New South Wales same sex union debate for the next week

EXCLUSIVE

 

Same-sex marriage legalised

ACT Parliament legalises same-sex marriage in an emotion-filled day, with gays and lesbians celebrating the new law.

Same sex marriage laws will be debated in the NSW Parliament next week after a group of MPs pushing for the reform received expert advice their bill can survive a challenge in the High Court.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe – a member of the cross-party working group advocating for the laws – will introduce the bill in the upper house on October 31.

The advice came as the ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to pass same sex marriage law.

Celebrations in the public gallery.

Celebration: The public gallery applaud the passing of the same sex marriage bill in the ACT. Photo: Rohan Thomson

On Tuesday federal Attorney-General George Brandis said the Commonwealth would seek an expedited hearing to challenge the ACT laws in the High Court.

Advertisement

This was in part to minimise any ”distress” for the hundreds of gay couples expected to marry from mid-December onwards if the court sides with the Commonwealth.

The group of NSW MPs has advice from barrister Bret Walker, SC, that their bill is constitutionally valid. The advice says the key consideration is that the NSW bill gives same sex marriage a separate ”status” from a marriage under the federal Marriage Act and therefore is not in conflict with it.

Penny Sharpe.

“There’s been a sea change within conservative thinking on the issue of marriage equality”: Labor MP Penny Sharpe. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

”In our view, an act in the form of the NSW bill would not be inconsistent with the Marriage Act 1961,” it concludes.

University of NSW constitutional law expert George Williams said the bill was in ”good shape”, having been carefully redrafted after an upper house inquiry.

”They really have done everything they possibly could to give it the best chance of surviving,” he said. ”There’s no certainty about this. But it maximises the chance of it being constitutional and Bret Walker’s advice is that it gets there. But really only the seven judges [of the High Court] can tell you that.”

Alex Greenwich.

“A strong community campaign and a strong parliamentary campaign”: Independent MP Alex Greenwich. Photo: James Alcock

Supporters are cautiously confident it will pass the upper house, but are uncertain it would get enough support in the lower house, despite Liberal, Nationals and Labor MPs having conscience votes.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who is part of the working group, said there would be ”a strong community campaign and a strong parliamentary campaign” to convince MPs to vote in support.

”I think there is a strong base of support to start from. We know there are members with concerns about the constitution, religious concerns and electorate concerns.”

The campaign would be ”about working with those members to address their specific concerns”, Mr Greenwich said.

Ms Sharpe said a lower house defeat could not be taken for granted. ”There’s been a sea change within conservative thinking on the issue of marriage equality.”

The Liberal MP for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, also a working group member, said: ”We don’t know what we’re up against until we see it go through the Legislative Council where there will be issues raised and opinions expressed.”

The Sydney Morning Herald
 

Informations about same-sex marriage in Canberra

Lyn Griggs, Ainslie. 

ACT Legislative Assembly debates same sex marriage bill

Lyn Griggs, Ainslie. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Q: What’s the earliest date my same-sex partner and I could get married under the new law?

A: The law is expected to become operational within the next fortnight. Couples must give at a least one month’s notice of their intention to marry. The Government says that weddings could take place as early as December.

Q: My partner and I live interstate, can we still get married in the ACT?

A: Yes. But the marriage may not be recognised in your home state or territory.

Advertisement

Q: What’s the process for getting married?

A: The ACT Government has published a fact sheet on the Office of Regulatory Services website outlining the process, including fees and requirements.

Couples must lodge a “Notice of Intention to Marry” with an authorised celebrant no more than 18 months but at least one month before the planned ceremony.

Both people must provide proof of identity to the celebrant and will receive a notice about the nature and effect of marriage in the ACT.

Q: Who can officiate over a same-sex marriage?

A: Celebrants registered with the ACT Registrar-General. Several celebrants are expected to seek registration in the coming weeks.

Q: My partner and I would like to get married on the beach. Can we get married in Jervis Bay?

