Court rules out ACT’s marriage equality, conscience vote urged

The Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is calling for a federal conscience vote following a High Court’s ruling on Thursday quashing the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Marriage Equality Act.

ACT enacted a same sex marriage law in October, Australia’s first state ever to pass the highly-debated legislation; but the said court ruled out its validity. The state law did not meet the provisions under the Commonwealth Law.

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh and Chris Hinton-Teoh are among the first couples who got married last week in Canberra. (Photo: AME)

Twenty-seven couples from the GLTB community tied the knot in Canberra last week hoping the court will uphold their vows.  The ruling dashed their honeymoon on Thursday.

AME is now pressing for a new legislation through a conscience vote. National Director Rodney Croome said in a press release today the federal government has indicated that it is possible to legislate a new law on marriage equality through a conscience vote. He said the possibility has been indicated by Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

A separate press release also said four Liberal state premiers support the federal Coalition’s conscience vote, including Barry O’Farrell (NSW), Denis Napthine (VIC), Colin Barnett (WA) and Campbell Newman (QLD). The press release said the premiers have all urged the federal parliament to deal with the issue.

Croome added “if Coalition leaders as conservative as Colin Barnett can see the importance of a marriage equality conscience vote, Tony Abbott has no excuses”.

“With four Liberal premiers telling Abbott that community attitudes are changing and a marriage equality conscience vote is a no-brainer he’d be unwise not to listen.”

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh, who married his husband, Chris Hinton-Teoh, under the overturned ACT law, said that in the absence of a timetable for federal reform the states and territories should continue to endeavour to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The federal Labor Party allows a conscience vote on marriage equality. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has earlier said a Coalition conscience vote is a matter for the Coalition party room to decide.

 

Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic who got married this week comfort each other after the High Court ruling. (Photo: AME)

 ACT Government

The ACT Government is disappointed with the ruling and pledged to re-legislate for civil unions but not same-sex marriage.

The High Court cannot uphold the ACT same sex marriage law as it lacks the validity of marriage defined under Commonwealth Law.

Marriage Act of 1961 provides provision for the union of man and woman. This provision defines marriage.

Today the High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament.

The Court held that “marriage” in s 51(xxi) of the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons in accordance with legally prescribed requirements which is not only a union the law recognises as intended to endure and be terminable only in accordance with law but also a union to which the law accords a status affecting and defining mutual rights and obligations. “Marriage” in s 51(xxi) includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.

The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same sex couple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia. That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.

Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect.

The Court held that the whole of the ACT Act is of no effect. Read HERE

State Legislations

Bills drafted on state levels should be worked out to meet the provision of the Commonwealth Law. Same-sex marriage bills have been tabled in five states but overturned. WA drafted the latest bill yesterday. At Federal level, same sex legislations have been scheduled for deliberations, but similarly voted down.

The GLTB believes the issue is now at a tipping point. It is just a matter of time while the concept of morality itself is radically shifting.

Gays, lesbians can’t wait to tie the knot in Canberra

Gays and lesbians cannot wait to tie the knot in Canberra following the passage of a marriage equality bill last Tuesday.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly passed the historic Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Bill 2013 —the first state is Australia to legalize same sex marriage.

ACT makes historic marriage equality law, NSW will follow. (Photo: Australian Marriage Equality)

Euphoria engulfed the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex) community but this was cut short when the Tony Abbott Government lodged a High Court challenge within 24 hours saying the ACT law is not consistent with the Commonwealth marriage law.

Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 establishes the sole and exclusive means under Australian law by which the status of marriage may be attained. Family Law Act 1975, likewise, makes provisions for divorce, child custody, and property arrangement. The ACT law does not meet such provisions.

The Commonwealth government has lodged a writ of summons in the High Court Wednesday. The High Court will hold its first reading on Friday.

The ACT Government is determined to defend the new law. Members of the GLTBI community also stand hand in hand and optimistic to withstand the challenge.

The lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality, has already put up a separate website to gather gays and lesbians who would like to take the opportunity to be amongst the first to tie the knot.

On its Facebook page, it said “Despite this we know that many couples are not going to wait.  We’re compiling a fact sheet for couples interested in being amongst the first to tie the knot. You can sign up here.”

