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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1361 ..

Ms Carnell: Is there any date on when this will be debated?

MR STANHOPE: It was introduced in an irregular way.

Ms Carnell: Yes, but there is no date on when it will be debated.

MR STANHOPE: Precisely. We are concerned that those forces that support that sort of process will support this debate being brought on without any due community debate or consideration. It is not a matter, Chief Minister, as you have just suggested, that nobody in this place will change their mind over coming days or weeks or months, depending on when this is debated. That is completely irrelevant.

This is one of those issues that go to the conscience of everybody in the community. Everybody in the community finds this a most difficult issue. It is an extremely difficult issue for everybody, irrespective of the side which we come down on. It appals me that we could even contemplate debating and passing this sort of legislation without due, careful, considered and detailed community debate and consultation. I have already had into my office a couple of dozen calls, which I have not even been able to respond to yet, from people extremely concerned at what has happened here today. We have to accept the need for a long and considered period of community debate and consultation on this. All Mr Berry's motion seeks to do is to ensure that there is a guaranteed opportunity for community debate and consultation. That is all it is doing.

This is not a question of settling scores. It is about guaranteeing an opportunity for the community to be engaged in this debate, to be consulted about it, to be consulted about one of the most difficult issues that any human being has to struggle with. That the Liberal Party could stand up and announce that it will not support a community debate on abortion is absolutely appalling. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You should quite genuinely be ashamed that you do not believe that the people of this community have a right to be involved in this debate. That is just shameful.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (3.14): Mr Speaker, since the time this piece of legislation was introduced some 31/2 hours ago, there has already been an Assembly rife with rumours. Those rumours have included one that a deal was done between Mr Osborne and the Chief Minister. As I pointed out in a press conference, that is ridiculous. There was no point in doing that. Of more concern to me are the rumours that debate on this legislation may be brought on early. Mr Speaker, in the very brief time I have had available to me I have been going through the legislation with officers from the Department of Health to try to determine the ramifications that this legislation might have and how it compares to the common law we currently have. The issues are particularly complex.

I have already been speaking to the professor of the Clinical School, Professor Ellwood, who deals with women's health and paediatrics. He has said to me he will even have to consider whether he remains in Canberra if this legislation goes through. The number of psychiatrists in Canberra - we know we have a shortage, particularly of public psychiatrists - who are diverting their work to deal with this issue also needs to be dealt with carefully. It is appropriate for us to have time to assess the legislation with great care, because the legislation does have major ramifications.

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