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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2546 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In light of the evidence presented, I support the decriminalisation of abortion in the ACT through the repeal of relevant sections of the Crimes Act 1900, the repeal of the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act 1998, and the introduction of amendments to the Medical Practitioners Act with the aim of regulating abortion as a medical procedure rather than a criminal issue or act. I look forward to a sensible outcome that protects the rights of women and ensures the best health outcomes for women considering an abortion.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (3.38): I will be supporting Mr Berry's bill today, consistent with the approach I have adopted on previous occasions when this matter and related issues have been debated in this place. As other members have said, particularly Mr Berry, abortions should be safe, they should be legal and they should be rare. Already in the ACT we have a range of measures that go to addressing the issues of making abortion safe. We have already a range of provisions that ensure that it is as rare as it is possible to be. What we are doing in passing this legislation today, if indeed it is passed, is that we are seeking once and for all to ensure that it is also legal and that it is not an issue whereby a woman faces the possibility of a criminal sanction in exercising that choice.

We in the ACT already do much to make abortion safe. The steps taken by the previous Follett Labor government and Mr Berry in his time as health minister in providing for the clinic that operates in Canberra have done much to ensure that there is accessible and safe opportunity for abortion and, equally, for advice on the issues surrounding a potential abortion. That has been a very significant step in ensuring that abortion in the ACT is safe.

Equally, as the Chief Minister has pointed out, a range of measures that already exist and will continue to exist if this legislation is passed today around the requirements for informed consent and the normal medical protocols that will apply will continue to ensure that women make, as they do already, an informed and responsible choice, a choice which suits and responds to the circumstances that they face. I think that is the underlying assurance that members of this place have in being prepared to support the proposal that Mr Berry is putting forward today.

Of course, "safe", "legal" and "rare" mean making sure that the sanction associated with abortion which currently exists in the Crimes Act is one which should be removed. Those who argue that this penalty will never be applied, effectively, are arguing that there is no need for this penalty. Indeed, if this penalty is not to be applied and is not meant to be applied, we should not have the penalty on the statute book. That is the view that I take as a member of this place and I will be supporting Mr Berry's legislation and, hopefully, Ms Gallagher's proposed amendments to this legislation.

Mrs Dunne: I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance and a ruling on procedure. I want to know where we are going. We are not having a cognate debate and I do not particularly want to anticipate debate, but I seek your guidance on a point which was raised with me at lunchtime, one on which I have had preliminary discussions with the Clerk.

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