Page 3811 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.42): The motion that has been brought forward today is little more than political grandstanding in the dying days of the Assembly. It is interesting that this motion has been brought forward by the Labor Party in a way that seems to throw out all notions of a conscience vote on issues relating to abortion, which has always been the case. I echo the hope voiced by Mr Pratt when he said that he hoped that this was not a change whereby the Labor Party was going to impose the whip upon their members. My recollection of the debate that you dwelt on, Mr Assistant Speaker, is that there were members of the Labor Party who did not support what you call progressive law reform on that day and who voted against those bills. I hope that they are not being sandbagged for that at the moment.

This motion talks about progressive law reform, but we need to remember, Mr Assistant Speaker—you were not there at the time—that the laws were not reformed; they were repealed. There is no law; so it makes it very difficult for us to support the law. Motions affirming support for existing ACT laws are, at the very best, pointless ego trips and, at this stage of the Assembly proceedings, a waste of valuable sitting time, which is now quite limited. The law is the law and we add nothing to it and take nothing from it whether or not we endorse it.

It was a conscience issue for both parties when it was debated and I hope that this is not an attempt in some way to lock in people’s position in advance. I hope that this not a precursor for what we will see if we have a resurgent Stanhope government after the election where the conscience vote will be removed and there are more changes in this area.

I want to thank Mr Pratt for the very thoughtful amendment that he has brought forward. It really does more to address the breadth and depth of this issue than the glib throwaway line from you, Mr Assistant Speaker. I have considered the content of Mr Pratt’s amendment and I would be able to support a motion, so amended, but I am unable to support the motion that you originally brought forward. The Liberal Party, at least, continues to regard this as a conscience matter and, as such, it would oppose any attempt to lock in members of this or the next Assembly, which the ALP seems to be doing today.

Your motion, Mr Assistant Speaker, does not take account of the diversity of views in this place or in the community on this subject. But the diversity of views notwithstanding, there is a fair degree of unanimity that the incidence of abortion in our society is too high. I think it is a shame, Mr Assistant Speaker, that you did not touch on that in your words. I believe that we as a society should provide strong support for women who are confronted with pregnancies that cause them concern and trouble and ensure that they are provided with real choices, not just surgical solutions.

More than just holding that view, Mr Assistant Speaker, I actively advocate for and support organisations who reach out to pregnant women in need. Recriminalisation does not reach out to pregnant women in need. In any case, and without reflecting on the vote, I was opposed to the Berry bills when they were introduced and if they were being debated here today I would oppose them again. I am on the record as supporting life, Mr Assistant Speaker, from when it begins at conception. I believe that innocent life should not be deliberately destroyed.

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