Abbott earlier warned not to rush until the validity of the law is determined as the writ also states  “There would be immediate adverse effects for persons whose marriages would be ineffective if the ACT Marriage Act is found invalid” and “The status of marriage has a weight and a significance beyond its legal consequences.”

Abbott said he views the ACT same-sex marriage laws as a constitutional matter, not a moral issue.  Advising same-sex couples wishing to marry in the ACT to wait until a High Court challenge is resolved, Abbott said the federal government had constitutional responsibility for marriage.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell introduced a raft of eleventh hour amendments to the Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Bill 2013 in order to bolster its chances of surviving a High Court challenge. The amendments are aimed at fending off the High Court challenge by minimising any inconsistency with commonwealth legislation.

The bill is supported by Greens (Member of Legislative Assembly) MLA Shane Rattenbury and all eight Labor MLAs.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has hoped same-sex couples will be able to marry in Canberra before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales Legislative Council is now planning to introduce a similar bill. AME, in its website said the” NSW Cross Party Marriage Equality Working Group consisting of Liberal, National, Greens, Labor and Independent Members have announced plans to introduce legislation into the NSW Legislative Council next week that seeks to allow same-sex couples to marry in NSW.”

Federal election: Gay marriage becomes a key issue

Marriage equality is one among the priority issues in this year’s federal election scheduled on Sept. 7.

Prime Minister and Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Kevin Rudd promised that a re-elected government under Labor will put forward a bill that will legalise marriage equality within 100 days. The declaration was made during a debate with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the National Press Club in Canberra last Sunday.

PM Kevin Rudd (top right) and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (left) up for Sept federal poll.

The ALP has already launched a signature campaign, It’s time: Marriage Equality, to gather support. The party says Rudd needs a strong public endorsement to make what he has promised possible. The signature campaign is up and running with more than 7,000 supporters (as of press time) and counting.

Australian Marriage Equality, an advocacy group at the forefront of the issue, said marriage equality is of urgent concern among young voters. Showing a recent poll conducted by the Australian Institute, the group said the poll indicates that young voters see marriage equality as a “signature issue” that will strongly influence who they vote for. The group also warned that failure of Abbott or the Coalition MPs to make a conscience vote will not get the votes of young people.

The message to candidates is that support for marriage equality is the way to attract young voters….In particular, the message to Tony Abbott and the Coalition is that failure to allow Coalition MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality is driving away young voters.

Abbott, known for his conservative views on gays and lesbians, softened his stance during Sunday’s debate. The opposition leader announced he is supporting gay and lesbian rights.

Abbott, a former Catholic seminarian, has been vilified by his detractors as sexist and homophobic.

However, today he is under fire from various groups after a radio interview in which he said he would not be swayed on “fashion of the moment” issues.

This reinforces his old homophobic view. A few months ago Abbott gave an interview to News Limited Network in which admitted he would not allow a conscience vote on gay marriage while LP’s consistent position was against it.  “Coalition party policy is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he was quoted as saying.

In a separate interview in 2010, Abbott was asked about his views on homosexuality in which he said, “I probably feel a bit threatened, as so many people do. It’s a fact of life.” He told ABC TV, “There is no doubt that (homosexuality) challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things.”

The recent debate then questions Abbott’s sincerity on his election promises.

Rudd said church can keep its tradition, while gays and lesbians will find their way into the system.

Upcoming rallies to support marriage equality (Photo: Gay Marriage Rights in Australia)

The Greens have been supporting GLBTI rights issues (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex individuals). Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt have bills before Parliament that seek to remove discrimination from the Marriage Act and give same-sex couples the right to marry. The bills, however, have faced tremendous challenge before the conservative majority.

The Greens’ LGBTI spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said if Kevin Rudd is genuine about marriage equality, he will need to work across the Parliament and convince all parties from across the political spectrum to work together to achieve marriage equality.

In a party statement, the Greens claims they have led the way on marriage equality and have long been ready and willing to work with all parties to achieve it. ”The Greens plan for a bill to be cosponsored by members of all three parties is the only way to overcome the political impasse and actually achieve equality,” the party said.

Unusual political parties up for 2013 federal poll

“Are you a joke party? Not at all! We’re a formally registered party with the Australian Electoral Commission.”

