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Andrews Government First Year Action

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — I am proud to stand here as we approach the one-year anniversary of this government. This is a government that was elected on a platform of transforming Victoria after four years of inertia from those opposite. A key element of that platform was the removal of level crossings. For four long years those opposite sat on their hands regarding crossing removals in my electorate. Not one level crossing in my area was removed, despite their often repeated promises.

I am also proud of the community. This is their victory, the community’s victory. The investment in level crossings, the investment in TAFEs, the investment in the Monash Children’s hospital, the investment in the heart hospital — they are the community’s victory. This is what the community called for in public meetings and in doorknocking all over the state, and this is their victory. I am proud that we are meeting their aspirations.

We all recall the hollow Liberal promise in 2010 to remove just one level crossing in Murrumbeena in my electorate. When the election came around in 2014 we were still waiting. To misquote Banjo Patterson, under the Liberals there was absolutely no movement at the stations.

To take credit you actually have to do something. The Andrews government has moved swiftly. Level crossing removals at North Road in Ormond, McKinnon Road in McKinnon, Centre Road in Bentleigh and Burke Road in Glen Iris are all underway. Contracts will soon be issued for the removal of crossings at Grange Road, Koornang Road, Murrumbeena Road, Poath Road, Clayton Road and Centre Road and three others on the same line. We have got four station rebuilds and 37 new trains coming to increase passenger capacity. This government gets on with the job.

I congratulate the Premier on delivering real change for Victoria by removing these dangerous and time-consuming level crossings.

Door to Door Scams

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — (Question 6537) My constituency question is to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, and I ask: what can be done to inform my community in the Oakleigh electorate about dodgy door-to-door tradespeople who are intent on ripping off residents? We hear regular reports in the media, and I have heard anecdotal stories from local residents over the years, about people who have been scammed by dodgy tradespeople who go door to door looking for victims. These stories often involve people being tricked into handing over cash up front for services which are completed poorly, unfinished or never started. Often these scammers offer services like roofing, roof tiling or painting, but they could just as easily offer any work in or on a house and its surrounds.

I understand that these dodgy tradespeople move around from suburb to suburb and also interstate. I am conscious of older and other vulnerable people in my community, including those from a non-English-speaking backgrounds and international students, falling victim to these scams. I hope the minister is able to assist in keeping these people informed of the dangers.

Justice Legislation Amendment

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me pleasure to speak on the Justice Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2015. As other speakers have stated, this is a bit of a catch-all bill, but I think it is an important one. It really provides for a fairer and more effective justice system in many respects.

I want to start my contribution by talking about the provisions in relation to the electronic transfer of warrants. I think that is probably the key element for the community, in a sense, of this bill. As other speakers have said, the current section 57(9) of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 provides that the execution copy of a warrant must be in writing and must be signed or otherwise authenticated by the person issuing it. In reality, that creates a delay from the courts to the police in effecting that warrant. As the Attorney-General said in his second-reading speech, there have been delays of up to four days. The State Coroner, Mr Gray, has made a recommendation in relation to the inquest into Luke Batty’s death that some issues, particularly those in relation to family violence, should be addressed within 24 hours, so warrants should be executed within 24 hours.

Obviously this has a far further reach than simply family violence and it applies to any situation where a warrant is executed. I think this is the justice system catching up with modern day reality. You cannot wait four days; the community should not have to wait anywhere as long as four days, or even two or three days, because of essentially an archaic provision in our laws. I think this is a really important provision that will expedite justice for the community. It will keep the community safer. I remember when I was working at the then Department of Justice at least four years ago that people associated with the Magistrates Court were having these conversations back then. So I am quite surprised that it has taken this long to get to the Parliament, although I am delighted that it is here. The magistrates were very keen to have a system which expedited the issuing of a warrant, so I am pleased it has come before us and I am very pleased to support it.

The other provision that leads to a fairer justice system is the removal of the requirement for a statutory declaration to make an application to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) where a police report has been made. Where a police report has not been made, obviously the statutory declaration is still required. I think this is another way of supporting victims and making the justice system fairer. VOCAT is currently working, as the Attorney-General said in his second-reading speech, to introduce an online form for applications to make the process more accessible to victims and their support networks and to create efficiencies for the tribunal’s registry by linking this information in the application automatically with VOCAT’s case management system. When you are a victim of crime you should not have additional hurdles put in your way to access what is rightful recompense for you or your loved ones.

