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Proposed Vic Relationship Register Hazy

The Victorian government recently introduced legislation to Parliament for a

relationships register. But how adequately does it support same-sex couples?

The Brumby government has announced plans to improve IVF and surrogacy laws. But

adoption was handballed to the national Council of Community Services Ministers. This

will, at best, delay or, at worst, prevent the equalising of adoption laws. When Premier

Brumby calls for “national consistency” in the law, it’s code for “lowest common

denominator,” because consensus is near impossible. Same-sex couples in Victoria ought

to be trusted as mature adults and given the right to adopt, as they are in other states.

One of the aims of the register was to broaden access to justice for same-sex couples.

But access means wide availability, a point on which the current proposal is hazy.

Although Attorney-General Rob Hulls told Parliament that all couples would be eligible

to register, the legislation itself implies that only partners who satisfy the definition

of “domestic partner” under 2001 legislation will qualify — and not all couples will

meet the criteria. This needs further clarification, as legal challenges to the status of a

registered partnership are the last thing we need. Same-sex couples ought to be granted

the dignity of having the government believe them when they declare their relationship:

no further criteria should apply for couples to register.

Finally, same-sex relationships are beginning to be accepted by the mainstream, after

a long and difficult road. But the next step, logically, is the public celebration of the

relationships that bring happiness to so many lives: this means official ceremonies.

When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd poignantly said the need for an apology to the Stolen

Generations was “about respect,” it raised the question of same-sex relationships.

Affirming our relationships is about respect. And why shouldn’t healthy, loving

relationships be celebrated? When many same-sex couples are still afraid to hold hands

publicly, we don’t need laws that continue to keep them in the closet. Victoria has a

unique opportunity to make a bold statement for social inclusion. Same-sex relationships

— like all relationships — are something to celebrate. It’s time for civil unions in

Victoria.

John Kloprogge

Civil Union Action, Vic

Provocative policing at APEC

I’m sending some photos I took at the protests last September against John Howard,

George Bush and the neoliberal political agenda of the APEC meeting. I travelled up to

Sydney by bus with the Socialist Party. We were harassed on the way when the police

stopped us at Tarcutta and conducted a drug search that lasted more than two hours! One

of my photos is taken from inside the minibus at the start of this search. The New South

Wales police were given extraordinary new powers to intimidate protesters. But despite

the provocative policing, more than 10,000 people protested in Sydney. I was proud to be

amongst them.

Jocelyn Hunter

Roxburgh Park, Vic

Compton’s Diner Riot — Pioneering queer resistance

It’s queer trivia time! Q: Which era has been the most queerphobic in Australian federal

political history? A: March 1996 to November 2007. (All right, that was an easy one to

get you warmed up!)

Q: Which year did Victoria’s transgendered people obtain Equal Opportunity protection

via the inclusion of the gender identity attribute? A: 2000, (OK, that was the educational

question.)

Q: What date is considered the birthdate of modern queer liberation?

So who said, “Easy: June 28, 1969, Stonewall, New York”? And are those who said that

now shocked to hear the Family Feud buzzer going off?

The Compton’s Diner riot took place in August 1966 – nearly three years before

Stonewall. The date many know as the birth of queer liberation happened when queer

liberation was already toddling.

What was the riot all about? In 1960s San Francisco, where cross-dressing was still

illegal and harassment of gender-diverse people rife, Gene Compton’s diner on Turk

street in the Tenderloin district was a hangout for gender-diverse, young and queer folk.

However, new management in the first half of 1966 started discouraging such people

from being around. Security guards and police began harassment and random arrests for

female impersonation. A progressive political group, Vanguard, held a protest outside

Compton’s in July to protest these actions. Resistance continued, and the riot followed

the next month.

But it was worth it. Police harassment stopped, the anti-cross-dressing laws were

changed, social services advanced and people were able to get ID cards in their affirmed

gender to assist with achieving their rights in employment and education. This sounds

pretty much like the current Australian trans wish list, particularly at a federal level, now

that the Howard white-collar dictatorship is at an end.

