Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2832 ..
MR OSBORNE: It is that specific. I look forward to hearing from Mr Stanhope on what he thought the High Court said. Mr Speaker, this matter is not about whether women have access to an abortion; it is about what information is provided. I will be supporting Mr Humphries and Mr Smyth. The reality is that today not one person opposed to this matter has been able to counter what the High Court has said in relation to the provision of information. I throw it back to members opposite and I look forward to someone from their side disputing what the High Court has had to say.
MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (4.36): Mr Speaker, I do not want to speak at great length, but I do want to try to cover all the issues that have been raised by members so far in the debate and to try to address points and concerns that have been raised. Let me say, by way of an opening comment, that in the course of this debate we have had accusations thrown backwards and forwards across the chamber about who is being patronising, who is being paternalistic and who is dumping on women. Mr Berry said that the attitude of those who supported these regulations was akin to that of those of society in the nineteenth century who treated women as chattels.
I have to say that the view that I take of those who have opposed this provision about providing information to women reminds me very much of a scene in a movie I saw some years ago - a comedy - where some doctors were attending at the birth of a baby. The woman was there in the stirrups and the doctors were arguing about something or other to do with the birth. At that point, the woman said, "What is going on? What is happening?", and one of the doctors leaned over and said to her, "Do not worry yourself about it, my dear, you are not qualified", and leaned backwards.
That is the attitude we are seeing from those opposite today: "Do not worry about this information, women. You do not need to know about it. We believe that the doctors know best about what is provided to you. We will provide this information in the form that the doctors choose to provide it to you. Do not worry about information that might upset you or disturb you or that might not be in your interests as the doctors define it. We will make sure that none of that information comes before you during a difficult period". I do not think that is consistent with anything that we have been saying in recent years about access to information for people in medical settings. I think that opposition to this regulation owes more to the medical practices of the 1950s and 1960s, where people found out only what it was in their interest to know as defined by the doctor, than it does to attitudes in the late 1990s.
Let me go through some of the arguments that have been put in the course of this debate, Mr Speaker. I will start with the comment that we have had an expert panel decide this issue and we should not be intervening in the matter. I want to quote what members had to say just a few weeks ago when an expert report was handed down in the Assembly on a particular issue to do with assessment of a betterment tax or change of use charge. I quote first of all Mr Corbell, who said:
...I am sure that members of the Government are going to stand up in this place shortly and they are going to say, "You do not like the umpire's finding. You want to revisit it again". Well, I invite the