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Govt dictates changes to property rights

Sunday 2 April 2000

Govt dictates changes to property rights

National understands that the Cabinet will tomorrow consider major changes to the way in which matrimonial, de facto and same-sex property rights will be handled, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today

Legislation on property rights for de facto couples is due to be debated again in Parliament possibly as early as this week. But National has learnt that Labour intends instead to extend the Matrimonial Property Act to cover de facto and same-sex relationships by means of a supplementary order paper (SOP).

"There are many views in the community about this issue, and instead of dictating its position to Parliament and New Zealanders, the Government should be prepared to listen," Mrs Shipley said.

"National believes marriage represents a commitment and its sanctity should be recognised in law.

"National also believes de facto relationships need recognition in the law and that Parliament must have an opportunity to discuss whether this provision should be extended to same-sex couples.

"National has led a long discussion on these issues and we strongly believe de facto and same-sex issues should be advanced each with a separate statute so that the special nature of the relationships can be better reflected.

"National fully supports having statutory rights for de facto couples. We also support MPs having a conscience vote on whether these rights should be extended to same-sex couples," Mrs Shipley said.

The Law Commission has strongly backed such a view. In its December 1999 report it noted, 'No country has altered its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. To attempt to do so in New Zealand would cause unnecessary and understandable offence.'

The Commission went on to say it seemed far more sensible to devise separate codes for same-sex relationships.

"Instead of forcing the matter through Parliament, the Government should consult the public if it intends to go down the path of having a single statute for married people, de factos and same-sex couples," Mrs Shipley said.

"Such a change should be sent back to a select committee so the public can have its say and more advice can be sought from the Law Commission and others.

"National introduced the De Facto Relationships Property Bill in 1998. We also introduced a separate Bill that strengthened the Matrimonial Property Act.

"I call on Helen Clark to give an assurance that the property rights of marriage be protected by retaining its own legislation. I also call on the Prime Minister to guarantee that the public would have a full opportunity to have their say if the Government is determined to force the merger of all relationships into a single statue," Mrs Shipley said.

Ends

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