Thursday, March 30, 2006

Painfully Predictable

I guess we saw it coming - C Montgomery Burns plans to overturn the ACT government's civil union bill, in its current drafted form at least.

This of course is wholly consistent with Monty's claim two months ago that the federal government has no power under the Constitution to legislate for civil unions, therefore it's up to the states and territories to "fix the issue". Provided, you know, that the states and territories act in a manner that in no way does not reflect entirely the will and agenda of the federal government.

Howard and Co would still be dark at ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope for publishing the draft "anti-terror" Bill on his website last year. It's a perfect opportunity to undermine his leadership and his territory's autonomy as a means of revenge against him.

Speaking of territorial autonomy: anybody else old and ugly enough to remember NT, 1997? The Lyons Forum, the sub-faction of uber-right Jesus freaks within the Liberal Party, led by our current Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, and its success overturning the NT's compassionate euthanasia laws despite having absolutely no democratically-elected mandate to do so? Despite at the time, and still today, a convincing majority of Australians supporting, subject to regulation, the right of terminally-ill patients to end their lives?

In 1997 it was the Northern Territory. In 2006 it might well be the Australian Capital Territory.

If this government believes in the autonomy of the states and territories only to the extent that they conform to the will of the government, fine - but it could at least have the decency to be consistent about this. This same government had so many members - some of whom are still around today - defending to the death Tasmania's sovreignty in the lead-up to the UN overturning that state's anti-sodomy laws back in the mid 90s.

Funny how quickly we forget.

The Lyons Forum may not exist formally any longer these days, but let's not be under any doubt that its spirit of homophobia and biblical thuggery lives on in those pushing for the ACT law to be overturned - folk like the Tasmanian Senator Guy Barnett, who I'm sure, were he in politics in the 1990s, would have been leading the charge for Tasmanian sovreignty and protecting his citizens from unfettered buggery.

That's the thing about the federal Liberal Party - for every 1 Warren Entsch, there are 3 Guy Barnetts, and the power of the latter is amplified by the Prime Minister.

As Stanhope argues, he's damned either way:

"(Ruddock) says it's the responsibility of the States and Territories to deal with issues of civil union or gay and lesbian relationships. The Commonwealth has legislated specifically two years ago to define a marriage as a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

But then he goes on to say that if anything that a State or Territory does, or in this case a Territory,because he knows he doesn't have the Constitutional power over States, anything that a Territory does that seeks to regularise or respect or to formalise the entering into of a relationship by a gay or lesbian will be deemed by the Commonwealth to impact on the Marriage Act and they will intervene to overturn my legislation.

And you know, that's a classic catch-22."

Luckily, we have our plucky shadow Attorney-General and that rock-solid, queer-supportive federal Labor opposition, on the case:

"We really object to this process. It shows I think that the Howard government is prepared not just to ride roughshod over the Senate but also over the States and Territories. This is something that the states and territories should be able to make there own laws about.We don't support Mr Howard trying to ride roughshod over what the States and Territories are doing."

"Furthermore, we in the Labor Party fully support civil unions and commend any state or territory that provides a model by which same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships are able to have their relationship formalised and their legal rights and responsibilities enshrined.

We accept that there are many forms of relationships outside of traditional heterosexual marriage and, provided such relationships are not confused in the legislature with traditional heterosexual marriage - which, clearly the ACT model is not, since we oppose it being overturned - we are proud to endorse a civil union or any form of union that acknowledges, and indeed celebrates, non-traditional forms of loving partnerships."

Why is the latter part of this quote boldened? Because, of course, Roxon didn't say it. I did. But it wasn't so difficult for me, so why should it be for her? Labor has consistently been sitting on the fence and refused to commit to a formal policy in support of civil unions. And something tells me Kym didn't get around to asking Tony if his party should do this like Tony's did when the esteemed New Labour guru visited this week.

It appears Ruddock's primary grumble is with provisions regarding the use of Commonwealth-appointed civil celebrants for the purposes of the Civil Union Act. Fine, let's just use state-appointed ones instead. An AG's media release, which I had the pleasure of receiving in my email today as part of my employment - not that the Liberal Party would ever send out its anti-Labor propaganda posing as legitimate announcements on developments within the AG's department - also whinges about proposed section 5 of the Bill, which says that 'a civil union is to be treated for all purposes under territory law in the same way as a marriage'.

Well, no shit Sherlock - THAT'S THE WHOLE FREAKIN' POINT OF THEM. The point is that they only relate to state and territory law - as per Ruddock's own request - so by definition they cannot interfere with the definition and operation of federal marriage.

I would be fascinated to see how the Liberal Party would draft a civil union bill that did not "infringe" on marriage. They never will, of course - Howard's seeing to that - but a civil union has to imply at least a certain degree of legal parity between married or de facto heterosexual and long-term same-sex couples. It's not claiming they're the same, it's not undermining heterosexual marriage, it's not bringing about the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse - but it is offering a binding civil contract that protects same-sex partners in the tragic events of death, extended illness etc as well as conferring responsibilities for same-sex couples to operate as one, rather than 2 individuals (as for example current discriminatory federal legislation dictates in areas of welfare and benefit payments).

I sincerely hope Stanhope can make adjustments in the right headings and paragraphs of his civil union Bill so that Ruddock has no legitimate means of questioning its right to be enacted. It would be a tragedy for Australian democracy if the Howard Empire and its evil overloads Ruddock and Barnett once again wiped out another small planet in their quest for universal domination.


At 30/3/06 10:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully if it did come down to an override Entsch, Georgiou, Washer etc would vote against it and it would fail. Of course thats assuming the Federal ALP has the gonads to vote against it which is a big "IF".

PS. All those in support of same-sex marriage should vote in the Age poll running at CW

At 31/3/06 3:38 pm, Blogger Arthur_Vandelay said...

And I still really can't see why civil unions (i.e. as opposed to same-sex marriages) would be so objectionable to the majority of voters--when previous instances of gay law reform at the State level, like, for instance, equalising age of consent laws, have not resulted in widespread electoral backlash against the party introducing the reforms.

At 31/3/06 5:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But when it comes to social security law, not all incidents of marriage are beneficial to the welfare recipient. In fact, most are not: welfare law declines benefits to married and defacto heterosexuals on the basis of their partners' assets and income.
One day the law will change, and there is going to be a bit of grief when gay and lesbian relationships which have been established under one set of rules and subject to one set of assumptions about economic dependence/independence (including inability over a long period to take advantage of the benefits of marriage under tax and superannuation laws) are all of a sudden tipped into the new rules. Quite a few gay and lesbian people who have been recipients of welfare will all of a sudden be told by the state that they have to depend on their partner instead. I think any proponents of reform in this area need to think of some transitional provisions in this area.

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