July 3rd 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: NZ Labour legislates to effect 'same-sex marriage'

EDITORIAL: Free Trade Agreement's tilted playing field

ECONOMICS: Setting pay to create new jobs

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Profile of Mark Latham's star new recruit

AGRICULTURE: Western farm subsidies rising, Australia's falling

OVERSEAS DEBT: Foreign debt grows as we live beyond our means

SAME-SEX COUPLES: Gays comprise 0.5 per cent of couples: parliamentary survey

FAMILY: Neurobiology says mothers play vital role

EDUCATION: The gender agenda

POLITICAL IDEAS: Distributism - the neglected tradition

COMMENT: The 'battlers' want jobs, not platitudes

EUROPE: New EU Constitution faces mounting opposition

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Moving the lounge chairs in the retirement village / Still picking up the pieces / Selective indignation

Flouting the law (letter)

Grameen Bank (letter)

Howard Government defended (letter)

Restoring Murray River communities' confidence (letter)

Reagan's wit (letter)

BOOKS: Target North Korea, by Gavan McCormack

BOOKS: An Imperfect God: George Washington, his slaves and the creation of America

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Gays comprise 0.5 per cent of couples: parliamentary survey

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 3, 2004
Information collected from the 2001 Census shows that just 0.5 per cent of couples are gay. The results were recently compiled in a Parliamentary Library Research Paper, prepared by Gerard Newman from the Statistics Section of the Parliamentary Library.

In the 2001 Census, people were asked questions on family relationships and marital status. Question 5 asked people to identify their marital status or relationship. One of the options described same-sex couples, which were defined as "two persons of the same sex who report a de facto partnership in the relationship question, and who are usually resident in the same household."

The 2001 Census found that there were 19,594 same-sex couples in Australia, which amounted to 0.5 per cent of the number of couples (both married and de facto) in Australia.

The study found that same-sex couples are highly concentred in inner-city electorates in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

For example, in two electorates in New South Wales, Sydney (covering King's Cross) and Grayndler (covering Erskineville and Newtown), there were 3443 same-sex couples, which represented over 17 per cent of all same-sex couples in Australia.

In two Victorian electorates, Melbourne (which includes Fitzroy) and Melbourne Ports (includes St Kilda), there were 1370 same-sex couples, 7 per cent of the total, but still a very small minority in these electorates.

While some might say that many same-sex couples would not have completed the census question (which was compulsory), gay activists encouraged people to complete the 2001 Census form.

Melbourne gay activist Adam Carr wrote before the census, "The census is proving to be a powerful tool in raising awareness of the gay and lesbian community, and of stimulating debate about the legal and social status of same-sex couples."

He quoted Damian Meyer, of Gay and Lesbian Equality (GALE) in Western Australia, saying that a question identifying same-sex households was asked for the first time. "But only 19,722 such households - less than one percent of the population - were revealed, hardly Dr Kinsey's famous 10 per cent."

Meyer added, "The 1996 census was the first time the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) identified same-sex couples. Because of this being the first time, and because there was very little information available about the change, same-sex couples were significantly under reported."

In fact, the number reported in the 2001 Census was almost exactly the same.

It is interesting to contrast these figures with media portrayals of the gay sub-culture. An article in the Melbourne Age on October 30, 2002, described Melbourne as "the place to be gay and bohemian".

Citing a report by the research company, National Economics, the Age approvingly quoted its conclusion that "perhaps the most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area's high-technology success is a large same-sex household population."

It claimed that "8.8 per cent of inner Melbourne couples were same-sex, higher than Sydney on 5.9 per cent and San Francisco on 5.4 per cent."

In fact, the Parliamentary Library report found that the electorate of Sydney (which covers the Kings Cross and Darlinghurst areas) with 2,265 same-sex couples has a far higher number than any electorate in Melbourne, the largest of which has 741.

And no one has ever applauded Kings Cross and Darlinghurst as being a "high-technology success" story!

The Age also quoted the report as saying that the "least gay region in Australia was Murraylands in South Australia, where only 0.3 per cent identified as being part of a same-sex couple."

After highlighting the fact that the fewest number of gay couples lived in rural areas, the Age reported that the National Economics study found rural electorates were being left behind in the "cultural capital" stakes.

It said, "The latest snapshot of the nation's regions has suggested that Melbourne - with its vibrant street culture, gay community and population of artists, actors and musicians - is leading the nation and parts of the United States when it comes to 'creative capital'."

After claiming that Melbourne has a higher proportion of same-sex couples than Sydney and San Francisco and more bohemians per head of population than New York, the Age said, "Not only that, but the city's creative energies could have inadvertently boosted the state economy.

"The report argues that creative capital has become one of the most important drivers of a region's financial success."

It added: "In sharp contrast to the inner-city areas of the major capitals, the report claimed the nation's most disadvantaged regions were turning into poverty gulags and would be unable to compete in the global economy unless governments took urgent action."

Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University at least injected a note of sanity into the Age report.

He was reported as saying, "It's a real leap in the dark to say that if we just located more migrants in regional areas or somehow attracted gay people that we would therefore attract new economy industries."

  • Peter Westmore

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