A: Maybe. Although Jervis Bay is part of the ACT, the Federal Government could decide not to make the same-sex marriage law operational in the ACT’s coastal enclave.

Q: What about the Federal Government’s plan to challenge the same-sex marriage law in the High Court?  

A: If you’re planning to get married soon, you should be aware that if a subsequent court challenge is successful, your marriage may no longer be legally valid.

Q: How much will it cost for same-sex couples of marry?

A: Fees outlined by the ACT government add up to more than $500, with a commemorative package, marriage certificate, applications and notice of intention to marry.

Q: What if a same-sex marriage breaks down?

A: The same mechanisms for existing marriages apply. Same-sex marriages will be terminated either by the death of either party or by a court order.

Q: Where can I find documents to register for a same-sex marriage?

A: The ACT government had published forms at www.ors.act.gov.au

 

Canberra Times

South Korea’s top military commander said Tuesday North Korea could wage war if its regime is threatened or if it misjudges the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

 

South Korea’s top military commander said Tuesday North Korea could wage war if its regime is threatened or if it misjudges the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Navy Adm. Choi Yun-hee, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), warned of the possibility that the North could make a bad decision when asked by lawmakers under what condition a war could occur on the peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could opt for war if his regime is threatened, the balance of military power changes between the two Koreas or alliance between Seoul and Washington is weakened, Choi said.

“Considering the recent situation, the North Korean regime is different from the one during the Korean War,” the former Navy chief said during the first parliamentary audit since taking the top commander post last week.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 after the communist North invaded South Korea to unify the Korean Peninsula divided along the 38th parallel.

According to several documents, then North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, the current ruler’s grandfather, went ahead with a full-out war after both China and Russia approved his decision and promised to send reinforcements if needed.

When asked how to handle the young leader who vowed to reunify the two Koreas by force in the next three years, Choi pledged to maintain high military readiness to deter North Korean threat.

“Besides the rhetorical threats, the North Korean military has continuously sought to enhance capabilities through drills,” Choi said. “We will use all forces to deter (provocations), mobilizing U.S. forces if needed.”

Kim said the North sent propaganda leaflets through the border nine times this month alone, which were collected by South Korean soldiers at the front-line units.

He also said North Korean patrol ships crossed the western maritime border, called the Northern Limit Line (NLL), nine times in October, while fishing boats occasionally operated south of the line.

Choi also pledged to beef up South Korean forces’ deterrence capabilities as Pyongyang has made progress in its weapons program by firing off a long-range rocket last December and conducting a third nuclear test in February.

Military analysts believe the latest move is aimed at developing technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough to be launched on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The two Koreas still technically remain at war as the three-year conflict ended in a cease-fire and no permanent peace treaty was signed by the combatants.
(Yonhap News)

 

The Korea Herald

‘Electoral business’ behind John Alexander’s taxpayer trip to Margaret River

October 21, 2013 – 8:42PM

Jonathan Swan, Lisa Visentin

Former tennis player and federal MP John Alexander, who has faced questions over his travel expenses.

Former tennis player and federal MP John Alexander has faced questions over his travel expenses. Photo: Dean Sewell

The tourist town of Yallingup, in Western Australia’s idyllic Margaret River region, is better known for its wine than its traffic congestion. But it was the latter issue among others that appears to have drawn the NSW MP John Alexander and a family member on a taxpayer-funded mission to the seaside town.

A reader participating in Fairfax Media’s investigation of politicians’ expenses asked us to investigate what “electorate business” Mr Alexander conducted in Margaret River during a trip in July 2012 that would benefit his Sydney constituents.

The West Australian trip – which included a stopover in Perth – cost taxpayers $5376. The Margaret River portion cost $720.

Advertisement

A Finance Department spokeswoman said within the rules governing MP entitlements, the expenses category of “electorate business” is “purpose-based not definition-based.” She added that MPs did not necessarily need to be in their own electorates to be conducting electorate business.

