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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2889 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Health Insurance Commission on the number of Medicare claims for abortion. It is my understanding that South Australia is the only State in Australia which publishes an annual report on abortions in that State through the committee appointed to examine and report on abortions notified in South Australia.

In terms of clause 16, the quarterly reports for the number of abortions performed at a facility, the reasons for which abortions were performed and the other information are terribly important. One of the points Mr Wood raised was the reasons for which abortions are performed. That, obviously, would be of great benefit in terms of assisting some of the problems Mr Wood talked about during his speech.

I will be supporting Mr Osborne's Bill. I note that Mr Moore and Mr Humphries have a number of amendments. No doubt, we will get to them during the detail stage. But from my reading of this Bill, it is very much an information Bill. I think a large amount of what is contained in there is applicable and should be desirable even to members opposite who are taking a pro-choice stance.

MR CORBELL (4.10): The proposal before this Assembly today is one which is completely unacceptable. It is a proposal which puts at stake the very credibility of this place and its role as the representative decision-making forum on behalf of the people of Canberra. It is a proposal which seeks to impose upon women the moral and religious views of a minority. It seeks to place a legal sanction on the conduct of an activity which we, as legislators, say is a conscience issue but which, at the same time, hypocritically refuses a woman the right to act according to her own conscience. This Bill is a Bill which this Assembly should reject outright.

We are faced with the prospect today of approving a law which will potentially affect over half of the citizens of this Territory. We do this in a chamber where only two of the 17 members are women. We are asked to consider it in the context of significant and complex questions of law, including rulings in several jurisdictions and in the High Court of Australia. We are asked to accept that this Bill should be adopted in principle so that amendments can be considered. As legislators, we all know that less complex questions than this have been referred for lengthy inquiry and report, for public hearing, for public submissions and for detailed advice from public servants and other professionals. Yet that is not what is proposed for this Bill. Instead, it is proposed that we deal with this Bill now, today.

I have seen this Bill for a period of a week. I have seen the amendments for less than 24 hours. Yet the supporters of this Bill and the proposers of the anticipated amendments ask this Assembly to make a decision today - to get it over with, to use a quote that has been heard around this building quite often in the past few weeks, so as to remove the discomfort and political embarrassment which some members feel. That is a situation which I am not prepared to support or condone.

In all good conscience, how can this Assembly today propose to legislate on this profound social, political, legal and moral issue? I say that we cannot. That is why I supported the adjournment proposal earlier today. Because this Bill has been brought on for debate today, my only possible position is to say this: I oppose it and I will vote to defeat it;

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