The Pirate Party Australia (PPA) introduces itself as a party of pirates. To elaborate this, a pirate is an adorable character that steals goods from the rich and distributes them to the poor. Pirates are not bad people— they are heroes. The PPA loves to copy and reproduce digital contents–DVD, CD, MP3, computer software, and the list goes on— and wants to share them with the people they love.

Little pirates join the party to support piracy. (Photo: blacknova.com.au)

Registered with Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) early this year, this is what the party is standing for and it is now selecting candidates to contest Senate seats in four states- New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania. The 2013 federal poll is scheduled on September 14. If PPA wins, it will introduce reform bills on copyrights, patents, privacy, surveillance and all other relevant issues related to Internet use. The party said copying and reproducing contents are not crimes but an act of charity and generosity when they are shared with loved ones.

On a more serious note, Brendan Molloy, a lead candidate for NSW stated, “Australia needs strong representatives that actually stand for principles … pushing back on the encroaching surveillance state of data retention and Internet censorship, while offering positive and much needed reform for copyright, digital liberties and civil liberties.”

WLP Founder Julian Assange (Photo: AP)

The WikiLeaks Party (WLP) is also fired up in the campaign. Although registration is yet to be completed, WLP spokespersons Cassie Findlay and Sam Castro said the party  will immediately introduce a national shield law for journalists if the party wins. They said this law will be the ultimate protection for journalists and their sources from any prosecution or intimidation.

“The WLP’s ultimate aim is the constitutional enshrinement of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. We insist on these primary rights to be written into the constitutions of emerging nations, yet they still haven’t been adopted in our own constitution. This historic anomaly has to be addressed and fixed eventually.”

The spokespersons also said WLP gives unconditional support to journalists currently facing court action and severe penalties for refusing to disclose their sources. Findlay adds, “Politicians in a liberal democracy should be the principal custodians of the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.”

Citing super-rich plaintiffs such as mining billionaire Gina Rinehart using the courts to intimidate journalists for doing their job, Findlay said t is high time for the federal parliament to provide journalists with ironclad legal protection.

Meanwhile, GetUp! drew attention early this week with its list of “unheard” political parties who are aiming to run in this year’s election.

In an email, GetUp! clarifies that while some of the parties’ political agenda resonate with what GetUp has been fighting for, it is not endorsing any party.

Anti-seam coal gas rally down King Street, Newtown NSW. (Photo: Dan Himbrechts/ The Daily Telegraph)

Listed are:

  • Stop Coal Seam Gas – ”This party will work to protect communities and farmland from invasive coal seam gas mining by pressuring government to ban CSG.”
  • Single Parents’ Party – “Parenting is hard. Especially for the 950,000 single parent families living in Australia. Its becoming even harder as the government continues to cut support for single parents and their children. We will advocate to reverse the cuts that are forcing families like ours below the poverty line.”

Lamington cake for the Lamington Party

  • The Lamington Party – “For Australia… where the regional cities are connected to the capitals … our government is a case study for democracy and efficiency… and one where we all have a strong social safety net and equal opportunity to succeed in life.”
  • Voluntary Euthanasia Party – “Over four in five Australians are in favour of new legislation and we wish to allow that sentiment to be clearly demonstrated at the ballot box. The Voluntary Euthanasia Party aims to ensure dignity in the final years of life, by raising the profile of this issue in order to engender the necessary political will for change.”
  • Australian Sovereignty Party – Stand for “no carbon tax”, “no personal income tax”, and “no GST”; “no more wide open borders”, and “no treaties without referendums,” among other policies.
  • The Future Party – “The Future Party is a new movement of people who are dedicated to thinking of long term solutions to advance our society. The Future Party believes quality of life is improved primarily through technological developments, sourced through a scientific approach to knowledge in the context of democracy and peace.”
  • WikiLeaks Party – “The WikiLeaks Party stands for unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by understanding and truthfulness and the free flow of information.”
  • Palmer United Party – Clive Palmer’s party with policies including “Abolish carbon tax;” “ensure refugees are given opportunities;” “creating mineral wealth;” and “develop right across Australia where the wealth is.”

Clive Palmer with Jim Mclnally and Sisie Douglas announcing the United Australia Party in Brisbane, 26 April. (Photo: Mark Calleja/ goldcoast.com.au)

The Rise Up Australia Party has already got its fair share of media attention in February during its launch in Canberra’s National Press Club. It is now rallying more immigrants and voters to become more Australians. Founder Pastor Daniel Nalliah has said immigrants should “adapt” to the Australian way of life: Australia for Australians!