The other provision — the member for Essendon spoke about this — that I think is excellent because it expedites justice and makes justice fairer relates to the hearing of appeals regarding the expungement of historical homosexual convictions at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). As we have heard from other speakers, currently for some strange reason the Sentencing Amendment (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Act 2014, which passed only last year, provides that only the president, vice presidents and deputy presidents of VCAT can hear any appeals from applicants who have been refused by the Secretary to the Department of Justice and Regulation in relation to that process. This provision expands the options from the president, vice presidents and deputy presidents to senior members of VCAT as well, which will expedite the hearing of appeal rights for people waiting in the queue.

The last provision in the bag for making justice fairer — and I am really proud of this provision — balances the inherent power imbalance that already exists in a tenant-landlord relationship. In my view the provisions in the law give landlords a free kick. It gives them an automatic right to the reimbursement of costs from the other side if they win, unless VCAT orders otherwise. I do not think that should exist; I do not know why it existed in the first place. In that relationship landlords are often — and I accept that there are mistreated landlords — the ones who have more power, and if there are any costs to be awarded against them, it should be a deliberative decision of VCAT and not a presumptive provision in the act that gives them fee reimbursement from the other side.

There are a couple of other provisions that relate to our hardworking judiciary, and from my experience in the courts I know they are hardworking. One provision provides a bit of a clean-up to provide a more secure legislative basis for existing superannuation provisions for judges and judicial registrars. It also validates past payments. While that is important and a problem we are trying to address, the more important one is the provision outlined in the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech, which makes the Chief Judge of the County Court also a justice of the Supreme Court, and the Chief Magistrate a judge of the County Court. As people would know, that already exists, with the President of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal being a justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the Children’s Court being a County Court judge and the state coroner also being a County Court judge.

While this is just an extension of that, it is important for many reasons, and two in particular. If you want to attract good people to those positions, to be quite honest you need to provide some career progression, and this provides that opportunity to those people. The bill makes it clear, and the Attorney-General has made it very clear, that the overriding responsibility is the head of jurisdiction role, which makes absolute sense. So while the Chief Judge of the County Court will, when the bill passes through the Parliament, also be a Supreme Court justice, his or her — and in fact it is a him on this occasion — prime responsibility will be, as will be that of the Chief Magistrate, to the jurisdiction they head.

The more important point, again drawing from my experience in the courts, is that — —

Mr McGuire — With the courts.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — With the courts; not in the courts, not as a defendant. I thank the member for Broadmeadows. I have had very limited experience in the courts other than as an employee.

The more material provision is that with the creation of Court Services Victoria (CSV) — and I understand the former Attorney-General was a champion of it and in the end it received bipartisan support — the problem we faced even then, when we were putting this together as public servants working for the government of the day, was that each jurisdiction had an identity of its own, and the Supreme Court had a pretty big and historical identity. It was very difficult to get them to work together in a business model which had an administrative element. I am talking not about a judicial element but about sharing resources, strategic planning, buildings and facilities and a whole range of other things that are important for the taxpayer but important for the judicial system as well.

The creation of the Courts Council was important, and the previous government championed it. Closing the loop by having the head of each jurisdiction belonging to a higher court also bonds that group of heads of jurisdiction on the Courts Council, and hopefully it will lead to better outcomes across the CSV and across the justice system, as I said, from an administrative perspective but also from a judicial decision-making perspective as well.

I applaud the Attorney-General for his work on this as well as the Department of Justice and Regulation and the courts for their work. I am pleased to see the opposition is not opposing the bill. I am never quite sure what that means, but nonetheless it sounds like a good thing, although support would be better. It gives me pleasure to speak on the bill, and I wish it a speedy passage.

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me pleasure to speak briefly on this very important bill. I say briefly, because we only have a bit of time left and I am sure there are other speakers.

I am not going to go through the bill in detail; others have done that very effectively. For me this is a very important bill. Firstly, it is an election commitment this party made when in opposition; now in government, we are delivering on it.

