Wednesday 30 November 2011

Civil Partnership Bill passed by 7 votes

At 11:12pm Wednesday night, the Queensland Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Bill, 47 votes to 40, in a historic move forward for relationship recognition, joining Tasmania, ACT, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

The heated and at times volatile debate, ensured for 3 hours and 50 minutes.

The Public gallery, packed to capacity, erupted with screams when the final votes were announced by the Speaker, and Andrew Fraser's private member's bill was passed.

Local Far North Queensland MPs, Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall and Member for Cook, Jason O'Brien, spoke in favour of the bill. MP for Cairns, Desley Boyle, chose not to speak and was present only for part of the debate, however voted in support, as did Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt.

Cook MP Jason O'Brien, who has blocked CairnsBlog from all his online social media sites, spoke passionately about the legislation, and was vocal in condemning the LNP.

"[This is about] social justice, fairness, equity. It takes courage to make change," Jason O'Brien said in his speech to the Queensland Parliament. "The time has come to recognise what is undeniably true: gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people exist. They're humans. They're here. They should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual people. I do not understand why one group of people who enjoy those rights, will not share those rights with those who do not."

O'Brien said that the Civil Partnerships Bill will cost "next to nothing" and will bring so much joy to to so many people.

"Why is it so hard for those opposite to enhance rights? How can it be so wrong for two people to stand together in public and declare their love for each other. How can that be wrong?" O'Brien said. "The Australian Labor Party is a broad church and we are proud to welcome gay people. I would have thought the LNP would have been the same. Surely they have gay members in the LNP. How can they sit there and deny their own supporters their right to celebrate publicly their love? It's shameful."

The speaker ruled it was unparliamentary to speculate on why all LNP members, except one, had decided not to express their conscience.

"I hope they [Labor] take it one step further over the course of the weekend in Sydney," Jason O'Brien said, in reference to the party's national conference.

Much was said that the Civil Partnership Bill mirrors marriage in all but name and therefore undermines the institution of marriage. However their were harrowing stories recounted when a same sex couple was refused access to be with his dying partner in hospital.

Queensland's State leader on Bob Katter's Australian Party, Aidan McLindon, refused to debate the bill, only rising to make one comment, that was widely laughed at: "A marriage is between a man and a woman."

Only Federal Parliament can amend the Marriage Act. Since 2004, under the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which amended the Marriage Act 1961, same-sex marriages have been banned, however all levels of government under nearly all recognise same-sex couples as de facto couples as "unregistered co-habitation" or de facto status since 2009. Centrelink has recognised same-sex couples equally since 2009 for social security and unemployment benefit.

Liberal National Party's Jarrod Bleijie, whom I met within Cairns recently to discuss youth and justice issues, criticised Andrew Fraser, saying he only introduced the bill "to stitch up a Green preference deal,'' Bleijie said. "This bill is nothing more than a stunt."

The statement prompted an terse response from Nick Thompson, who is standing for Division 4 in the Cairns Regional Council's election.

"My relationship isn't a cheap stunt," Thompson responded on Twitter.

Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall who also spoke in support, says he holds a fundamental belief that all Australians should be equal before the law.

''Over the years this parliament and other Australian parliaments, mostly led by Labor reforms, have progressively removed laws that discriminate,'' Wettenhall said. ''As a result of laws that protect and promote human rights and prohibit discrimination, Australia and Queensland have become immeasurably fairer, more tolerant and better societies. Yet there is this important piece of unfinished business.''

Wettenhall said he recalled his wedding day as one of the happiest days of his life.

''This was not especially because we looked forward to the legal consequences of marriage; it was because we wanted to publicly declare our love and commitment to each other and celebrate that relationship with our friends and families,'' Steve Wettenhall told the Parliament. ''In my view, no-one should be denied that opportunity, and it is that opportunity that this bill provides.''

''Since this bill was introduced I have been sent many moving and heartfelt testimonials from same-sex couples who have longed for the day when their relationships could be recognised under Queensland law. We should give them that day today. I thank them for sharing their stories, their emotions and their hopes.''

Wettenhall's Barron River Smithfield office has received a lot of communication to support the Civil Union Bill, but ''many, many more than those have urged its defeat.''

''I did not need to search my conscience for too long. This bill can do no harm to anyone. It can do no harm to our state. It can only bring happiness and benefit to the couples who choose to use it and to the community of Queensland,'' Steve Wettenhall said.

The LNP argue that there has not been enough time for community consultation, and say that more than 54% of the final number of submissions to the legislative committee that examined the bill, were received 17 days after the cut-off date.

"That goes to the heart of the lack of consultation. We do not believe the people of Queensland have had the appropriate opportunities to raise their concerns,'' Jarrod Bleijie said.

Jarrod Bleijie says the bill is not a priority for Queensland.

"Civil partnerships is not on a priority list in the minds of Queenslanders,'' Jarrod Bleijie said in Parliament. "The passing of this bill will not save Queenslanders money, it will not ease cost of living pressures, it will not get our triple-A credit rating back.''

Over 5,000 submissions were received by the committee reviewing the bill. Most MPs spoke of great division and conflict in their community, saying that there was as must support as opposition for the recognition of same-sex partnerships.

The opposition LNP united together and in an unprecedented show of arms, disallowing any of it's MPs to support the bill, saying Labor's action was a ''political stunt.''

It was a shameful display and bordered on contempt of Parliament, prohibiting MPs to undertake a free conscience vote, the way Leader Campbell Newman coerced his party. He said in the last few days that it was the ''members and candidates'' that made the decision.

31 LNP MPs voted against the bill, along with five Independent MPs. Four Labor MPs didn't support the Bill: Capalaba MP Michael Choi; Albert MP Margaret Keech; Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller; and Health Minister Geoff Wilson, who has previously supported civil unions. Independent MP Peter Wellington voted to support the bill and rebuked attempts to be "intimidated."

Chris Foley, Independent member for Maryborough, chose to spend most of his speech on tired worn-out stereotypes, and even read of lengthy definitions of polyamory, in an warped attempt to confuse the issue.

"The first time I met one of my best friends who comes to visit me regularly in parliament was in a former life when I was a full-time piano bar singer,'' Chris Foley recounted. ''He tried to pick me up. He would be one of the gayest people I have ever met in my life. I will never forget the first time he came in. He had the handbag, the lipstick and everything going on.''

Foley's address was one of the maddest of the late night debate.

The Civil Unions Bill is available in Hansard. Go to page 49, actual page number is 3974.

New Zealand passed Civil Unions in 2005. Same-sex and opposite sex couples, will now be able to register with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

I spotted this on Twitter early the next day. Summed it all up really...


Terry Vance said...

Pretty disgusting tactics by Newman who is showing all the signs of being another despotic Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Wow! This is great news for the band "Certain Failure", who have a song out titled "I Think I'm Not Gay".
Have a look on YouTube at their other releases, which take lighthearted looks at the community's trials and tribulations.
The stage show "ALAS" will be coming to a theatre near you, and features these and many other songs, such as "Symptoms of Depression" & "Celebrate Your Man".

Blair Martin said...

Michael - couple of corrections:
The "Liberal" member who went off on a tangent about his "friend" who was "Gay as" is Chris Foley, Independent member for Maryborough (and amazingly idiotic homophobe). And probably correctly it was three Independents who voted against (Cunningham, Pratt and Foley) and the two Katter Australian Party (Knuth and McLindon)
Thanks though for a good wrap of the debate from a FNQ perspective.