Full party list HERE.

Assange’s bid for Senate gains momentum

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, but he has announced his absentee bid for Senate to represent the State of Victoria in the coming September 14 federal poll.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks at the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (Photo: News Ltd)

The WikiLeaks Party announced Assange’s decision over the weekend following the party ‘s first national council meeting held in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The campaign is headed by a former Australian Republican Movement head and barrister Greg Barns, who the UK-based Telegraph describes as a “high-profile opponent of the monarchy.”

The party will field high-profile Senate candidates in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. In NSW and WA, the party is already confident that “support for WikiLeaks is strong.” WikiLeaks will announce the candidates after they have been endorsed, Barns said. National Council Member Cassey Findlay added other spokespeople on policy issues will be appointed in the coming weeks. The party will focus on winning Senate seats in all three states.

Supporters of Julian Assange gather at BMW Edge, Federation Square in Melbourne to rally for his safe return home in 2010. (Photo: R Yoon/the Green Journo)

From London, Assange said he is happy with the momentum the party has already achieved. The party also hinted that Assange is encouraged by the progress of the campaign and the support it is getting in Australia.

Topping the Party’s agenda is to promote transparency, truthfulness and the free flow of information on government and politics founded on WikiLeaks principles.

National Council Member Findlay said:

“The WikiLeaks Party is committed to practising in politics what WikiLeaks has done in the field of information, by promoting transparency, truthfulness and the free flow of information”. These, she said, are “fundamental to rational decision making and just outcomes, and they are increasingly missing from the Australian political landscape.”

The party is in the process of completing registration with the Australian Electoral Commission, needing at least 500 members. Assange has urged Australian voters to join the party. “Let us take the fight to Canberra,” he said.

Poster outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (Photo: Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images)

Party spokeswoman Sam Castro said:

We are getting a strong stream of applications to join the Party in recent weeks and to assist in our Federal Election campaign.  What is pleasing is that support is coming from people who have either previously not been involved in politics, or who have previously supported one of the major political parties in Australia.

The Ecuadorian government granted Assange asylum in June last year while on the run facing sexual charges involving two women in Sweden. He has been on the watch list of the US since WikiLeaks leaked cables on the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010. Speculation has it that the Sweden charges could be a ploy to extradite Assange to the US.

Prior to the granting of asylum, prominent Americans urged Ecuador to accept Assange’s asylum request. Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Noam Chomsky were among the signatories to a letter sent to Ecuador’s embassy in London, Reuters reported.

Greens Senator Christine Milne welcomes the  WikiLeaks challenge in Victoria, although she said Assange’s prospects of winning are a long shot. The Greens have been staunch supporters of Assange’s repatriation to Australia.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Anti-Muslim election campaign gone berserk

As political campaigns for this year’s federal election kicked off, an unorthodox political party emerged to attack Muslim immigration and multiculturalism.

Sri Lankan-born Pentecostal Pastor Daniel Nalliah launched his Rise Up Australia Party (RUAP) early this week to unite and urge Australians to protect “Australian way of life” which he said is being destroyed by Muslim immigrants. The slogan: “ Keep Australia Australian.”

RUAP candidate Daniel Nalliah with Lord Christopher Monckton during the party launch. (Photo: RUAP)

RUAP already boasts about 1,500 members and plans to field 65 candidates in the upcoming federal election slated in September.

RUAP is fighting against multiculturalism, gays and lesbians, abortion, carbon tax, asylum seekers, and other left-wing issues.

Nalliah said multiculturalism is assimilating the “silent majority” to accept minority culture. This, he said, has never worked in many countries in the West. He declared “Australia for Australians” to the cheers and uproar of supporters at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Supported by UK-born climate sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton,  RUAP has also launched the Victoria State Campaign on September 16.

“It is not for me as a Brit to endorse any Australian political party, … but I’m going to anyway, ” Monckton said.

Many are wondering how the two are related.

Monckton has been invited to speak about climate change before the congregation of Nalliah’s Catch the Fire Ministries in the past.

