Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2787 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I have to question the process we have gone through to reach this point. First of all, I have to question why this matter has arisen at all, given that we have had no indication from the Government or from any other member proposing this course of action that the advice of the advisory panel is contrary to the Act itself. There is nothing out there which argues that the advice that the expert medical panel came up with in relation to the provision of information in the pamphlet was contrary to the Act. In fact, it appears that they acted entirely in accordance with the Act.
So why are we overriding their decision? Have they acted illegally or contrary to the Act? I have not seen any legal advice. Perhaps Gary Humphries can get on the phone and get some really quickly, but we have not seen that and it has not been advanced in this debate - not one speck of it.
Mr Speaker, the other point I want to make in this regard is that the Act, according to my reading of it, and any reasonable reading of it, I believe, says that the panel may approve pictures - not shall or will, but may. It has the discretion. It has the discretion to decide whether or not pictures or other non-verbal types of information will be provided in this pamphlet. The panel members exercised their discretion, Mr Speaker. They exercised their discretion and they decided, on medical grounds, that it was not appropriate to include this information. I would like to read for the record what the panel said. The panel said:
It is the unanimous view of the panel that the presentation of pictures or drawings of foetuses is irrelevant and in some cases could be counterproductive and cloud the issues.
My colleague Mr Berry and Mr Moore earlier outlined why, in some cases, it would be counterproductive, such as in cases of foetal abnormality. Mr Speaker, that is the view of the panel. The panel represents people from the public health system and people from a hospital, Calvary Hospital, which, obviously, is a hospital run by a Catholic order. Mr Speaker, you would have expected that there would have been some conflict there. I certainly did when I saw the composition of the panel when it was first proposed. But that did not occur. Why did it not occur? I believe it did not occur, Mr Speaker, because that panel went out of its way to reach the most sensible decision possible about the provision of information. Its members worked together to decide what was in the best interests of women receiving this pamphlet, what was the best possible information to further their interests in making an informed decision, and they came to the conclusion that pictures were not part of that mechanism. I would have thought, Mr Speaker, that that was a pretty strong statement about the relevance of including pictures in this type of information.
Mr Speaker, those are the two grounds on which I find this proposal by some members of the Government most objectionable. Firstly, there is no advice that the panel acted contrary to or outside the Act and, secondly, the panel itself made an expert medical decision and we, as politicians, think we know better. I just cannot accept that, Mr Speaker.