Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Victorious Victoria?

It's good news, no question, that Victorian Premier Steve Bracks is now saying a statewide relationship register - the very register he has until recently opposed - could be in force by the end of the year. Kudos definitely to the VGLRL and other Victorian lobby groups for forcing Vic Labor to lurch forward.


I'm a little bit cynical and doubtful (I know, me doubtful and cynical? Who'd've thunk it) for a couple of reasons. You see, Bracks just happens to make this decision, coinkidinkally around the same time as K-Rudd prepares to make the call on national relationship recognition at ALP national conference. Now, rumblings suggest Krudd is unwilling to commit to civil unions - the homophobic Catholic Right/'Shoppies' faction, especially under arch asshat Joe de Bruyn, won't have a bar of it and they're clearly either too powerful or too closely in line with Krudd's own personal views on the subject.

So what are the options? Marriage is out, civil unions are out. How about a federal relationship register, then? Or better yet, how about federal law recognition for couples registered under existing state and territory schemes? Ooh that'd be sweet, wouldn't it - Krudd doesn't really have to do anything then other than reform existing discriminatory federal laws, and that whole State/Commonwealth alliance he's been banging on about since his election to the leadership works an absolute treat in terms of the Victorian and Tasmanian Labor governments. 'End the blame game', indeed.

Maybe Bracks' timing playing exquisitely into Krudd's agenda of Commonwealth/State harmony is, as mentioned before, merely a coinkidink.

Or maybe it's not.

As for the model itself: I have my reservations, which I've expressed previously and reiterate in this week's SX:

Such a scheme, which would be also be available to non-conjugal couples, seems the best compromise for factions polarised by the issue, and thus the best defence against another attempt by Howard to wedge Labor.

This choice, however, would be a cop-out, pure and simple. It would ignore the reforms of New Zealand, the UK and other democracies similar to Australia where civil unions or partnerships have eventually been enacted by centre-left governments, despite great protest. A registration scheme, while equitable, does not provide the option of an official ceremony where partners can publicly formalise their commitment. Its very low take-up rate in Tasmania would suggest that same-sex couples are reluctant to have their relationships ‘registered’, as they would their pets – and do not appreciate being denied the opportunity of a legally-binding ceremony.

If Rudd does go with relationship registration instead of civil unions, he is following in his established style of holding a position different to Howard – but not different enough. Federal Liberal’s appalling record on law reform for same-sex couples could cost them at least one seat, now that Malcolm Turnbull’s takes in much of the inner east Sydney queer ghetto. But instead of adopting a progressive alternative and exposing a Liberal weakness, Rudd instead appears set to cave in to the Labor Catholic Right, and opt for a model towards which most on both sides will feel ambivalent, at best.

But I guess for the moment this is the best we can hope for. Same-sex couples in Victoria can now at least register their relationships, then have a ceremony as they've always been able to, even if by itself it's still essentially symbolic - but ultimately the legal safeguards will be in place, which is the most important thing.

Still, it is a pity that in studying Howard so intetently to learn how best to emulate his successes, Krudd seems to have lost track of what's going on in the rest of the world.

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At 24/4/07 4:18 pm, Blogger ozBoi said...

I think Rudd has enough on his plate at the moment without getting himself into a "gay marriage" debate that could potentially see him lose the election. A large proportion of gays will already vote for him, but he might lose swinging straight voters if he opts for gay marriage at this point.

Let him get in first, then pressure for a national union law.

At 26/4/07 2:12 pm, Blogger Jeremy said...

That reminds me -


"but he might lose swinging straight voters if he opts for gay marriage at this point."

Some "swingers"!


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