The political platform of Nalliah resonates with the political interest of Monckton – anti-carbon tax, pro-mining, and pro-small businesses, to name a few.

Official logo of RUAP

Morbid commentator Adrew Bolt can only expressed a deep sigh labelling the two as “fringe dwellers”.

Why on earth was Christopher Monckton endorsing the nationalist Rise Up Australia Party? Great chance for warmists to paint climate sceptics as fringe dwellers.

Demosblog puts it that Bolt is rather distracted:

….rather than denouncing the extremist views of Pastor Danny Nalliah, Andrew Bolt instead is most immediately concerned that Lord Monckton’s endorsement of Rise Up Australia might be bad PR for climate sceptics

Another blog commented on the party launch:

It was hard to tell what was a more pitiful spectacle at the launch of Pastor Danny’s new rabid party of zealotry and prejudice – Monckton or the aging grey-haired audience of true believing loons.

If there is Monckton and Bolt, the people’s watchdog called Getup is sure to be watching.

GetUp is mobilizing a multitude to stop what it calls “madness.” RUAP’s political platform runs counter to what GetUp has been advocating- violation to human rights.

“Rise Up” ….is waging a war against multiculturalism, marriage equality, climate action, and pretty much everything we stand for. Best of all, cringe-worthy climate denier Lord Monckton is touring our country again. Appalling? Yes. It’s time to rally the troops…. Now more than ever we need to mobilise and prove that racism, intolerance and hate isn’t the norm. Among the rising tide of intolerance, let’s show Australia that these people don’t speak for us.

Pro-Muslim, pro-diveristy candidate – Dr Ahmed Berhan (Photo: Dr Ahmed Berhan FB Page)

Pro-Muslim Candidate

Does Nalliah know a pro-Muslim Independent candidate is running for Senate? Dr Berhan Ahmed is a former refugee who came to Australia over 25 years ago.  He was awarded the Victorian of the Year in 2009 for his work as an African community leader in which he is a lead think tank.

Ahmed is neither a pro or anti-assimilation. He sees a great mix of people who need a voice in State Parliament. He said, “The political system has become clogged by the same people with the same voice.”  He wants to show the people on the margins they  can participate and get involved.

Ahmed’s political agenda calls for the improvement of housing, employment and transport infrastructure.

Born in Eritrea, Ahmed’s first jobs were a tram conductor and taxi driver. He spent 10 years in Fitzroy public housing studying for his PhD and masters degree. He now works as a Senior Research Fellow in forest and ecosystem science at the University of Melbourne.

Freedom of Speech and Truth

Candidates for the upcoming election are truly diverse.

Julian Assange on live telecast from the UK. He tells his supporters in Melbourne, “To the Internet generation, this is our moment.” (Photo: R. Yoon/The Green Journo)

WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange will also run for the Senate in Victoria. He is the lead candidate of a newly formed WikiLeaks Party.

Assange’s application for electoral enrolment in Victoria was handed to the Australian Electoral Commission in Melbourne this week by WikiLeaks supporters including his father, Sydney architect John Shipton, who has been active in the initial organisation of the party.

Shipton said Assange’s enrolment was ”a first step” in a political campaign that would focus on ”the democratic requirement of truthfulness from government”.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Greens join forces to save the Tarkine

The Wilderness Society, Tarkine National Coalition, and GetUp! joined forces in the campaign to protest the “out-of-control” mining ventures in the Tarkine in Tasmania and push for its enlistment in the World Heritage Site.

Convoluted rocks at the west coast off Tarkine. (Photo: Flickr)

Massive banners in front of a proposed Venture Minerals’ open cut mine in the Meredith Ranges have been unveiled as part of the Tarkine wilderness. Tarkine is claimed to have been recently assessed by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments to have a national and World Heritage values prompting strong community oppositions to any developmental aggression.

Here’s from the campaigners:

Liz Johnstone, Tarkine campaigner for The Wilderness Society, said many of these values, however, are under threat from new open cut mines. Some are proposed in existing conservation reserves that have been watered down to allow mining and exploration.

Venture and a range of other companies have plans to build strip and open cut mines in the region, ahead of the findings of an Australian Heritage Commission assessment of the environmental significance of the area.

