Wednesday 28 October 2009
Hansard of the Legislative Council
RELATIONSHIPS (MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS) BILL 2009 (No. 40)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I was part of that Standing Committee on Community Development, but I was one of the dissenters in the report. There were three dissenters.
Ms Thorp - I could not find the vote list, I was looking for it.
Mr FINCH - The dissenters were the member for Nelson, Mr Whiteley and I - we did not agree with the findings of the committee. As you say, times change.
Mr Parkinson - Did not recognise dissenters then.
Mr FINCH - I remember vividly the debate on the Relationships Bill here and I remember saying to somebody who shall remain nameless, 'two out of three ain't bad'. I thought that the legislation at that stage was very progressive and was, I think, the first in Australia and probably the world. I have been getting some elements of the debate and I have not been able to go back through them before I got up to speak. It was a wonderful debate and I thought that it had a lot of pressure involved with it in respect of the consideration of the various opinions from our of communities and trying to take that into account with this groundbreaking legislation and trying to come up with a decision that sat comfortably with us as individuals, being independent members of the House. It was very challenging, but wonderful to go through that process.
I think at that time we made the correct decision, but, as you say, times have changed now and just five or six years on and it is a different climate; the world has changed, people have progressed in their thinking and people are more accommodating in the way they view life and the world and particularly family situations. So I find that this is a fairly simple and straightforward bill now, although there is no doubt that many will see it as controversial. I get that from the e-mails and the contacts that I have had from people inside and out of my community. If we take a close look it just brings before this House, for the second time, parts of the original Relationships Bill 2003. As I mentioned, the House rejected this aspect of the original bill. The situation where two women who are in a relationship agree to one becoming pregnant using assisted reproductive technology and, as the law stands, the birth mother is registered as the mother and the partner has no rights at law. Even though it may be a long standing, stable relationship; probably unlike many marriages between men and women.
Two sentences of the second reading speech succinctly sum up the whole purpose of the bill:
'It is an important amendment for women and their partners but it is even more about protecting the rights of the children born into these circumstances. The current law provides inadequate protection for these children and it is time we acted to redress this situation.'
Members of this House have received, as I mentioned, a huge number of representations that echo and enlarge on this aspect of the bill. There are several aspects to these arguments. The first of these is two, supportive, legally-recognised parents of whatever sex are better than one. I quote from one argument that I received early this week:
'This reform is about parenting responsibilities like child support as well as parenting rights.'
In other words this reform places certain obligations on the partner of a birth mother; financial obligations and caring obligations, and this can only benefit a child. I quote from another e-mail I received from a same-sex partner:
'We just want our children to have two legal parents and currently we are in the strange predicament that if we move back to Melbourne, Victoria, where we were previously living, we would both be deemed legal parents of our IVF children, but not currently so in Tasmania. It would be wonderful if this could also be the case in Tasmania as we have even talked about the idea of flying to Melbourne when our first child is due so that we can give birth in a State that will allow us to both be placed on our child's birth certificate.'
These arguments make more sense to me than those I have received opposing this bill, which do not seem to recognise that the wellbeing and security of a child are paramount considerations. My last quote is from a debate over similar legislation in another State:
'Children in same-sex families will benefit from greater protection as their non-biological parents' rights and responsibilities towards their children would be recognised and enforceable.'
Non-biological parents' rights and responsibilities towards their children would be recognised and enforceable.
This reform has already happened in the Northern Territory in 2003, New South Wales and Victoria last year, and it has been introduced in Queensland this year. I have thought carefully about these amendments and I can see no compelling reason not to support them.