BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES (GENDER IDENTITY) AMENDMENT BILL

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 4 August 2016.)

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:08): I rise to speak on the Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill 2016, and indicate that the opposition has not formed a party position on this bill. In reference to what is colloquially often known as the members having a 'conscience vote', of course, on our side of the house every vote is a conscience vote. Frequently, we meet to form a joint party position on something and that, we hope, adds to the healthy debate and swift passage of legislation but, in this instance, we felt that would be unhelpful as, clearly, there would be an expression of a number of our members to decide, at different levels, their support.

My position is that I will support the bill. I indicate that it is a bill which the Premier introduced on 4 August and subsequently has walked away from, essentially. He has appointed the member for Reynell as his assistant minister to handle the conduct of some bills through the parliament, and we have changed our standing orders to allow that to occur. This is no reflection on the member for Reynell at all because I think that she has, in the management of this bill and another I have dealt with, promptly convened appropriate briefings, made officers available, and although I am waiting on a bit of information, largely she has provided prompt responses.

What is disappointing, though, is that the Premier swans in, makes the announcement, does the second reading and then disappears—gets the publicity for the day on matters in relation to this, and then does not follow that through. I think that demonstrates that it is all about the image of the Premier, rather than following through on matters on which he claims to have a genuine interest in and concern for reforming. In any event, the member for Reynell has had the passage of this.

The SA Law Reform Institute conducted a review in September 2015, which resulted in our gender identity inequity bill, previously dealt with. In February this year, the institute released the first of its further reports concerning the registration and recognition of sex, gender and gender reassignment. Overlapping this, in April this year the Legislative Review Committee completed its review on the Sexual Reassignment Repeal Bill 2014. Both these bodies recommended that the Sexual Reassignment Act 1988 be repealed. I agree that clearly it needs to be repealed. A new act to provide for the simpler and less invasive process for people to formally record their change of sex or gender identity was needed.

However, the level at which evidence was required that an applicant had undergone treatment, counselling and the like, was quite different. It is fair to say that the government has chosen to follow the recommendations of the Legislative Review Committee, and that of itself has brought some public criticism. I think it is fair to say, its being a committee that was presented this year, that members of our party from both houses of parliament were represented on that body, and it was a unanimous report in its recommendations. So, I do not have any difficulty in supporting the bill.

The issue of registration for a 16 year old and over has attracted some controversy. I have thought long and hard about this. I do not see it as a reason why we should not progress the bill. It does not sit comfortably with me, I would have to say. I do not see the urgency for the need to deal with registering a different gender for children who, at birth, have an unclear gender identity because we have not had that problem.

In all the time I have been in the parliament I have never had anyone come to me—a medical professional, or the AMA, or anyone—to say that there is a problem with the identification of a child at birth. There might be some question mark, and there might then need to be tests done to identify that, but no child to my knowledge has been born in South Australia and we have not been able to have some medical assessment to identify what the sex of the child is at birth. To my knowledge, there is no child registered at birth, or subsequently, whose birth certificate says 'gender unknown'.

What we are really talking about here, though, is people who elect or desire to change their sex for the purposes of being recognised at a time after their birth. I think it is fair to say that some parents allow their children (under the age of 18 ) in these circumstances to dress and present in a manner which presents to the world as the opposite sex. I think that is a matter which is reasonable for parents to work with their child on. For that reason, I am not averse to the concept that there be the capacity for the registration of a change of gender under the age of 18 years but, as I say, it is not something I sit overly comfortably with.

Frankly, we have all sorts of restrictions on what people can do under the age of 18 years and it seems bizarre to me that they will be able to go and get married, they need a Magistrates Court order, they cannot fight in a war and they cannot vote, yet they can register their change of sex. I find this a little confusing and I think there is room for some tidying up of that.

But it is not a clear and present danger, namely, an area which requires immediate attention, in my view, as a priority. There would be some people out there who want to have this issue settled, and I think it is fair to say that our current Sexual Reassignment Act 1988 is out of date and, generally, it is agreed that it is an act which needs to be repealed. We have had some very good people inquire into this, including the Hon. Andrew McLachlan, from another place, and the member for Heysen; and, of course, I value their advice and contribution to the committee on this. So, for my part, I will be accepting the bill.