Miners, Australian Workers Union join forces to support mining in the Tarkine. (Photo: ABC)

Paul Oosting, campaign director for GetUp, said the Tarkine has evolved over 40 million years to be what is now one of the few last remaining wild places on the face of the planet, yet Venture Minerals wants to go into what is currently a conservation area and strip mine it for just 2-8 years.

“Today we have seen the Tasmanian community stand up and take action to not let this happen and we know that they have the support of people from around the country who want to see this area properly protected,” Oosting said.

Vica Bayley, campaign manager for Wilderness Society Tasmania, said that the event signals an escalation of the community campaign and a counter to the provocative actions of the Australian Workers Union and the mining industry who are pre-empting the current national heritage assessment and pushing ahead with risky mining proposals.

“The AWU, the mining lobby and companies need to back off and allow due process and the heritage assessment to conclude before locking in destructive proposals that threaten the values of the area and impact on the heritage listing that previous assessments prove this region deserves,” Bayley said.

GetUp’s “Save the Tarkine” campaign

The action before Monday’s (24 Sept) Extraordinary General Meeting of Venture Minerals’ shareholders in Perth, where a decision will be made on capital raising needed to kick start its mines in the Tarkine. “The company, its shareholders and financial backers must realise that mining World Heritage value wilderness is a risk not only to the environment, but also to their investment,” Bayley said.

More info about this campaign: Tarkine National CoalitionWilderness Society Tasmania, GetUp!

Tasmanian Premiere Lara Gidding maintains that the Tarkine is insignificant, with mining representing only one per cent of the region.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Gay marriage faces an uphill battle

Legalising same sex marriage faces a big hurdle in Parliament taking into consideration the big divide in Australian society at the crossroad of conservatism and change.

More than 3,000 advoccates of gender equality march into the Victorian Parliament House to protest the 8-year ban on marriage equality. (Photo: Equal Love)

Debates on marriage equality resumed Tuesday with deliberation that went overnight through Wednesday. At noon, Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 sponsored by Labor’s Stephen Jones was defeated, 42-98, at the Lower House. Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abott voted against the bill.  See AAP’s report who voted for and against HERE.

Four bills are before the federal Parliament – the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, the Marriage Amendment Bill (No.2) 2012, the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.

Senator Penny Wong with partner Sophie Allouache and baby daughter Alexandra. (Photo: The National Times)

The bills seek to amend the Marriage Act 1961 allowing same-sex marriages to be recognised while placing no obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise a same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 is sponsored by Adam Brandt from the Australian Greens and Andrew Wilkie, an Independent representative from Denison, Tasmania. The proposed amendment suggests to remove discriminatory references based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to allow marriage regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The other bill, Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 No.  2010 , sponsored by another Greens Senator Hanson-Young, is an Act to create the opportunity for marriage equality for people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and for related purposes.

The Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

At the state level, the Tasmanian House of Assembly passed the Same-Sex Marriage Bill on August 30, 2012 and is now to be considered by the Tasmanian Legislative Council. The Premier of South Australia has declared his support for marriage equality at the state level as has the Australian Capital Region (ACT) Government.

Gillard, un-wedded and atheist, stands aloof to the issue. She once said two people can love and commit to each other without being married. Gillard, at 50, has a partner but has no wedding plans. Abbott is neither supportive to the civil union of gays and lesbians. He admitted he is old-fashioned and he, thus, believes that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.

The Sydney Mardi Grass is the largest gay festival in Australia. (Photo: Today)

Last night, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed fear that legalising same sex marriage will redefine marriage paving the way to bestiality and polygamy. He said the bills are attack to “our enduring institutions.” His remarks backfired creating furor among gay and lesbian groups and supporters. He later announced his resignation today saying ”My focus is now on directing my time and energy to representing the people of South Australia as a Liberal senator,” Fairfax Media quoted him as saying.

Pressures from gay and lesbian groups have been mounting and the Parliament cannot escape the issue. Over 3,000 gays marched in Melbourne to protest the 8-year ban on the “state-sanctioned discrimination” last week. In a demonstration of defiance, about 40 couples were wedded and officiated by a Catholic priest– Father Greg Reynolds. The priest has already gained notoriety from opening a church of dissident Catholics that welcomes ‘‘every man and his dog’’ – including gays and lesbians. Reynolds has overseen the wedding of couples who lack the legal right to marry under Australian law.

