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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2824 ..

MR CORNWELL (4.03): I must admit, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I was quite satisfied with the November law. In fact, I thought that this Assembly reached a very sensible, satisfactory compromise on the matter. But I accept that what came forward after what we thought was the end of the matter in November has created a problem, which we are addressing today. However, I must state quite clearly that I am tired of this matter coming up every year in this Assembly and I will have something - - -

Mr Berry: That is okay. Decriminalise it, throw this out and it will not come up again.

MR CORNWELL: If you will stop interjecting, Mr Berry, I will have something to say on the matter later in my comments. I do accept that people who hold strong views on this matter, either against abortion or in favour of it, have a right to put their view. But I have now reached a decision that this right needs to be supported by the public, and only in a referendum. I believe that it is not sufficiently convincing for 17 people in this Assembly - ironically, at this point, as Mr Berry stated earlier today, 15 males and two women - to be making this decision. Politicians have a nasty habit of adopting political and moral elitism. That is why I say that we should think in terms of involving more of the community.

Bear in mind that only nine members of this 17-member Assembly need to be of the one view in, say, the next Assembly and whatever is decided in this Assembly could be turned around. In a subsequent Assembly, perhaps, a majority of nine could have the opposite view and it could be turned around again. I suggest that that is an absurdity. It is certainly not a sensible way of creating or, indeed, administering law, least of all on such an important issue as this one; hence, as I say, my suggestion that matters of this nature in future should be decided by referendum.

Despite the claims that there was an inference in the November debate for pictures to be included, I am aware that the use of the word "may" in the legislation makes it different from the use of the word "shall", as should every other member of this Assembly, otherwise they should not be here, I would suggest. Nevertheless, I do support the Chief Minister's view that full information should be made available to people. It really does not matter what the medical procedure may be. I know that medical practitioners are not always keen to tell you what is going to happen, but I think that there is a right to know.

If an advisory panel such as exists in this case declined unanimously to make a decision on this matter, one could ask why we should override it. I do not see a great problem with that because the requirement is only to include pictures in this brochure. Women need not read the brochure. In fact, as somebody expressed earlier, women may put the brochure in the bin. However, it is not the case, as Ms Tucker implied it is, that a Minister must ensure - I do not know how a Minister would ensure it, by the way - that these brochures are read. I suppose a Minister can ensure that they are available, but a Minister cannot ensure that they are read, Ms Tucker.

Of course, you omitted to add the other phrase, that is, that the Minister must ensure that, as far as practicable, copies of a current pamphlet are made available. I think "as far as practicable" is a fairly important phrase within that law. I repeat that there is no compulsion on any woman to read the brochure or to look at these pictures.

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