For the first time since the election of the Howard government in 1996, the House of Representatives is poised to debate the issue of giving equality to same-sex couples in superannuation legislation.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the government’s Superannuation (Government Co-Contribution For Low-Income Earners) Bill, with amendments -“ supported for the first time by Labor, the Democrats and the Greens all together -“ that would give equality to same-sex couples in superannuation. The bill is to come before the House of Representatives shortly.
If the amendment is rejected by the government -“ as gay and lesbian activists are predicting -“ the legislation will then bounce back to the Senate, where the Australian Democrats will be under pressure to reject the legislation in its entirety.
But media reports have suggested the Democrats will forego the same-sex couples amendment when the bill returns to the Upper House.
Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Somali Cerise told Sydney Star Observer the reports were incredibly disappointing, given the Democrats have supported gay and lesbian law reform in the past.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese told The Age newspaper that a Democrats back-down on the same-sex couple amendment would expose them as frauds on this issue.
Yesterday, Australian Democrats senator Brian Greig told Sydney Star Observer that he would not be voting for the bill if the same-sex couple amendments were dropped from it.
Greig said he had never crossed the floor on a vote, but argued that it would in fact be his colleagues who were crossing the floor -“ rather than he -“ by not voting for same-sex couple amendments to superannuation legislation.
Greig said he hoped the credibility of the Democrats would not be damaged if his colleagues voted the legislation into law without the same-sex couple amendment.
I encourage the community to look at this issue in its complexity, he said. It’s not as black and white as our critics are making out.
Although Greig conceded that the government was likely to reject the same-sex couple amendment, he expressed hope that another Democrats amendment to the bill might be supported by the Coalition. This amendment, he explained, affixed the definition of interdependent relationship currently used in the Migration Act to superannuation legislation.
The government may be prepared to consider inter-dependency provisions as used in the Migration Act, he said. This would not resolve all the issues, but it’s still a huge step forward.