But Fairfax readers have questioned why Mr Alexander needed to travel to Margaret River to apparently investigate traffic congestion. Why not spend a morning on Sydney’s M4 motorway?

This question, and many like it, have emerged in response to the current system of federal MP entitlements, and the self-regulation that has allowed politicians to justify a wide range of activities – weddings, ironman races, visits to investment properties – as official business.

It is believed that Mr Alexander’s trip began in Perth, where he was the keynote speaker at Curtin University, discussing a proposed community sports centre.

Mr Alexander’s spokesman would not discuss the details of the electorate business that brought the MP to wine country, and only said: “Mr Alexander’s travel involved a series of work commitments as part of his responsibilities as a Member of the Federal Parliament, as the Member for Bennelong, as a member of the Coalition Regional, Rural Affairs, Infrastructure & Transport Committee and as Chair of the Coalition Sustainable Cities Policy Taskforce.”

But it is believed that while staying in Yallingup, the tennis legend and occupant of John Howard’s old seat of Bennelong travelled to Bunbury to meet with local business leaders for discussions on the development of satellite cities, relating to his role as chair of the Coalition Sustainable Cities Taskforce.

Mr Alexander stayed in Margaret River for six nights but only claimed travel allowance for the three nights that related to his work commitments.

He is also believed to have attended a cyber bullying workshop with the Liberal MP for Forrest, Nola Marino, and was a special guest at a community event that included discussions with local council on a multi-sports centre development.

When it comes to evaluating the merits of expense claims, the Department of Finance has been reluctant to judge whether MPs’ activities justify their decisions to bill taxpayers for travel and accommodation.

The West Australian MP Don Randall said the department could not “provide definitive advice” on whether his trip to Cairns last November satisfied his explanation of “electorate business”.

Besides taking possession of his Cairns investment property, Mr Randall is still, nearly a week after the original revelations surfaced, yet to explain what else drew him and his wife on business class flights to Cairns last November at a cost to taxpayers of more than $5000.

Fairfax Media has lodged a freedom of information request with the Finance Department to find out what advice was given to Mr Randall over his Cairns trip.

Following intense media pressure last week, Mr Randall promised to repay the money spent on his overnight stay in Cairns to “alleviate any ambiguity”.

The Australian Federal Police says it is not currently investigating Mr Randall’s expenses, but many readers have asked why the MP was allowed to repay his Cairns trip, while the former Speaker Peter Slipper was not allowed to repay his taxpayer-funded tour of wineries. Mr Slipper is facing police charges and possible jail time over the matter.

Mr Randall has also resisted explaining what he was doing in Melbourne on Saturday, September 15, 2012.

He claimed the trip on the grounds of “sittings of Parliament” despite the fact it was a weekend and Parliament has not sat consistently in Melbourne since 1927. The trip for Mr Randall and a family member cost taxpayers $5300.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Clear link between climate change and bushfires: UN adviser warns Tony Abbott

October 22, 2013 – 11:31AM

Judith Ireland

Breaking News Reporter

A senior United Nations climate change official says there is ”absolutely” a link between climate change and bushfires and has warned that the Coalition government will pay a high political and financial price for its decision to scrap carbon pricing.

In an interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour on Monday, the head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres, said there was a clear link between climate change and bushfires such as those raging in New South Wales.

She noted that the World Meteorological Organisation had not yet established a direct link between the NSW fires and climate change.

Advertisement

“But what is absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency,” Ms Figueres said.

The highly unusual intervention by a senior UN official in a domestic climate policy debate comes three weeks before the next major round of UN-sponsored talks in Warsaw. The negotiations are aiming to reach a global climate treaty by 2015 that would take effect by 2020.

Ms Figueres described the NSW fires as an ”example of what we may be looking at unless we take actually vigorous action”.

