Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3432 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
look at that. Mr Berry's motion today highlights the fact that here we have a government legislating on a conscience issue for the first time ever. I do not think it is appropriate. I do not think it should pass without some notice.
This matter was not dealt with in the appropriate way. It should have been dealt with as private members business. I respect the rights of anybody to bring this sort of issue before this place. But it should be done in accordance with our accepted conventions and procedures. It should have been done through private members business and should have been maintained as private members business. Regulations are not an expression of private members business. Regulations can be made only by the Executive. I cannot make a regulation. Mr Kaine cannot make a regulation. Ms Tucker cannot make a regulation. Only the Executive can make regulations. The Executive is the Government. The Government is here legislating on a conscience issue. That is a basic flaw in this process.
Mr Berry's motion, without repeating the pros and cons of the issue we are debating, seeks to bring some rigour back into the legislative process. I believe that in this instance regulations were made contrary to accepted practice. I believe that to some extent they were made ultra vires or outside the power of the Government. Even dismissing that particular argument, Mr Berry is drawing attention to the fact that the regulations exceed the power provided for within the parent Act for the making of regulations. Regulations should not in any way supersede the authority of the Act.
The Act sets out a scheme under which an expert committee is established to provide advice on the information that is to be made available to women seeking an abortion. That is the scheme set out in the Act, the parent document. It is simply not acceptable to use delegated legislation to put in place a scheme that exceeds the authority or the scope of a scheme anticipated by the legislation. That is the thrust of Mr Berry's motion. It is basically to restore to the legislature, to this parliament, its authority to determine how issues such as abortion are dealt with in this community.
To the extent that I believe this Executive has undermined the authority of the parliament by introducing regulations that go beyond the powers expressed by this legislature in the Act, it is simply not acceptable. Mr Berry's motion seeks to restore to this parliament the authority to make decisions about how these difficult and sensitive issues will be dealt with in our community. That power has been removed from the parliament, the legislature, and has been assumed by the Executive. The Executive has taken power away from this parliament in a way that I do not believe is acceptable. I doubt that it is authorised by the law.
That is what the motion does. It should be supported as a recognition of the primacy of the Act and the primacy of the role of the legislature. Mr Berry's amendments to the regulations should be supported for that reason. That is enough without going to the merits of a publication that requires women to look at pictures of foetuses. There is a very important principle at stake here. The amendments to the regulations should be supported.