There are at least two elements to the ice problem. Obviously there is the criminal element, and there is the other element of looking after people in recovery and helping people get off ice. This bill targets the criminal element, particularly around vulnerable communities in schools. It brings in some very harsh — appropriately harsh — penalties in relation to some new offences.

Ice has tragic consequences, something I have spoken about in the past. I had a specific experience in my electorate — the recent tragic accident that killed three people and seriously injured another three on the corner of Warrigal Road and Dandenong Road in Oakleigh. Ice affects a whole range of families, and it is not as obvious as at first we may think.

Another experience I have with drug addiction and ice is through Waverley Emergency Adolescent Care, a wonderful organisation in my electorate, and the Tandana Place service it runs, which is a bed-based rehabilitation service for teenagers. They have seen a jump in ice-affected clients from 15 per cent to 62 per cent in just five years, so it is absolutely evident to me and my local community that ice has a devastating impact.

I do not want to just talk about the criminal or the tough-on-crime elements of this legislation. This government is doing far more than that. As others have stated, there is the $45.5 million Ice Action Plan, which includes $18 million in drug treatment and support services and $4.7 million over four years for community health services to support families and other affected people. Ice is something that is far more pervasive than its effect on the addicts themselves. In many respects it has a more pronounced impact on certain groups of people, particularly those with a mental illness. I understand that the minister and this government are very committed to doing more, and I look forward to working with the minister and with colleagues to do something more significant in relation to ice and ice addiction over the course of this term.

Just before I wrap up, I want to address a couple of points made by some of the other speakers — firstly, the member for Prahran. Others have made this point too. I think we have got something right if some members of Parliament are talking — and I am not putting words in their mouth — about us potentially being too harsh in terms of the criminal elements of this bill, such as the number of years of imprisonment, while others, such as the member for Gippsland East, are essentially saying we are not strong enough. So we are sort of in the middle, and I think that means we are probably where we should be.

My view on the comments made by the member for Prahran is that, as the member for Yan Yean said, it is unlikely that children will be caught up in this issue because the bill has a provision for possession specifically without a reasonable excuse. It will be very difficult to find someone who innocently has possession and does not have a reasonable excuse. Also there is a whole process that police go through before they bring charges and there is a whole court process. An independent judiciary looks at the circumstances of the case. So I do not think that is a real worry for us.

I want to finish off by addressing some of the points that the member for Gippsland East raised. He said we need more police and more drug rehabilitation clinics. Essentially he said we need baseline sentencing, or certainly harsher sentencing. He also made the comment that the former government had made great inroads into bed-based care. A press release from the Minister for Mental Health states:

The number of people able to access mental health and drug and alcohol services fell by 2 per cent following botched changes by the former coalition government, an independent review has found.

That review was established a few months ago by the minister, and it paints a very different picture from the one the member for Gippsland East presented. That report will be pivotal in this government’s approach to what else we do in this space — engaging stakeholders and getting them to help us put a road map together.

The second issue is that we have put more police on the beat — 400 more police, as we have said numerous times in this Parliament and outside. The other element of the member for Gippsland East’s comments was that we have not said much on the higher end of those sentences. We believe in the separation of powers. The judiciary decides sentences, within the legislation that is provided by the Parliament. I am quite comfortable with leaving it to learned judges to make most of those judgements.

This is a very important bill. It is another election commitment that this government is delivering on, and I wish it a speedy passage. I know it will be one of a number of cornerstones that assist the Victorian community in my electorate in dealing with the scourge of ice.

TAFE and University Governance Reform

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — Where do I start? My God! I could go on for a very long time on this bill, but I will not. I will keep my remarks very brief, understanding that we want to get through the legislative agenda for the week.

Mr J. Bull — Good boards.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — I say to the member for Sunbury that I will tell members about good boards — absolutely. I am proud to say that this is yet another election commitment that this government is delivering on. On Sunday, I think it is, we clock up 365 days — a year — and I think I have said that phrase, ‘election commitments’ in the chamber about 20-odd times at the very least. This bill restores what was good practice and what was removed by the then government and now opposition. As we have heard, it adds a staff member as a director and the CEO to the TAFE boards; it removes the requirement for the minister to approve board nominees; it allows the TAFE boards to directly elect their own chairperson, with the ability for the minister in exceptional circumstances to remove that chairperson; it brings democracy back to universities through the election of a student and staff representative to the university boards; and it makes a few other technical amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006.

