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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2969 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

What does that mean for the provision of termination services for women in Canberra? Does it mean that staff, for instance, at the Reproductive Healthcare Services clinic may feel that they have no option, however committed they are to their jobs, but to stop providing terminations for fear of prosecution? Does it mean that? I have a feeling that it does.

Mr Humphries: Simon, please! That argument is beneath you. You are more intelligent than that.

MR CORBELL: Mr Humphries continues to yell insults across the chamber. He will have an opportunity to respond later in the debate. If he feels so vehemently about it, I am sure that he will take it up. But, Mr Speaker, at the end of the day, is it appropriate to make reference to the Crimes Act in this legislation? The only reason I can see for having a reference to the Crimes Act in this legislation is to invite the opportunity to test this law in the courts and to invite the opportunity to test whether or not terminations are legal in the ACT, full stop. That, for me, as a layman but as a legislator, seems to be the only potential reason for the reference.

Even though we are considering amendments that are meant to strengthen the provision of terminations to women in Canberra over what would otherwise take effect through this Bill, I cannot abide a provision that could actually threaten the provision of those terminations. It is an issue that has been widely overlooked in this debate; nonetheless, I think it is one which is relevant and important. I would be interested in the comments of other members in relation to this clause, but I have a grave concern that it will invite those prosecutions.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.12): Mr Speaker, if Mr Corbell seriously believes what he has just said, I suppose he is entitled to form his views in whichever way he wants. But it is, I think, irresponsible to run around promoting that kind of claptrap when there are, in fact, very good reasons for those provisions appearing in the legislation in the way in which they do. Mr Speaker, let me take members back a little to some of the background to abortion law in the ACT. Under the Crimes Act, sections 40 to 45, there are quite specific offences spelt out in relation to crimes associated with procuring a miscarriage of a woman. Those provisions are, on the face of it, quite explicit or fairly unambiguous.

In fact, the common law of the ACT is thought to be that those provisions are modified, particularly as far as the word "lawfully" or "unlawfully" - I forget which it is; "unlawfully", I think it is - is concerned in those provisions, to create, in effect, the capacity for abortion to occur legally in a range of circumstances. The Menhennitt and Levine rulings in cases in Victoria and New South Wales give rise to common law which is assumed to apply in the ACT. There is no reason to suppose it does not apply in the ACT.

But, Mr Speaker, there is an important reason why one would turn to look at the provisions in the Crimes Act, and that is particularly as far as institutions - health institutions in particular - which have a policy of not administering services to do with abortion are concerned. In particular, I am referring here to Catholic hospitals

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