Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2795 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
There was a clear understanding in this place that the expert panel was to have a discretion. There was a clear understanding to that effect. Making regulations now to subvert the obvious will, as expressed through the language of the legislation, almost certainly will lead to the regulations being struck down.
I will make a couple of other points before I conclude, Mr Speaker. One of the things that concern me greatly about these regulations, and Mr Moore alludes to this in his letter, is the extent to which they are a vote of absolutely no confidence in the expert panel. That is what this is. We thought long and hard about the nature of that expert panel, who should be on it and how it should be comprised. We added to the original proposal. There are seven eminent people on that expert panel and they acted according to the law. They did precisely what was asked of them. Now the Government is saying, "No, we don't like that; we know best". It is as if the panel did not exist. It is as if its members were never appointed.
I think this is a terrible precedent. I think the Minister has generated a terrible precedent by simply not acting as the Minister for Health, accepting the expert panel's advice and position on this, and saying, "I am the Minister; I administer this Act". This is what should have happened. Mr Moore, when he got the expert panel's position on this, should have said, "I am the Minister for Health. This is my expert panel. I either accept or reject that advice". If he rejected it he should have sent it back and asked them to do it again.
If he accepted it, if it accorded with his own beliefs and principles, then he should simply have adopted it. He should have advised his colleagues in Cabinet to mind their own business. If they do not like the way the abortion legislation is constructed, they should have come into this place with a private members Bill and opened the issue up for debate.
I find it completely wrong and a subversion of proper process for the Government to come in like this. Let us not be mistaken about this; only the Government may make regulations. I cannot make a regulation. Ms Tucker cannot make a regulation. I cannot come into this place and introduce regulations to direct the expert panel to include pictures. If I would like the expert panel to include pictures in this information I would have come in here and introduced a private members Bill, and that is what should have happened. Those who seem to have some particular conviction about this matter should have shown the courage of their conviction and come into this place and introduced a private members Bill. To use the power of the Government, the power of the Executive, to overwhelm the intention of this Assembly that the expert panel have a discretion about what should be in that information package is simply an abuse of the power of the Executive.