Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2945 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Mr Moore, it appears, has been working for a number of days on a package of legislation. He did not take me into his confidence. I learnt late yesterday afternoon of Mr Moore's intentions. I received before lunchtime today Mr Moore's legislative package. This might seem like a terrible failing on my part, but I have yet to open it. I have yet to read the first section of Mr Moore's legislative package. I have been engaged in this debate today. I have been listening intently to it. I am yet to open the document.
It is an absolute nonsense that we should proceed to finalise this issue tonight. Referring this matter to a select committee is the only reasonable thing to do. It is what we should have done when this debate started at half past 10 this morning. We should have agreed then to do the right thing and refer this matter off to a select committee for inquiry so that we could come to understand the implications of everything we propose to do.
That view is backed up by the evidence and the advice that we have received over the last couple of days. I am intrigued at the trite way in which the views of the DPP are dismissed by the Attorney. We are not talking here about some junior clerk; we are talking here about the second or third law officer of the Territory. The second or third most senior law officer in the ACT saw fit to advise his Minister that he had problems with the piece of legislation which this body is dealing with today. This is no trifling matter. The ACT Discrimination Commissioner, a statutory officer, has informed this committee that the Bill we are dealing with probably infringes international conventions. Yet we think, "Oh, well; so what? We will just ride over the top of that. What is a little UN convention here or there? The ACT Legislative Assembly does not mind impinging on UN conventions. We will just run over the top of those". That is truly appalling. And we will do that without the benefit of the advice potentially available to us from those officers, from representatives of women in the ACT and from individual women who would wish to put their perspective to a select committee of this place.
I am not afraid of this issue. My head is not in the sand. I am prepared to take the hard decisions that need to be taken on this, ill-equipped as I am. But I am mindful of the issue that has been raised here on a number of occasions - the fact that 15 of us here are men. I seek to empathise and understand the issue of abortion from the perspective of a woman. I seek to do that, but of course I cannot. None of us 15 men can. It is a physical impossibility for us. We try to deal with this as a matter of principle, in accordance with our own consciences. But who are we to deny to women's organisations and individual women the right to come before a select committee of this place and put their perspectives to us? What right do we have to deny them the opportunity to come and say to us, their elected representatives, "This is what it means. What you are proposing to do to me means this to me".
I read in the latest amendment circulated by the Attorney-General:
A person shall not perform an abortion on a woman unless the consent of the woman has been obtained in writing, specifying the time and date of the consent.
Penalty: 200 penalty units.