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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2970 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

and health clinics. When a person goes to one of those institutions and says, "I would like you to conduct an abortion", or "I want you to give me advice on obtaining an abortion or on issues to do with an abortion", those institutions are able to turn to the provisions of the Crimes Act and say, "We cannot provide you with that information because those matters are illegal under the Crimes Act and to provide advice would be, in some way, to compromise the state of the law, would be to advise you on how to commission", in a theoretical sense at least, "a crime".

So, Mr Speaker, irrespective of what the common law might say, there is a very good reason why the statute law needs to remain in its present form for the protection of those institutions. Now, we might say at the end of the day that the statute law should change. Mr Berry has tabled today an exposure draft of a Bill which, I understand, does purport to want to change the statute law of the Territory. I am sure that, when the time comes, Mr Berry will explain to the community and to the Assembly how he proposes to deal with the problems faced by Catholic institutions in that scenario. I, for one, would be interested in that explanation. However, it is important in the interim - before that day arrives - to preserve the capacity of those sorts of institutions to turn to a provision like that in the Crimes Act at the moment. The danger of this legislation is that, without a provision like clause 3, the provisions which regulate the way in which an abortion will occur, in the sense of making the provision of information and a cooling-off period a prerequisite for conducting an abortion, might be thought to, in effect, overrule those other sections of the Crimes Act, sections 40 to 45, or some of those sections of the Crimes Act, and effectively make abortion a legal activity. It is not the intention of the mover of this Bill that that be the case.

Mr Corbell: So, it asserts the primacy of the Crimes Act?

MR HUMPHRIES: It retains whatever provision of the Crimes Act still applies. It does not affect the common law and it does not affect the terms of the Crimes Act, but it allows those provisions to stand there to one side to do what they have done and continue to do with respect to, in particular, those institutions that I have referred to. Mr Corbell may feel that these things need to come out. I would strongly urge the Assembly not to touch them, to leave them there. They are there on the advice of senior counsel and they are there to protect those institutions who choose not to be engaged in abortion services.

If you are of the view that no health institutions should be able to avoid providing advice about, or even the actual provision of, abortion services, you might want to take those provisions out; but that would be a grossly unfair thing to do to those institutions concerned, particularly to Catholic institutions in this very city who, in some way or another, depend on those provisions of the Crimes Act to conduct their task, their mission, in the way that they do. That is the reason that those provisions are there, not the sinister things which have been spoken about in today's debate and earlier than today. It is a perfectly simple and straightforward explanation. I would say to members: Do not interfere with that clause.

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