FEDERAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Labor Left hopes to pigeon-hole Marriage Bill
, June 19, 2004
Having reluctantly decided to support the Howard Government's amendment to the Marriage Act in the House of Representatives, left-wing Labor members plan to send it to a Senate Inquiry, where they apparently hope it will languish until the Federal Election is called, thereby forcing its abandonment.
Left-wing members protested strongly when a front bench recommendation was presented to the full caucus on May 31. Sydney Labor MP, Tanya Plibersek, Tasmania's Michelle O'Byrne, and South Australian MP, Penny Wong, all publicly spoke against the recommendation.
While supporting the official party position, Ms Plibersek later sent an email message which said, "Labor's position on the Government's proposed amendments to the Marriage Act and Family Law Act, adopted today in caucus, says that we will not oppose the changes to the Marriage Act. The proposed changes do not take existing rights away, so we will not oppose it in the House of Representatives but we will send the legislation to a Senate inquiry for thorough examination before voting in the Senate.
"This will give all community members who are interested the chance to make a submission to the inquiry, and put on the public record their thoughts about relationship recognition."
The effect will be to conduct a prolonged inquiry into a Bill which effectively fits onto a single sheet of paper: defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, entered into for life, and preventing overseas adoption by gay couples.
Ms Plibersek added, "The reference to a Senate committee was one of the major requests made by people who contacted me about this legislation, and it has been delivered."
"I still believe the Prime Minister's proposed changes to the Marriage Act and Family Law Act are intentionally divisive and a dirty political exercise ... The reason I think it's clear that this is just dirty politics is firstly, no Australian couples currently have access to same sex marriage.
"The change to the Marriage Act is not necessary to prevent same sex marriage in Australia - this is just gratuitous. The Marriage Act and common law make clear that marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others."
However, Australian gay couples have already travelled to Canada to contract a "marriage", and have launched legal proceedings in Australia to validate their "marriage". The possibility that legalisation could occur through judicial activism is now a real danger in Australia.
- Peter Westmore is President of the National Civic Council