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Same Sex: Submissions

My partner is from the USA and I am from the UK. When he was transferred to Australia by his company more than ten years ago, on a working visa, despite the fact that we had been together for three years, I was not allowed to come with him as his spouse.

Because we are not a young couple - I am 56 this year, my partner 53 - I had great difficulty in getting a visa in my own right, and we had to rely on a series of tourist visas, failed visa applications and appeals to stay together until he eventually gained permanent residency and I could apply as his dependent partner. Eventually we both took Australian citizenship.

For more than five years I was unable to work, and had to leave the country regularly, never knowing if I would be allowed back.

This not only imposed a great strain on our relationship, but also a considerable financial burden. It rendered me unemployable - I have only, finally, gained regular paid (part-time) employment this year, after working as an unpaid volunteer for years to re-establish my credentials.

If our relationship had been recognized at the outset, as a heterosexual marriage would have been, none of this would have happened. I might, for example, still have my own superannuation fund, instead of having to rely on my partners.

But even there I will not, as the current law stands, be granted full rights as a spouse, such as a survivor pension. Nor can we split our income to improve my superannuation position. I do not know what we will face as we approach retirement. Australia is currently not a good place to be in your fifties and looking for work, and we neither of us know how much longer either of us will be able to earn a living.

I am not entitled to any of the benefits from my partner's employer which should flow to the spouse of an employee, such as discounted health insurance or subsidised travel and accommodation offered to accompanying spouses on business trips.

We must purchase our own private health insurance.

We must both pay taxes as two singles - we are not entitled to any of the allowances available to couples.

My partner has a heart condition, high cholesterol and is borderline diabetic, conditions which will only worsen as he ages, and I will no doubt be subject to the usual problems of ageing. Yet we will not be entitled to full pharmaceutical benefits as a couple.

We have, at our own expense, set up a series of legal provisions, such as powers of attorney, wills etc., to try to protect and provide for one another, but we do not know how effective they will be.

In short, we pay more for everything, and yet receive far less. And despite paying very large amounts of tax, superannuation and compulsory surcharge - my partner is in the highest tax bracket - we have no certain prospect of a reasonable retirement.

We do not ask for any special treatment, merely equal treatment with our heterosexual counterparts. And the simplest and fairest way to achieve that is to recognize us for what we are - a hardworking, taxpaying, self-supporting middle-aged married couple.

Doug Pollard