This bill is important for a number of reasons. The key one is that it represents an election commitment that was thought out properly and taken to the Victorian community and voted on by the Victorian community. Number two is that the bill restores more independence and better governance to TAFE and university boards. You always achieve better governance when you allow a board to have a say in the election of its own chairperson. You always achieve better governance when the key stakeholders of staff and students have a say at that high level — on the board.

Opposition members have some cheek in going on about TAFE, as I have heard them do in their contributions. We have heard the statistics before — about the $1.2 billion cuts, about staff cuts, about courses being cut and about campuses being shut. But it is more than that. This is an ideological position of those opposite. Those opposite talk to us about union paybacks, but they are ideologically driven to get rid of any trace of employee participation in any of the systemic governance structures of this community — anywhere. They just want to get rid of them. This is the same party which, at a different level of government, wants to charge $100 000 for university degrees. This is an ideological position which has nothing at all to do with governance.

What smacks of elitism for me is the theme coming from those on the opposite side — that people who are elected are not fit to run an organisation. That is effectively what they are saying — that the democratic process does not throw up people who are competent. What are the members opposite doing here, then? They are here by virtue of the same process of election. They are here by virtue of the democratic right of the people to vote and put them here. This is exactly what we are trying to bring into major institutions in this state. It is elitist to think that the only people competent to run a TAFE or university are those people who have had 30 years experience in one of the big four accounting firms. Absolutely there is a place for them — absolutely — but there is also a place for key stakeholders who are elected to those boards. That is how local governments run, and it is how this Parliament runs. Through this conversation we have made very clear that universities and TAFEs will be required to provide a minimum standard of training to their directors to enable them to fulfil the functions they have as directors.

I will address one last point before I conclude my remarks — that is, that those opposite seem to have created a division between those who are competent and those who are elected. People can be both. Those who are elected can be competent, and in fact this bill addresses that very directly. In the current legislation the board must have two people who have financial expertise and one person with commercial expertise. The bill we are introducing enables the requirement in the existing provision to be fulfilled through both the government and council appointees to the board; currently the only avenue to fulfil that requirement is through the government appointments. We are therefore addressing the issue of financial and commercial expertise.

I will wind up by saying that for me this bill is absolutely key. Staff and students are among the most important stakeholders of these institutions. If they do not get a guernsey at the board level, the institution is poorer. This is a far superior model. Also I ask those opposite to reflect that what is uncomfortable for them about this bill is the sense that it is allowing free choice and democracy in institutions such as these, and that is an appalling reflection on and criticism of them. This is a great bill, and I commend it to the house.

Notting Hill Neighbourhood House

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — I raise a matter for the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water. The action I seek is for the minister to provide support to the Notting Hill Neighbourhood House to install important water saving initiatives and environmental improvements. I am pleased to see that the minister is currently in the house. Such initiatives could eventually be replicated by other local venues, and Notting Hill hopes to be a leader in demonstrating how environmental sustainability and the financial security it brings can benefit community facilities.

The Notting Hill community is incredibly diverse. More than half the local population was born overseas, and a significant number of households live on below average or limited incomes. In neighbourhoods like these, community centres like Notting Hill Neighbourhood House play a particularly important role for local families, and it has a long record of engaging new and long-term residents. Notting Hill Neighbourhood House is a well-known and loved part of the community. In addition to providing a meeting space for local community groups and residents, it hosts literacy and language classes, arts and crafts groups, children’s groups and a variety of other services that support the health and wellbeing of local families. My favourite activity is a Friday night barbecue for anyone who wants to drop in.

Despite its successes, Notting Hill faces a number of challenges. It serves a larger and faster growing number of local residents than nearby neighbourhood houses. While this presents many opportunities for Notting Hill, the busy timetable and constant use of the facilities increase the cost of utilities and maintenance beyond what most community centres in the area face. Environmental improvements there would reduce cost pressures on Notting Hill and allow it to continue to deliver essential programs to the local community. It is a successful, essential part of the local community that I am proud to represent. I would be happy to work with the minister to provide support to this important community organisation.

