On behalf of the Opposition, I rise to support the apology the Premier has offered to those people who have criminal convictions for a consensual relationship they were involved in which, while deemed illegal in the past, is not illegal today.
In two weeks, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will announce the outcome of a very significant question put to the Australian people – should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?
Those who support the right of same sex couples to marry believe this change is long overdue.
Yet, as overdue as the same sex marriage reform is, it is significant progress from the debate that was had in this House less than three decades ago.
It was only in 1990 that the Criminal Code was amended to remove as crimes certain consensual conduct that unfairly discriminated against those in homosexual relationships.
They are not criminal acts today – and for many, would never have been imagined to have been criminal acts.
However, there was a time when such consensual conduct was unlawful and left decent, worthy and otherwise law-abiding members of our community open to discrimination, alienation, entrapment, blackmail – and prosecution and a criminal record.
Although by reason of changing attitudes the prospect of police action and prosecution became increasingly infrequent and finally stopped well before the law was changed, criminal records nevertheless still exist today for people who would not now be charged.
The fact they have a criminal record is not just a wrong of the past, it resulted in dreadful disruption to those people who had criminal convictions recorded against them, ranging from embarrassment to serious psychological and emotional distress, as well as discrimination and reduced opportunities in life.
Our society has changed over the years.
We are a more compassionate and caring society.
We are more inclusive and understanding.
It is regrettable that our predecessors passed laws many years ago that saw criminal convictions recorded against homosexuals involved in a consensual relationship.
Our Parliament did the right thing close to thirty years ago decriminalizing such conduct, although one can still see from the preamble to the relevant Act of Parliament some prevailing social attitudes that we have since advanced beyond.
But the legacy of those attitudes, and the criminal records, remained for those who had crimes recorded against them.
As the Premier indicated, the Government will be introducing legislation to expunge those crimes.
I know that legislation was being worked on prior to the March election based on the experience of other jurisdictions with a view to crafting a ‘best practice’ model for addressing the issue.
Of course, we will, as part of our responsibility, consider any Bill on its merits to ensure that it does what it is meant to achieve. But I can indicate that the Liberal Party supports this initiative to correct past injustices..
This Parliament, and Parliaments around the nation, have apologised for past decisions of previous Governments, that may have seemed appropriate at the time, but by today’s standards, are simply wrong.
The recording of criminal convictions for sexual conduct between adults exercising informed consent in private, and particularly in a consensual relationship, may have been deemed appropriate decades ago, but today, we know that it is not, and should never have been, a crime.
Parliaments have the opportunity to correct the wrongs of past decisions, and our Parliament has the opportunity to do that.
A previous Parliament took the first and tentative step to address this matter in the 1990s.
This Parliament can now go on to complete the job.
Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Opposition, to those who today have criminal records simply for being in a loving and consensual relationship, we say sorry.
1 November 2017