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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2984 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

I think that is an entirely inappropriate thing. For a medical practitioner who performs an abortion in a private hospital not aware that the facility has not yet been approved or does not have the appropriate rating, a five-year gaol sentence is entirely inappropriate. Therefore, I would encourage members to take a different view on this amendment from the view they took on the previous one.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.10 am): Mr Speaker, I would again press the Assembly to retain the provision that is in the Bill at the moment - five years. Mr Moore has described a breach of subclause (2) as being less serious. You can understand why one might regard it as being not especially serious if, in the rather unlikely situation, a Minister has not approved a place as an approved facility and a doctor goes ahead and performs an abortion there. In that situation you could well imagine why a particularly serious penalty should not apply. Of course, in those settings a particularly serious penalty would not apply, because the court, which would exercise the judgment here, would say, "In all the circumstances it is hardly a serious offence", and it would probably not impose any term of imprisonment at all.

But let us look at the other end of the spectrum. Let us look at where you have a person conducting abortions in entirely inappropriate settings - in his private home, for example, with unhygienic, unsterilised equipment - which pose a considerable threat to the health of the woman concerned. In those circumstances you want a capacity to impose a heavy penalty. Let us suppose for argument's sake that a doctor has decided to do some cheap abortions on the side for people who for various reasons perhaps do not qualify to have abortions under the legislation or because the doctor wants a bit of income on the side or whatever, and he conducts some abortions in his own home. In those circumstances there are good reasons why we should say that that is a serious offence and should be punished in an appropriately serious way, not with a maximum fine of $5,000. Mr Speaker, I would press members to consider what is in the Bill as it stands and to support that provision.

MR QUINLAN (12.12 am): Sweet release, Mr Speaker. I find myself disagreeing with Mr Humphries again. Unfortunately, that implies agreeing with Mr Moore. However, you cannot have it all ways. Having set the penalty in subclause 5(1), I think we can look at this particular circumstance in perspective. I do not believe that it needs to be five years' imprisonment. It is not a crime of the same magnitude. If a doctor is, at the same time, guilty of malpractice and improper procedure, et cetera, I am sure there are other penalties that would be very rapidly applied, so I cannot see the real necessity for such a heavy penalty in this particular circumstance.

MR SPEAKER: Do you wish to participate, or are you just having a bit of exercise there, Mr Berry?

MR BERRY (12.13 am): Mr Speaker, if I were you, I would stick with the Speaker's job. As a comedian, you would not make a bob. Again, this is an area which is probably dealt with in other legislation. I find it curious that we are trying to create the impression that backyard abortion is going to be a growth industry. I was listening to Mr Humphries telling us earlier how this law was not going to make any difference to the availability of abortion, yet there seems to be this intense view from Mr Humphries

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