Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 540..
MR STEFANIAK (8.48): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 2 at page 603]. This amendment will delete clause 9 (2). I don't think anyone would have any problems with clause 9 (1), everyone has the right to life, and, in particular, no-one may be arbitrarily deprived of life. But I think a lot of people would have a problem with subclause (2), which states, "This section applies to a person from the time of birth."I think a lot of people would have a problem with that. This is an interesting subclause. I think it's in there because some people on the other side are really quite comfortable with this concept. A lot of people in our community are not. Maybe it relates to issues around abortion. I think there are greater issues than that. First, a lot of people in our community are very concerned about abortion, and to have the right to life from the time of birth creates some very, very real problems.
There would be people in our community quite prepared to accept the right to abortion but who would have a huge problem with this. They would recognise that if a woman was seven or eight months pregnant the child would be virtually fully formed. Even when one talks about abortion there is an ideal period in which an abortion can be performed and after which period of time it is basically just not on. This is an amazing subclause that has been put in here and it really does jump out at you. Hence my amendment to have subclause 9 (2) omitted. Mary Joseph put out a press release from the Right to Life Association, some of which I think has been mentioned earlier by my colleague Mr Smyth. I think it is appropriate to read this into the record. It is headed, "Bill of rights puts limits on the right to life. ACT will violate international human rights law". The guts of the release states:
Human rights will be taken away from our smaller citizens if the ACT Government's Human Rights Bill 2003 is passed, president of the ACT Right to Life Association, Mary Joseph, said today.
The ACT's proposed bill of rights was introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly in November last year. It's a Human Rights Bill 2003 by the Stanhope Government. The Government claims the bill is based on the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, but it violates article 6 of the covenant which protects the right to life without any qualification or limitation whatsoever. This bill states that the right to life shall apply to a person from the point of birth, Ms Joseph said.
The 'from the point of birth' condition is an exclusionary clause that is found nowhere in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights or in international human rights law. It is an express violation of the convention on the rights of the child which Australia has signed and ratified. The universal declaration of human rights recognises children's rights to special safeguards and care including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth.
Article 4 of the ICCPR stipulates that no government can derogate from the right to life even in times of public emergency. Article 50 states that no federal or state government may put limits on any of the rights contained in the covenant.
The human rights of children before as well as after birth have been recognised for 80 years going back to the Geneva declaration of 1924. They cannot be taken