June 21st 2008

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: 'Peak oil': Apocalypse now?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Whither the Nationals?

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: What happens after cheap credit, oil and food?

SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS: Rudd grants special rights to same-sex couples

FAMILY POLICY: Home truths about working families

EUTHANASIA: Assisted suicide: safeguards or naivety?

NATIONAL SECURITY: Soviet bloc espionage: setting the record straight

DEFENCE: Should Australia have nuclear defence capability?

CHINA: Beijing muzzles protests over Sichuan earthquake

UNITED STATES: Is Obama equipped to lead the free world?

CULTURE: How political correctness threatens Australian culture

ART: The downward spiral of modern art

Barack Obama's oratory (letter)

Why cutting Australian emissions won't work (letter)

Baby imports? (letter)

Short-term stupidity (letter)

CINEMA: New Narnian epic Prince Caspian surpasses expectations

BOOKS: INKLINGS OF HEAVEN: C.S. Lewis And Eschatology, by Sean Connolly

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Rudd grants special rights to same-sex couples

by Damian Wyld

News Weekly, June 21, 2008
The Rudd Government's moves to award ever more rights to same-sex couples are a dangerous affront to marriage, argues Damian Wyld.

With state Labor governments in recent years having awarded ever more rights to same-sex couples, the Rudd Government is continuing this wave of legislation with its recently introduced Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws - Superannuation) Bill.

As readers may be aware, this is the first of several federal Labor Government bills dealing with same-sex relationships. Superannuation provided the foothold for social "reform" in most states, paving the way for a full-scale extension of rights to same-sex couples - granting them status equivalent in all but name to formal marriage.

In this quest, the Rudd Government is supported by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, whose Same-sex: Same Entitlements report called for such an extension of rights (and, in its preliminary Discussion Paper II, explored the possibility of same-sex adoption and IVF rights).

The predetermined nature of the report and lack of dissenting voices discredit a paper concerned not with "should", but with "what", "how" and "when".

At the inquiry launch in 2006, HREOC president, Justice John von Doussa QC, said of same-sex couples: "It is now time to highlight those areas of inequity and do something about them." HREOC commissioner Graeme Innes noted on the same occasion that "we look forward to working with you to finally eliminate discrimination in this important area".

Australians would be rightly outraged if any other inquiry, royal commission, etc., outlined its intended findings before even receiving submissions, but such is the nature of the taxpayer-funded institute of social change that is HREOC.

Meanwhile, back to Parliament...

The Coalition has, quite remarkably in the current climate, adopted a position against the bill as it stands. The party room has also decided to use its numbers in the final days of the current Senate to refer the bill to a committee. Here, if either Family First Senator Steve Fielding or independent Senator-elect Nick Xenophon agrees, the bill could remain the subject of ongoing scrutiny, submissions and debate for some time.

One alternative, adopted by the Coalition, is the idea of "co-dependency" or "interdependency". This model allows for rights to be shared by any two people who can prove mutual dependency. There is, unlike same-sex legislation, no sexual test or criteria, and such a couple could consist of a father and son, two sisters and so on.

The Coalition position was apparently reached after persistent background work by Senator Cory Bernardi and others.

Interdependency hearkens back to one of the real reasons governments have an interest in regulating relationships: ensuring the welfare of dependents - not for promoting "alternative lifestyles".

It is worth noting that co-dependency eventually won out over same-sex proposals in South Australia after persistent public lobbying. The superiority of this model is obvious: rights such as, in this case, access to superannuation can be extended without equating other relationships with marriage.

The Labor Government, while denying this, adds insult to injury in proposing to delete the term "marital relationships" (which includes marriage and de facto relationships) and replace it with "couple relationships".

So what chance does Kevin Rudd have of steering this (and subsequent same-sex) legislation through federal parliament? So far, the Government has already forced the bill through the lower house and, in the May Budget, already arrogantly allocated money for it.

The Coalition held to its position on that occasion and, despite the bill passing, caused a division on the second reading. One would hope to view this as a sign that their Senate colleagues will also hold the line, but the remarks of some give cause for concern.

With numerous Liberals, including Dr Brendan Nelson, lauding their party's track-record on homosexual issues, frontbencher Christopher Pyne went further and made such strange and worrying comments as: "The family is a robust unit in our society. It is in no way threatened. It does not need to be buttressed by diminishing the rights of others", and "The opposition would like to see... interdependent domestic relationships [but] to me, the bill does not rise or fall on this point".

Questions remain

Some questions remain, then. Will the Coalition hold to its line of interdependency or nothing? Will the many Labor parliamentarians who no doubt feel uneasy about this bill, to say the least, find their collective voice? Will Mr Rudd listen to them?

Will some of the misguided Christian lobbyists who have voiced support for Rudd's recognition of same-sex relationships realise the consequences before it is too late?

Regardless of whether the Coalition's interdependency option "gets legs", Labor's current same-sex bill is a dangerous affront to marriage and must be opposed with vigour.

- Damian Wyld is South Australian state president of the National Civic Council.

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