The UN negotiator said the new Abbott government had chosen a more difficult and expensive path to emissions reduction than the previous Gillard government – noting that the Coalition had not stepped away from Australia’s commitment to reduce its emissions by 5 per cent by 2020.

”The road that they are choosing to get to the same target that the previous government had could be much more expensive for them and for the population,” Ms Figueres said.

This comes as Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced that the government could bypass the Senate and introduce its ”direct action” carbon abatement policy through regulation.

The UN adviser said the Abbott government would not only pay a high political price but a ”very high financial price” for stepping away from a price on carbon.

”What we need to do is put a price on carbon so that we don’t have to continue to pay the price of carbon,” she said.

Last week, the Australian Greens were criticised for drawing a link between the carbon tax and climate change at the height of the crisis, when homes had been lost and a man had lost his life.

On Monday, Mr Hunt would not be drawn on links between climate change and the NSW fires.

”There are 2000-odd firefighters in the field as we speak, there have been over 200 homes lost and of course a terrible tragedy on the Central Coast,” he told reporters in Canberra.

”No one, no one should be politicising these bushfires.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten said it was not the right time to debate possible links between the bushfires and climate change.

When asked on Monday if climate change made disastrous events such as the NSW fires more likely, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell replied: ”Well, clearly, I think that’s the science.”

He told the ABC’s 7.30 that his job was to translate science into practical action.

”I understand that if you’re planning new developments, if you’re planning greenfield sites, you can ensure whether for flood damage or for fire damage, you build in a certain way,” Mr O’Farrell said.

He said it was difficult to ”retro-fit” already established communities such as the Blue Mountains.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Inferno expected to generate abnormal, high-altitude cloud

October 22, 2013

Nicky Phillips

Science Reporter

The latest NASA satellite image of fires and smoke over Sydney.

A bizarre weather phenomenon known as a fire cloud is likely to form over the fire raging between Lithgow and Bilpin if weather conditions deteriorate from Tuesday, as predicted, say fire analysts.

The unique weather phenomenon – also called a pyrocumulus – occurs when a large fire is coupled with an unstable atmosphere.

Rural Fire Service spokeswoman Natalie Sanders said the State Mine fire, which stretches across more than 42,000 hectares, had generated a pyrocumulus last Thursday and similar, unstable conditions were forecast for Wednesday.
”If these fires are still going strong, there’s a potential for that to happen again,” she said.

Andrew Sullivan, a leading bushfire behaviour researcher with the CSIRO, said the phenomenon required a fire generating a significant amount of heat.

As it burned, the hot air it released would rise as a column into the atmosphere. As air moved upwards, it was quickly replaced by cooler air, a process that produced a convection column.

 

In very large bushfires, these hot-air columns could be ”enormous” and rise high into the atmosphere carrying a large amount of water vapour – one of the main combustion products of fire.

An unstable atmosphere meant that the column could rise higher and higher into the atmosphere, where the temperature was cool enough for the water vapour to condense into a pyrocumulus cloud, said Dr Sullivan, a senior research scientist.

”It’s a cloud formed by the presence of the fire,” he said.

While the clouds typically did not contain enough water to rain and extinguish the fire, under certain conditions they could generate lightning.

”In some cases, the lightning has hit the ground downwind of the fire and started new fire,” he said.

For a large convection column to form, a significant amount of heat needed to be released from the fire, a process that was related to the amount and rate the fire burned through fuel.

While extensive fires with large convection columns could generate strong winds, they did not change the behaviour or direction of the fire, Dr Sullivan said.

”There is this confusion [where] people think a fire has gotten so big that it’s created its own weather and it can do whatever it wants,” he said. ”Well, it doesn’t.

”A fire will still follow the laws of physics and move in the direction the prevailing wind is driving it.”

But, under certain circumstances, fires could generate vortices, or fire tornadoes, with very high wind speeds that could cause significant damage.

The Sydney Morning Herald