MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — I am pleased to rise to exercise a right of reply on behalf of the government. I think it is timely to reflect on exactly what this bill is before us. Firstly, the birth certificate reforms do not compromise the integrity of the Victorian births, deaths and marriages registry; the birth certificate reforms do not put women’s safety at risk; and the birth certificate reforms do not mean Victorian law is inconsistent with the commonwealth Marriage Act of 1961. The birth certificate reforms do remove the barriers for trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians to apply for new birth certificates; they do enable trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians to have documents that match their gender identity; and they do support trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians to go about their daily life free of discrimination.
The proposed reforms recognise the significance of a person making an alteration to their birth record by providing safeguards and formalities to ensure the integrity of the Victorian births, deaths and marriages register is not compromised. If you or a member of your family are not a transgender, gender diverse or intersex person, these proposed changes will not affect you, and the recording of your family history will not be affected. This is not a compulsory situation. A child’s sex at birth will still be registered as male or female. The Victorian register of births, deaths and marriages retains the birth registration statement for a child. The registrar of births, deaths and marriages can provide access to the register to certain people or organisations in accordance with the access provisions in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 and the births, deaths and marriages access policy.
In terms of penalties of misuse, there is a low risk of misuse associated with the proposed new application process, which has a range of safeguards and penalties for misuse built in. The applicant must fill in a statutory declaration. Anyone making a false statutory declaration will be liable for perjury, which attracts a maximum 15-year term of imprisonment under the Crimes Act 1958. There are also penalties under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act for making a false or misleading representation to the registrar. The registrar also has the power to require further information to establish that the alteration of the record is not being sought for a fraudulent or other improper purpose.
Now, in terms of women’s safety, the proposed reforms do not put women’s safety at risk. The bill does not make it somehow easier for men to gain access to women’s change rooms or toilets. Access to these places does not currently require a copy of a birth certificate, and fraudulently altering a birth certificate for this purpose would likely incur the penalties outlined above. People using gym change rooms or other gender-segregated spaces are at no greater or lesser risk due to these proposed reforms.
In respect of marriage the bill does not alter the status of marriage under the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. The Marriage Act is concerned with a person’s sex at the time of marriage and requires that it be between a man and a woman. It does not require that parties to the marriage remain of the opposite sex for the duration of the marriage, nor is the change of a spouse’s sex a ground for invalidating a marriage. The proposed reforms simply mean that if a married person alters their sex, only their record of sex in their birth registration changes.
Acting President, I put it to you that all Victorians have the right to live free of discrimination and harassment. The Andrews Labor government is determined to ensure Victoria is a safe, inclusive, welcoming place for everyone, including trans, gender diverse and intersex people.
Can I say in respect of the debate that I have listened to this afternoon we have had a range of people getting up one after another giving excuses, wanting to support different ways of living but at the same time running the other way. Then we have had other people who have made contributions that I have found absolutely objectionable. For these people to come in here and talk about choice is just ludicrous. It demonstrates that they have not understood what it is like to be trans or gender diverse. They have not asked questions, they have not educated themselves and they have not talked to people who are not heterosexual or homosexual. They have not gone that step further to also introduce themselves to a whole range of our community that exists, and all these people simply want from us is for us to recognise that they exist and they are valid.
I do believe that the practice and the concept of equality needs to be enshrined, and it needs to be the foundation of what we consider to be our collective humanity as a society. If we vote this up, we have gone one more step towards it.