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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2922 ..

MR KAINE (7.57): There are times when the way debate runs in this place absolutely confounds me, and I suppose that this is one of those occasions. I get the impression from time to time that people have actually switched sides. I come back to the point that I made during the earlier debate about deferring debate until March. I made the point there that the basic purpose of the legislation before us is to deal with the situation where abortions are not unlawful, and there are such cases. It is to make sure that those abortions are carried out properly and - I take the Chief Minister's point - to make sure that women who are contemplating an abortion are fully informed and are able to make a fully informed choice. How anybody can argue that that is not a proper course of action is beyond me.

It astonishes me that some of the things that have been thrown into the debate have nothing to do with the question at all. For example, it was alleged earlier in the afternoon that a group of people were trying to impose a minority religious view on people. In fact, Mr Osborne and Mr Humphries were referred to rather scathingly in that context. The Chief Minister, however, says that she is worried because in this place the pro-lifers are in the majority. You cannot have it both ways. Either the place is under threat because, in some people's terms, there is a majority view which impacts upon the alternative view, or it is a minority view that we are pushing. Which is it? The fact is that it is neither.

To assert that the pro-life view is a view held only by people with a religious conviction is totally wrong. Dozens of people have written to me in the last few months on this subject, and very many of them begin with the proposition: "I am not a deeply religious person but ...". I would guess that a lot of people sitting in this chamber today have had the same sorts of letters. To begin the debate from the viewpoint that this is a minority religious view that somebody is trying to impose is totally wrong, and I was amazed that anybody would try to put such an argument.

As a part of that, there was some criticism of the proposed advisory body because two people from it would actually come from Calvary Hospital. Where is the religious content in that? Those people happen to be medical professionals. Are people saying that they are going to practise their profession somehow directed by the hierarchy of the church that they belong to? If they were all religious people, you might be able to sustain the argument. The fact is that they are not. There are very few members of the religious order at Calvary Hospital. They are lay people, and they are professionals into the bargain. To assert that somehow they are going to pervert the course of justice on an advisory board because they happen to work at a hospital run prima facie by a group of Catholic nuns is just taking the argument a bit too far. I do not accept it, personally.

I thought that the Chief Minister put the argument in a nutshell. She said that for the pro-choice group the status quo is fine. If you start from that premise, nobody need ever do anything about anything. Where there are two sides to an argument and one side says, "As far as we are concerned, that is fine; therefore, you do not need to do anything", we would not be doing much in this place at all, ever. The fact is that the Chief Minister put it very succinctly. For the pro-choice people the status quo is fine, because there is very little threat to them at all in this.

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