Page 4153 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.51): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I exercise my right to speak a second time on this amendment. We have just heard a diatribe from the Chief Minister in which he said that his amendment will provide protections to the unborn. Let me make a few more points. Mr Stanhope’s amendment to the Crimes Act, which seeks to insert a new section that would allow a court to “consider” if a victim of the offence was a pregnant woman in deciding how to sentence an offender, is inadequate.

I said earlier that I am pleased to see the Attorney-General acknowledge the need to plug some major gaps that exist in law and to give at least some consideration to the unborn child. However, the amendment that he has moved today is a pale imitation. The amendment is weak. It allows a court to “consider” if a woman is pregnant. There are no safeguards at all in this amendment for the unborn child. The word “consider” is a cop-out.

The most recent amendment that I presented to the Assembly would have made it an offence to injure or kill an unborn child through assaulting or poisoning a woman who is known to be pregnant and who, as a direct result of the offence, loses her child. The decriminalisation of abortion in 2001 did not allow for an assailant to be held responsible for the loss of an unborn child. It created loopholes that allow the injury, manslaughter, unlawful killing or murder of an unborn child during an assault on its mother to go unpunished.

I assume that Mr Stanhope is concerned that, in taking such steps, he would somehow revisit or undermine the decision made by the Assembly in relation to abortions. But this is not the case. The opposition does not seek to deny abortion when it is needed. I will say that again, Chief Minister: we do not seek to deny provisions in law protecting the right for abortion. This is another Stanhope furphy. It is another mislead of the ACT community that I or the opposition do not support abortion when it is necessary.

A number of other jurisdictions in Australia have “precautionary legislation” that covers the protection of unborn children at least to a certain degree. Queensland and New South Wales have laws protecting the unborn child and today the ACT government has copped out of doing the same. Government has a duty of care to protect as many people, born or unborn, as it can in society. Jon Stanhope’s amendment will not achieve that. I am extremely disappointed that Jon Stanhope does not rate the protection of the unborn child as more of an important issue. But why should we be surprised, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker? We have had ample examples of exactly how Jon cannot recognise or acknowledge his first duty—his duty of care to the broader community. We continually see a lack of such a position of mind in Jon Stanhope. He has no understanding. He would not know the definition of “duty of care” if he tripped over it.

Witness elsewhere—not just the law that he has put on the table that we are debating today—Jon’s failure to put substantial instruments in place. Witness his failure to put substantial instruments in place to provide fundamental protections for our police force. Jon simply cannot go the extra mile and provide full protections to the pregnant woman and her unborn child. Instead, ideology gets in the way. What we hear is all this rubbish pouring out of his mouth, ridiculing the opposition’s position in the abortion debate.

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