Reacting to the defeat of the Labor-sponsored bill, Equal Love Convener Ali Hogg said the voting down of the bill is an insult to to the LGBTI people.

   “The voting down of this bill is an insult. It is an indictment of both major parties, neither of which have proven themselves allies of LGBTI people. We might expect nothing better from the Liberals, who have been happy to promote lunatic bigots like Corey Bernadi through their ranks for years, but the fact that the ALP has also failed to throw its weight behind equal rights, and has instead helped to maintain homophobic discrimination as law, is nothing less than shameful.”

Equal Love has already announced a future rally to be held on November 24. “We call on all supporters of equality to continue to pressure all sides of politics to vote in favour of equality in the upcoming marriage amendment bills.”

A catholic church is Sydney now accepts gays and lesbians into its congregation. (Image: gaycatholic.com.au)

Despite the concerted efforts of the multi-sectarian groups to discourage same gender marriage, a few traditional churches have somehow managed to accept this major shift. Acceptance, for example, is a faith community supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Catholics, their family and friends. It has been running for almost four decades.

By providing a safe, spiritual and social environment, through Acceptance, many GLBT  Catholics have found reconciliation with their faith and sexuality.

Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Victoria is another peak body of a voluntary organisation in support of gays and lesbians, who meet once a month to offer support and friendship to families – particularly parents – and to members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community who may need support in coming out.

Countries that support same sex marriages (Photo: Google)

The Australian Human Rights Commission said civil marriage is a human right available to all without discrimination.

Commission President Gillian Trigg, in a statement, said the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The parliamentary vote on marriage equality this week gives federal Parliament the opportunity to take another step towards equality for people who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity,” Professor Triggs said.

Releasing a Commission position paper on marriage equality ahead of this week’s parliamentary vote on the issue, she said that removing the prohibition on civil marriage for same-sex couples was the next step toward legislative equality with opposite-sex couples. Read the Commission’s position paper on marriage equality HERE.  The positiion paper points out that:

Australia has legal obligations to protect and promote human rights including those encompassed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR includes the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that the ICCPR does not prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage, rather the ICCPR does not impose a positive obligation on states to do so.

Equality is a key human rights principle. It is set out in article 26 of the ICCPR, which states that all people ‘are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law’. Article 2 of the ICCPR requires State Parties to ensure all individuals are to enjoy the rights set out in the ICCPR without discrimination.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands legalised the world’s first gay marriage in 2001. (Photo: Robin Utrech/AFP/Getty Images/Washington Post)

Canada also legalised the civil union of gays and lesbians under the Civil Marriage Act in 2005. (Photo: Phill Snel/Getty Images/ Washington Post)

The countries now fully recognising same-sex marriage include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and several states in the USA. A marriage equality bill has passed its first reading in the New Zealand Parliament, and the Scottish and French Governments have also indicated they will introduce marriage equality bills.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Asylum experts advise return to ‘Pacific Solution’

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard beamed when she met the Press in Canberra looking as if she is out of the asylum conundrum. The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, which her Government appointed prior to Parliamentary break in June 28, released a Report early today outlining 22 Recommendations on how to deal with people arriving by boat non-stop.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen meet the press in Canberra. (Photo: AAP/Alan Porritt)

The Report is a rehash of earlier solutions, among other things. Spectators even call it “mixed nuts.”  Topping the list is the restoration of a policy espoused by former Prime Minister John Howard: offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Notoriously known as the Pacific Solution, it was scrapped in 2008 due to reported human rights’ abuses. The Australian Human Rights Commission has disagreed with offshore processing as it may revisit a terrifying history:

….the Government’s announcement about Manus Island may herald a return to the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’, a policy that was extremely expensive to administer, caused significant hardship and mental harm, and greatly damaged Australia’s international reputation as a responsible humanitarian nation.

“When the Manus Island detention centre was operating between 2001 and 2004 under the former government’s ‘Pacific Solution’ some people detained there suffered serious mental harm because of their prolonged and indefinite detention and the uncertainty about what would happen to them”

Gillard introduced the Malaysian swap deal when she rose to power in 2010 and was approved in July 2011.