State Taxation Amendment

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on the State Taxation Acts Further Amendment Bill 2015. As we have heard, this bill makes amendments to update and clarify taxation and land valuation laws. It amends the Duties Act 2000 to include bison in the definition of cattle for the purposes of livestock duty. It updates the definition of ‘new entrant’ for the purpose of payroll tax exemptions for wages paid to apprentices and trainees, which will allow far more apprentices and trainees to be employed in this important sector. There are also a series of other amendments to the Valuation of Land Act 1960. This is a bit of a cleaning-up bill because of past inadvertent omissions or oversights.

In making a brief contribution I want to briefly pick up on the impertinent and shameless contribution by the member for Malvern on this bill. He criticised the stamp duty in the government’s Back to Work scheme. This was pretty audacious given that when he was Treasurer he championed a very similar scheme. However, true to form, he championed it two days after the then Labor opposition — now government — introduced the scheme, so it was not even his original idea.

Nonetheless we are not leaving things to chance by only having one fix in our bag of policies. We have a whole range of them, including the Future Industries Fund, the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel, the level crossing removal program and the first-ever 10-year rolling stock program for 50 per cent manufacturing content in Victoria. Here is a novel one: not inflicting significant cuts to the public service. All of these policies together with a genuine commitment to create jobs will do just that. No government can control the exact number of jobs in this state or any other jurisdiction, but a government can control the work it does to try to achieve a good outcome, and that is what we are doing. I commend the bill to the house.

Settling Refugees in Victoria

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — (Question 6434) My constituency question is to the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Equality and Minister for Creative Industries. I ask the minister for information on the role the Andrews government will play in the resettlement of refugees from Syria — and going forward, settling refugees from other places in the world where Australia’s help may be required. We are all acutely aware of the terrible situation faced by millions of refugees. Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, and we have a harmonious multicultural community that makes others truly envious. Australia can do more, through both settling refugees and providing adequate aid to developing and war-torn nations.

Victoria has an excellent record of settling refugees, and I acknowledge the bipartisan way that this has occurred in this place and the support given by all parties here to welcome Syrian refugees. Obviously we must do more than just give refugees a roof over their head, although that is the most important first step. Refugees also need the support programs, language, education and jobs training to enable them to become a genuine part of the community. I would appreciate any update the minister can provide me and the house on this government’s role in settling refugees.

Liberal Party and Level Crossings

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — You have to wonder about those opposite who were silent for four years but now presume to lecture us about government. I refer to the member for Caulfield, who during the last government mentioned level crossings in this place only a paltry seven times — seven times in four years. How many times has he spoken about level crossings in this place in just the last eight months? Eleven times! And today makes 12. He has found a voice again — mostly to throw cheap shots about us consulting with the community. Oh, the horror of consulting! So were members of the last government silent achievers? How many level crossings did they remove in my local community? None — not a single one.

Let me list some of Labor’s crossing removals under construction or starting soon: Grange Road; Koornang Road; Murrumbeena Road; Poath Road; Centre and Clayton roads; North Road; McKinnon Road; Centre Road, Bentleigh; and Burke Road. That is 10 around our local area versus none under the Liberal government. We might take the member for Caulfield more seriously if he actually did something while he was in power, irrespective of what electorate the level crossings are in. But let me finish on this: I am proud to be a part of a government that delivers on its promises. We do not just talk like those opposite do; we deliver. And that is something worth campaigning on.

Relationships Amendment Bill

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — I am pleased to rise today to support the Relationships Amendment Bill 2015. I will never get tired of uttering the phrase, ‘This is another key Labor election commitment that we are delivering on’. As the Attorney-General stated in his second-reading speech:

This government aims to create a fairer Victoria by reducing discrimination and respecting diversity.

As I have said previously, and as others have said, laws have an influence on behaviour and on community expectations and standards. While in some senses we are behind community expectations and standards, the laws that have changed over the last decade or so, federal and state, have had an impact on community perceptions — in other words, people are more accepting of the humanity of every Australian.

