Page 2127 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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Clinical streams allow clinicians and consumers to participate in the planning, development and improvement of services and to assess the best way to use available resources (human, financial and infrastructure) to meet client needs.

I am sure that when Ms Porter replies, she will support what the minister is saying there.

In summary, the opposition fully supports the public funding of access to IVF and ART. As I said, the quantum of how much and how often is a debate that needs to be informed by solid clinical data. We also commend in passing the government’s adoption of the clinical streaming data, which will facilitate the kind of clear-headed debate we need to have on how public health services are funded. Given that there is a further debate to be had, the opposition will not be opposing this motion.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.52): The Greens are highly supportive of the availability of Medicare-funded treatments and services to residents of Canberra and Australia as a whole. We also support the right of women to make choices about their lives, such as whether to bear children and the reproductive process. It is critical that government and society support women through these difficult and life-challenging choices.

I am concerned that the proposed changes to IVF subsidisation will save the Australian government only $7 million a year yet will have significant impact on the lives of many women from within the ACT who are unable to bear children due to their or their partner’s infertility problems. I am also concerned that, once again, we are faced with the dilemma of ACT citizens only being able to access a life-altering medical procedure if they have the finances.

It is certainly true that IVF has been revolutionary, very successful and has provided many couples with fertility problems with an outcome that before they could never have hoped to achieve. We know that around 30 per cent or so of the current generation of young women will not bear children. There are many reasons for this, mostly related to personal lives and issues around relationships, but while the federal government has indicated its concern about the falling birth rate, it is reducing one of the avenues that is open to women and couples who really do want to have children but cannot.

I believe that we should weigh up the advantages of expensive programs to assist fertility against other health needs. At present, while I believe that we can assist families through support for IVF, we should also take care not to present a picture where maternity is seen as necessary for women’s fulfilment. We have many children in our society who would benefit from more adult attention and in a caring society it should not be necessary for women and men to biologically produce children to enjoy their company and provide extra adult support. I note in today’s Canberra Times an article about the shortage of women and families prepared to be foster carers, and often babies are involved. I do believe that we should take the emphasis from needing to reproduce ourselves to reproducing our society, in a sense, through recognising our responsibility to all.

I support Ms Porter’s motion. I hope that the Australian government will not go ahead with cuts to Medicare-subsidised IVF procedures. I should say that this speech was written some time ago and I am not sure about its currency. Should this occur, I believe that women in the Liberal Party will have played a great role in convincing those with

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