Children are among the survivors in the risky voyage of ayslum seekers to Australia. (Photo: Daniel Wilkins)

The Malaysia Solution proposes the dispatch of 800 unregistered boat people from Australia to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 genuine refugees from Malaysia within four years. The asylum seekers will then live in limbo in detention centres while waiting for a change of status–  as certified refugees.

The Panel’s advise to restore Nauru and Manus Island does not disappoint Gillard as it also upheld her Malaysian Solution. The Panel also recommended to take more refugees under the nation’s Humanitarian Program. This includes an increase of the current  refugee intake from 13,000 to 20,000 per annum; and in five years this number could leap to 27,000. See Recommendation 2 & 5.

The Prime Minister backs the recommendations: Nauru, Manus Island in PNG, and Malaysia while seeking for other third parties in the region, including Indonesia where boat smuggling is rampant.

The Panel advised the importance of building a stronger biateral relations with Indonesia and particularly in relation to an increased resettlement places allocation. The Panel believes both countries can enhance joint surveillance, response patrols, law enforcement, and search and rescue coordination. Changes to Australian law in relation to Indonesian minors and others crewing unlawful boat voyages from Indonesia to Australia are also recommended. Read the Panel’s Full Report.

While Gillard is happy with the Panel, the Report ignored recommendations from the AHRC submitted on 12 July 2012.

The AHRC suggested ways how to stop asylum seekers from risking their lives at sea, along with a list of preventions are Australia’s international obligations on refugees and asylum seekers, among other things.

“Boat people” hold on dear life as they are shipwrecked off the coast of Christmas Island. (Photo: News Ltd)

The Commission has argued sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Papua New Guinea “may not be a humane, viable alternative to an arrangement with Malaysia. “  It said  that although both countries are signatories to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees 1967 (the Refugee Convention), Nauru is a newcomer. “

It has only been a party to the Convention as of June 2011 and has not had an opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which it can comply with the international obligations under the treaty. Papua New Guinea has posed numerous reservations to the Convention which specify that it does not intend to comply with many of the obligations that it contains.

The Commission strongly recommends against a revival of former arrangements involving transfer of asylum seekers to third countries as occurred under the “Pacific Solution‟.

Malaysian High Commissioner Dato Salman Ahmad

Meanwhile, Malaysian High Commissioner Salman Ahmad expressed  his disappointment over Australia’s misrepresentation of Malaysia.

He admitted Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations’ human rights protocols and conventions on refugees; however, it does not necessarily mean Malaysia is not helpful in dealing with the issues of asylum seekers.

In a letter accessed by the ABC signed by the Commissioner addressed to Senator Mark Furner of Queensland dated 6 August, he said Malaysia has been instrumental in helping to resettle refugees and asylum seekers. It is, therefore, unfair for the Australian Parliament and other organisations vilifying Malaysia as immune to human rights.

The Commissioner admitted the complexity involved in dealing with boat people issues while Malaysia itself struggles in dealing with thousands of illegal aliens.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle

Wedge-tailed eagle chick, 2-3 weeks old (Photo: Leigh Walters)

The Tasmanian Midlands is recognised as one of 15 areas in Australia as a “biodiversity hotspot”.  These are areas of national significance, with high concentrations of threatened species and vegetation types.

On a recent visit to a private grazing property on the banks of the Macquarie River, north-east of Campbell Town, Matt Taylor, TLC Conservation Scientist and  ecologist Matt Appleby of Bush Heritage Australia were lucky enough to catch a soaring wedge-tailed eagle on video.

The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is perhaps the Midlands’ most recognisable threatened animal species. This huge and majestic bird is often seen circling above woodlands and grasslands in search of prey.

This short video was taken when the Matt’s were completing an ecological assessment.  The eagle was riding an updraft that was formed as a strong north-westerly wind swept over a low hill.

If you would like to view the video click here.

To read more about our work please visit our website.

Interesting Facts:  The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is brownish-black to almost black when mature. The feathers are wedged with a lighter brown. The legs are feathered and the bird has a long, wedge-shaped tail. It is a massive bird, standing over a metre tall, weighing up to 5 kg, and with a wing span of up to 2.2 m.

Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles have been isolated for 10, 000 years from their mainland counterparts and have become a separate subspecies. With only about 130 pairs successfully breeding each year in Tasmania, the wedge-tailed eagle is listed as endangered.(1) (1) Parks and Wildlife, Tasmania