Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2965 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I am mindful of the debate that we have had today about what it is that members think that this Bill is doing. I am mindful particularly of the contributions to the debate of Mr Stefaniak, Mr Smyth and others, that this really is just a piece of legislation to ensure that women have available to them some appropriate information before they decide whether or not to have an abortion. This seems to be the view of some of those supporting this legislation, that it is harmless, that it is nothing to be worried about, that we are just ensuring that women are appropriately informed.
Then we look at the objects and the objects do not go to just ensuring that women are appropriately informed. They go to those issues of whether or not a woman has thought seriously about whether or not she should have an abortion. For goodness sake, we are in the business now of ensuring that women that make what I am sure is one of the hardest, most traumatic and awful decisions have thought about it. It goes back to the point I made previously about the fact that we are a group of men, generally, making this decision and we are imposing our life experiences on women. We cannot understand the sorts of decisions they have to make as it is simply not possible for us to because of our life experiences. We have denied, through the denial of a committee inquiry, women the opportunity of coming before a committee to tell us what these sorts of provisions mean to them and will mean to them. Yet we are going ahead with that sort of provision with an object of this Act being to ensure that women have carefully considered the decision.
I am particularly interested in object (e) - to protect the privacy of women having abortions. I am particularly interested in that in the context of the advice received in the last week from the Discrimination Commissioner that this legislation almost certainly infringes UN conventions going primarily to privacy. Here we have a Bill with the stated object of protecting the privacy of women having abortions and, at the same time as we are considering whether to include that within this piece of legislation, we are completely ignoring advice from the ACT Discrimination Commissioner that the legislation, in her view, offends the Discrimination Act.
We have also ignored completely the scrutiny of Bills committee report - a committee, as I have pointed out, chaired by Mr Osborne - that raises the very same issue, that in order to seriously consider this legislation we need to take into account all those rights issues. We chose not to do that. It seems so incongruous to me that we are now debating a provision designed to protect the privacy of women having abortions when, on the very same day that we are debating this clause, we completely ignored advice from the ACT Discrimination Commissioner that the legislation almost certainly offends the ACT Discrimination Act. What a nonsense!
Mr Moore: That is what this amendment does. Can't you understand anything?
MR STANHOPE: It does not do it. The advice is there from the Discrimination Commissioner that this legislation potentially offends the Discrimination Act.
Mr Moore: This is not the legislation. This is an amendment to fix it.
MR SPEAKER: Order!