Four South Australian parliamentarians introduced a private member’s bill yesterday, after a deadline to grant legal rights to the state’s same-sex couples passed.
The four -“ all from opposition parties -“ said they were tired of the delay in the government’s processing of the bill, which had been an election promise in both the 2002 and 2006 state elections.
The quartet -“ Liberal MP Michelle Lensink, Democrats MP Sandra Kanck, Greens MP Mark Parnell and independent MP Ann Bressington -“ had the parliamentary council redraft the bill last week and it was introduced in yesterday’s session of parliament.
The Relationships Bill, giving same-sex couples the same rights as de facto partners, was actually passed by the South Australian upper house in November 2005.
When it progressed to the House of Assembly, however, a delay led to the bill not being passed before the dissolution of parliament before the March 2006 election.
South Australia stands as the only state not to have passed these laws.
In his campaign, Rann promised the bill would be dealt with soon. Since Labor’s election victory, the bill has remained conspicuously absent from the government’s agenda.
We heard that word -˜soon’ from them so many times, and we are tired of hearing it, Lensink told Sydney Star Observer.
They had the first session of parliament, which was six weeks, and then they had a two months’ recess. We figured if they had not had anything drafted by the first two weeks of the next session, we would do something about it.
I spoke to the parliamentary council last week, and they came up with the bill, which is pretty much ready to go. We just don’t know what is taking them [the government] so long.
Accusations about why the bill was being delayed were made in the SA Legislative Assembly on 31 August.
Liberal MP Isobel Redmond asked attorney-general Michael Atkinson if a deal had been done between Labor and Family First, making the same-sex legislation more acceptable for Family First members of the Legislative Council.
In his response, Atkinson stated, The bill is being worked on to make it a better bill that will give same-sex couples the same substantive rights but respect the values of society.
Lensink said if all parliamentary processes were applied, the bill could pass by the end of the year.
Some people would say it is complex, but most of it is identical (to the proposed 2005 bill) and has already been looked at, Lensink said.
The government voted for it as it was, so if they don’t vote for it now, it will be a very strange position for them and entirely inconsistent to what they held six months ago.
They can still drag their feet in the Assembly, but it is harder for them to do so in the Legislative Council. We might actually get to see the colour of their money and get some answers about what is really going on.