Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3012 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I would like to examine this issue much more carefully in regards to that convention. I understand that young people can make their own decisions about their health care at 15 years of age, although it may be 14. I am not sure; I have not been able to clarify that.
Mr Stanhope mentioned the ruling in the Gillick case that a young person can be shown to be competent to make decisions at quite a young age. Mr Humphries said that he would hope to give his child supportive assistance. That is fine; no-one is stopping that happening. If his child has a good relationship with him, she will probably go to him and accept that supportive assistance. That would be the child's life decision to go to the parent. But to impose that on a young person is not respectful of their right to make their own decisions and it does not take into account the varied circumstances that families find themselves in and the complexity of relationships within families.
It is a joke to say that the average young person under 16 years of age is going to be easily able to access a court. Even if they were able to access it, as other members have pointed out, it is an extremely traumatic process to have to go through at, obviously, a very traumatic time for that young person. Once again, this is something that has been put together too quickly. We have not had time to evaluate the proposal. In the short time I have had to look at it, there is no way I could support it.
MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (1.55 am): Mr Speaker, I will not be supporting it, either. I will not be supporting it for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is a very personal one. Having worked for many years behind the counter in a pharmacy and helped quite a number of young women, particularly before terminations were available in Canberra, to go to Sydney and supported them through that, I know that in many circumstances girls simply will not go to their parents - for all sorts of reasons that we cannot even think about right now. I just do not believe it is an appropriate way to go. It is also, of course, legally unnecessary, as the law is quite clear right now that mature adolescents, adolescents that are capable of making a decision, are able to give consent.
Consent is required for abortions right this minute. If girls are not old enough to be able to understand what is happening, they have to get a parent's consent right now. So, right now, the 13-year-olds that Mr Osborne is talking about will more than likely need parental consent simply because they would not qualify as mature adolescents under common law. More than likely, it would not be possible for them to show that they were mature and understood the whole circumstance and, therefore, they would not qualify right now. I think we have a situation where it is unnecessary and destructive to go down the path of requiring parental involvement. I have to say from a personal involvement with girls requiring terminations that it really could cause some very significant damage to a number of young girls.
MR HIRD (1.57 am): Mr Speaker, I reluctantly joined the debate at a late time. In my 24 years in and out either an advisory body or this place prior to self-government and since self-government, this issue has been on the agenda on many occasions, as you would know, Mr Speaker. I will not be supporting Mr Humphries on the occasion of this amendment. I will be supporting Mr Moore, for the very reasons that the Chief Minister indicated.