I am proud that this bill does two key things. One is that it allows more equality and more opportunity for couples, particularly same-sex couples, so even if one is not domiciled or resident in Victoria, for whatever reason, it only takes one Victorian resident to make the application for registration. That brings Victoria into line with the rest of the states. You could see how that would be an issue. For example, as others have said, same-sex couples are not entitled to be married under Australian law. If they were, there would be an immediate recognition of that relationship regardless of where they live. This addresses that inequity in the current regime and therefore follows through on the government’s commitment.

As I have said many times — and I am proud that people on this side of the chamber and some on the other side have said — equality for same-sex couples is important. Equality for everybody is important, but I am particularly proud of the commitment of the Premier, the Minister for Equality and the Attorney-General in this regard. We should not have a class system in Victoria or Australia, whether it be socio-economic or one based on sexual preference. Every relationship is different, and every relationship should be respected and given the same recognition and treatment under law.

I want to address a couple of the comments made by the member for Prahran. I do not doubt at all his commitment or his party’s commitment to same-sex equality and equality generally. However, without being trivial about this, an amendment that talks about a ceremony is not significant in my view in relation to registration of a relationship. The far more significant issue is getting a federal outcome that allows marriage equality. The achievement of a ceremony is not excluded under this bill. It is not something that requires legislative approval. The bill in its current form, without amendment, delivers on the very election commitment made by this government to the community — both the LGBTI community and the broader Victorian community. I would not want to tamper with something that we have clearly committed to, and this bill delivers on those commitments.

I am reminded of the other work that has yet to be undertaken. The Minister for Equality has asked the LGBTI task force and justice working group to examine a proposal for further reform of the Victorian Relationships Act 2008. This will give us a sense of what else is required. I think these things are required to be undertaken in a very thoughtful way and a way that engages with the community. I am not sure what engagement the member for Prahran or his party had with the LGBTI or the broader community in Victoria to propose the amendment he has today, but I have not been aware of any of that conversation or engagement. This topic is far too serious to put up an on-the-spot amendment without significant prior consultation. I am pleased that we have done that work and consultation and that therefore this bill comes before this chamber and this Parliament today.

I also want to touch quickly on the government’s record and the Labor Party’s record. I have some notes here that remind me that in 2001, when Steve Bracks was Premier of Victoria, almost 60 statutes were amended to ensure that recognition of de facto relationships was also given to same-sex couples. Sixty statutes — I mean, that is significant. Victorian laws now recognise domestic relationships regardless of the sex of the partner in the relationship. As if you needed reminding, it was not just the Bracks government that was reformist; it was also the Brumby government. In 2008 the Brumby Labor government passed the Relationships Act with the innovator and pioneer who was the then Attorney-General, Rob Hulls. I do not want to be political about this, but there is a track record there that in my view speaks volumes. Unfortunately for the member who spoke before me, I do not think he can claim any sense of that kind of history and those runs on the board, because his party has never been in a position to exercise executive government.

In my view the party that has introduced progressive laws and changes in support of the LGBTI community is the Labor Party. It is not a think tank — the member for Brighton laughs. I meant that the Greens are in a sense a think tank. In some respects their views, like those on LGBTI matters, I agree with, but, really, if you are not in government, you cannot do anything. The fact is we are in government and we have been for some time in Victoria, apart from the last four years, and the 60 statutes that I talked about were changed under a Labor government.

Ms Thomas — Aberration — a four-year aberration!

Mr DIMOPOULOS — That’s right. I think in the end the track record is clear. I am really proud to be standing here in support of a bill that fulfils yet another election commitment for something that is far more than symbolic, though the symbolism alone would be pretty powerful in terms of recognition of same-sex couples.

I echo the member for Prahran and others in this chamber who agree that there needs to be a far more decent and national approach to this, and one that is not subject to a plebiscite, because that is quite demeaning. It is not anyone’s business to decide my relationship or other people’s relationships. Putting it out to a public vote reminds me of some kind of ancient Roman trial system where the masses would decide the interests of minority groups. That is an absolutely disgusting approach to public policy, and I think human rights and decency would compel us to think that elected representatives in the federal Parliament should be of a mind. They have the power now to make those changes to allow gay couples to marry under the civil government of this country, not under any religious governance. I commend the bill to the house.