So how come the Compton’s riot rarely gets a mention? Seems the same as Stonewall:

queers fighting back against systemic institutionalised repressions, brawls, police

violence. Is it because it’s simply lesser known?

It’s time this event received its rightful place in queer history. The trans community uses

15 August as International Trans Awareness Day. This is a separate date from November

20, which is International Trans Remembrance Day www.gender.org/remember/

day/. So starting next year, let’s have all queers and supporters honour and remember

those who took a stand for us everywhere.

See www.sgn.org/sgnnews30/page34.cfm for more about what happened at Comptons.

Sally Goldner

North Fitzroy, Vic

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Sally Goldner for this fascinating contribution. The

Compton’s Riot indeed deserves a proud place in queer history! We applaud ongoing

efforts to uncover the hidden history of queer liberation. For more insights into the

Compton’s Riots watch out for the documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at

Compton’s Cafeteria produced by Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman.

No to the Desalination Plant

As a longstanding resident of the Wonthaggi region, I am appalled at the state

government’s proposal to build a 3.1 billion dollar desalination plant at Williamson’s

Beach, a beautiful and rugged part of our sensitive coastline. Not only will this idea be

an environmental disaster, the process that has been followed has been underhanded

and is a political stunt to gain votes for Brumby in Melbourne, rather than to deliver an

environmentally friendly solution to the state’s water shortages.

Desalination is a process where seawater — and various sea life which is small enough

to get through the filters — is pumped out of the ocean. Then through the process of

reverse osmosis, the salt is removed. The waste, which is salty brine and the chemicals

used to keep the membranes clean, is then pumped back into the ocean.

As yet, we have little understanding of how this added salinity and pollution could

affect the marine ecosystem. The waters around the area support the endangered fairy

penguin, whales, seals and vast quantities of other marine animals and plants. They are

also popular tourist destinations and surfers’ playgrounds, and they support a sustainable,

controlled fishing industry. Recently, important dinosaur fossils were also found on the

site and the local Aboriginal people, the Bunnarong, have suggested that the site could be

a traditional burial ground.

Residents are not only concerned about the obvious problems associated with the

briny soup that will be pumped back into the ocean, as well as the environmental

costs in building the monstrosity, they are also concerned about the rushed process.

An Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is yet to be conducted. Planning Minister

Justin Madden has yet to decide if an EES is necessary, stating that one of the largest

desalination plants to be built in the world will have “no significant impact on the

environment!”

Well, according to Bass Coast Council, the plant will generate 80 tonnes of waste a

day to be put in landfill, and it is estimated that it will produce 1.2 million tonnes of

greenhouse gas each year! How can this not have an effect on our environment? The

local council is lobbying all Victorian councils to ask them to support its demand for an

EES.

So what are the benefits of desalination? The likely increased cost of water to Melbourne

residents? The pollution to both the ocean and atmosphere from greenhouse emissions?

The industrial eyesore that will soon dominate the stunning coastline? The loss of

irreplaceable fossil evidence and important cultural lands? The only obvious benefit is

to Premier Brumby: he can turn around and say to voters already supporting him that his

government has provided Melbourne with water.

When you consider that recycling wastewater is a cheaper and less energy-intensive

method for making more water available, this rushed unresearched decision makes no

sense. According to Jamie Pittock, Director of World Wide Fund for Nature’s Global

Freshwater Program, “large desalination plants might rapidly become ‘the new dams’ and

obscure the importance of real conservation of rivers and wetlands.”

So don’t be fooled into thinking that desalination is the panacea for all water ills — it is

a stopgap exercise designed to win votes. We need to look toward the future and find

environmentally friendly, sustainable ways to manage our limited water supplies.

Michelle Dal Masetto

Wonthaggi, Vic

Editor’s note: Since Michelle Dal Masetto submitted this piece, the campaign has gone

from strength to strength! The state government recently announced that it will conduct

an EES.

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