ACT Civil Unions Act invalidated by Governor General

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

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Australian Governor-General Major-General Michael Jeffery has formally created an instrument declaring the Australian Capital Territory's Civil Unions Act, 2006 invalid. The instrument comes into effect from midnight tonight (AEST).

Wayne Berry, speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly called on the Governor-General earlier today to deliver an address from the assembly about the ACT's Civil Unions Act. According to the Governor-General, Mr Berry was advised that the request would have to be referred to the federal government.

Major-General Jeffery said that he must refer the matter to the federal government for their consideration. After consideration, the government is required to advise him in the Federal Executive Council as to whether or not he should exercise his powers. The Governor-General denied having authority under the constitution to act without the advice of the Federal Executive Council where there is a difference between the policies of the ACT and the federal government.

Under the Commonwealth Australian Capital Territory (Self Government Act) 1988, the Governor-General has the authority to disallow any act passed by the ACT government.

Australia's Attorney General Phillip Ruddock acknowledged that the Governor-General had conveyed the ACT government's request and despite the ACT government expressing that it would make some amendments to its act, the Federal Executive Council decided that it was more appropriate to disallow the act altogether.

Mr Ruddock said he, the minister of territories, and the Governor-General attended the Executive Council meeting.

Mr Ruddock said that the ACT government is welcome to discuss any further amendments with the government in the future, but made it clear that he would not accept any legislation allowing the marriage of same-sex couples even when given a different name.

Senator Kerry Nettle of the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats have prepared a disallowance motion they will present on June 14. If passed, their motion would disallow Ruddock's move to quash the ACT's civil union law. "The Attorney General Phillip Ruddock has today trampled on the rights of the ACT in order to deny rights to same sex couples, but still we don't have any logical explanation as to why," Senator Kerry said in a Green Party media release. "The Greens are appalled at the lengths the Howard government will go to in order to deny basic rights to fellow Australians on the basis of their sexuality."

The Attorney General attacked the Civil Unions Act, saying that it was "provocative" and was intended to make Civil Unions mirror marriage, an area where the federal government has legislative powers. Mr Ruddock said the government would defend any attempt by states or territories to "intrude" into areas under which the federal government has responsibility.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.