way civil unions or partnerships would,” he said.

Mr Wallace added that, during the Federal election campaign, Federal Labor had made a number of commitments to Christians on the issue of marriage. For example, in its answers to the ACL election questionnaire, the ALP said:

“Labor does not support legislation to recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions or to make changes to the definition of marriage. Labor agrees with the Australian Christian Lobby that gay and lesbian couples should be able to share their finances and property with each other and in addition supports the removal of discrimination against same sex couples in the areas such as taxation, superannuation and social security benefits.

At the Labor Party's National Conference in April this year, Labor supported a nationally consistent system of state-based relationship recognition which will cover a range of non-marital relationships including same-sex relationships, de facto heterosexual relationships and certain carer relationships.

These schemes would simply act as a means by which any de facto couple could register their relationship for the purposes of recognition by government. They would be based on the scheme that has existed in Tasmania since 2004 and been supported by the Australian Christian Lobby.

The policy explicitly committed Labor to ensure that any such scheme of relationship registration would not mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Labor strongly supports the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 as 'a voluntary union entered into by a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, for life'.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan