Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015

22 October 2015
Legislative Assembly

Mr WYNNE (Minister for Planning) — I rise to make a contribution on the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015. In doing so, I hark back to some of the extraordinary reforms that have been made by Labor governments since 2001, when the then Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, to whom I had the honour of being the parliamentary secretary, undertook a sweeping set of reforms to end discrimination against people on the basis of their gender or sexuality.

Reflecting on those days, I think it was an extraordinary commitment by the then Attorney-General to end many kinds of unfair discrimination directed against people living in same-sex relationships. It went to some of the most basic rights that we who live in heterosexual relationships have enjoyed forever, including things like access to a partner in hospital. In the past if there were circumstances where someone required acute care, a same-sex partner was effectively excluded from providing direction to the hospital about their partner’s care. When it goes to such a fundamental thing as this, it is a deeply troubling and unfair society in which we live.

So I am immensely proud of the work that was done by then Attorney-General Hulls throughout his whole career in ensuring that if you were living in a same-sex relationship, you enjoyed the same set of rights in every single aspect of life that I enjoy as someone living in a heterosexual relationship.

Frankly, it goes to the question of fairness; it is simply a question of fairness to ensure that we as a society, and indeed we as a Parliament, sweep away any form of discrimination that stands in the way of any person in our community. That is why so many members of this Parliament stand unambiguously in support of the recommendations of the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015. We argue that equality, frankly, is non-negotiable. We vowed as part of our election commitments, which we were voted in on, to put equality back on the agenda.

Having looked at the backdrop of those extraordinary reforms undertaken by previous Labor governments, let us now look at this government and the reforms it has already put in place.

We have the first-ever shadow Minister for Equality, and we are glad to see that the Greens political party and the Liberals have followed our lead and appointed their own shadow ministers for equality; that is a very good thing. We have the first ever Minister for Equality anywhere in the country. The Safe Schools Coalition will be rolled out across all government schools. This will be critically important in supporting those young people who are trying to deal with gender issues in school, which is a very tough environment for them.

We have delivered on our promise to appoint a gender and sexuality commissioner. We have delivered on our promise to deliver an LGBTI task force to support the government’s efforts to put equality on the agenda. Indeed only very recently our Premier, in what I think was an outstanding contribution, called out the New South Wales Liberal government for banning schools from showing Gayby Baby, a film that depicts the lives of normal, diverse families. This is a proud record of support by this government.

The bill before the house will enable the ultimate legal recognition of existing family arrangements by enabling same-sex step-parents and long-term carers to adopt and to ensure that a child in need is given the opportunity to be placed with the most suitable parent. Is this not ultimately what this has to be about? Ultimately it has to be about the best interests of the child. That has to be the lens through which we must judge these matters.

I have many friends and colleagues in same-sex relationships, and I have very close family associations with a number of same-sex families. You could not hope for more caring and loving environments. Ultimately that is what this has to be about — the recognition that the loving environment in which a child is raised is absolutely fundamental to their development and their long-term care, regardless of their parents’ sexuality. This bill is about us as a Parliament recognising and putting the child at the centre of our considerations.

It is very important that we as a Parliament show leadership and say that we will not stand for discrimination in any form and that children who are living in same-sex families ought to enjoy the legal framework that is available to those of us who live in heterosexual relationships. I deeply commend this bill to the house.