Michelle Lensink

Statutes Amendment (Domestic Partners) Bill

This speech is in relation to the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Partners) Bill. The prime difference between this version and previous versions of the bill is in the treatment of domestic codependants.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will try to be as brief as possible. This bill has been round and round the mulberry bush, or the Hills Hoist, or however you might like to describe it. In moving my own version of this bill, which was, in fact, the same as the government’s bill from last year, with the addition of opt-in clauses for domestic co-dependants, I made a number of points I wanted to make then, so I will not go through all of that again. However, I would like to say that there have been more positions by more members on this than the Kama Sutra. Indeed, I find myself in the unfortunate position of having been in favour of the opt-in clause (which I still am) and being unable to support those particular amendments because I believe the time is at hand when we need to pass this bill in some form, despite my misgivings about what will happen to those people who will be captured unintentionally by this bill. However, those arguments have been well made and, no doubt, a number of members will make those arguments.

The prime difference between this version and previous versions of the bill is in the treatment of domestic codependants. I would say that the Hon. Andrew Evans has been consistent in this in that he has said that it is discriminatory for domestic co-dependants not to be included and also to have to opt in. However, I would put to him that a number of people who are in domestic-like relationships will be discriminated against because they have to opt out. I note that last year the government was quite content to support my amendments as sensible amendments, yet it raises similar misgivings in the second reading explanation, to which I will refer. On page 1208 of yesterday’s Hansard, the minister said:

No doubt these are far-reaching rights. For example, there may be some people living in relationships of this kind who would intend their children, rather than their partner, to inherit their estate. In that case, they will need to make a will clearly expressing their intentions.

On the next page, the minister goes on to say:

 . . . for those in a qualifying relationship, their property will no longer be wholly their own. If the relationship ends, either may be liable to a property claim by the other, which may need to be resolved by court proceedings.

So, I think the government is well aware of this particular issue. In the briefing provided to members, I think a number of us had misgivings about the way in which domestic codependants are being defined, because it does not really reflect the diversity and the potential permutations not only of people who may wish to be considered as domestic codependants but also people who may not wish to be considered co-dependants. If I use myself as an example, several years ago, the marriage of one of my sisters, who then lived in Perth, broke up, and she moved in with me with her two adorable children for a period of only six months. I did not have a will then (I did not have a will until last year), so, under this bill, if she had remained with me for three years, potentially, she would have a claim to all of my assets, regardless of whether I might have wished to divide those assets between my parents and my other sister and her children, and so forth.

The Hon. A.L. Evans interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, I would not actually want to be considered a couple.

The Hon. A.L. Evans interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes; but it talks about siblings. My sister and I are not a couple: we are sisters. We would be much happier with a term that did not classify us as a couple, because we are not a couple.

The Hon. A.L. Evans interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes; but it talks about a couple. Anyway, be that as it may. The Hon. Andrew Evans, in his address, talked about the fact that people do not get around to writing documents and so forth that reflect their intentions. I think that is a real concern, because that occurs as it is, yet a whole range of people are likely to be captured by this bill who I believe are being discriminated against for the sake of the government reaching a conclusion with Family First.

I think it is a flawed law. I think it will be dealt with in the courts and is going to be quite untidy in that respect.We had a very strong multipartisan willingness from the Greens, the Democrats, Ann Bressington (who had been prepared to put her name to it) and myself as a Liberal for the version that would have had an opt-in, yet the Attorney-General said that they had consulted with the only ones who count, namely, Family First, so I believe that the integrity of some aspects of this legislation has been compromised because of that preference towards Family First. Be that as it may, I have no wish to delay the passage of this bill. I urge members to be hasty in their process and I apologise in advance for not being able to support the Hon. Sandra Kanck’s amendments, because my sympathies lie very much with them.

I wish to put on the record a question for the government. What resources does it intend to put towards a thorough education campaign to make the community of South Australia aware that people will need to opt out if they do not wish to be captured by this bill? I look forward to the response at the conclusion of this debate.

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