Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2180 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
The two-year period is quite reasonable. There are no excuses this time for the report not to come down, it is an ample period of time. I look forward to the report and any further debate on this matter, which is a contentious matter. The opposition thinks it appropriate that the Law Reform Commission consider it. I look forward to their report, and the opposition will be supporting the extension of this bill by another two years.
MS TUCKER (10.47): We will be supporting this extension-however, with some concerns. We made it quite clear in the original debate-as other members did; Mr Stanhope did-that this is a highly complex area and that we need to not take a piecemeal approach to development of legislation.
It is an example of where technology has moved at a much greater pace than the community's understanding of its implications, and we were given a commitment at that point that there would be a thorough look at it by the Law Reform Commission. We have not seen that work done, and I want to put on the record today that the reason, as I understand it, was inadequate resourcing of the work; that it is very important that appropriate resources are committed to any study of law reform; and that it is very important in areas such as this.
When Mr Stanhope introduced the bill, he spoke of work that occurring in other states. This is carried out by bodies that are well resourced, and there is also a national process. I do not have a problem with taking into account work done in other states, but I also think that, as a territory, we need to be clear that we want to look at it, too, and have our own assessment of the very complex issues. Having said that, I will be supporting it.
MS DUNDAS (10.49): I rise to support this bill. I think that the issues of reproductive technology and substitute parenthood are difficult and have to be considered carefully and thoroughly. I am disappointed that, once again, we are delaying discussing these issues because the necessary background work has not yet been completed.
However, until we are fully informed about the legislative concern surrounding this act, it is prudent to leave the current legislative framework in place to ensure continued regulation of substitute parent arrangements. I acknowledge that the current act does not adequately deal with a number of surrogacy issues and that these are very difficult issues indeed. But this does not mean we should not deal with them.
People have been dealing with new technology since the beginning of history, and all technologies can have both good and bad outcomes. There are complex ethical considerations in writing laws with regard to surrogacy as well as artificial insemination, IVF and sperm and egg donors. But it is not good enough for us to leave these problems in limbo. We should not be leaving these arrangements unregulated; nor should we advocate an outright ban unless we are sure that there is no way to use these technologies for the benefit of the people of the ACT.
These parentage order laws have been in place for two years now, and we have not had any huge rush of surrogate pregnancies; nor have we had any high-profile legal cases over the parentage of children in the ACT. However, we should remain vigilant about the social effects. It is currently illegal to engage in commercial surrogacy, and the interests of the child take priority in any parentage order. These are central principles that we should stick to.