Page 3903 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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when you can undertake those protests. I have gone to great lengths to stress that this is a very constrained area. It is at certain times of day only. Frankly you can protest—subject to all those other regulations—just about anywhere else you like.

I have a very strong view that it is inappropriate to target individuals who are accessing a service. If you have a disagreement with the policy on this, come and protest outside the Assembly, protest in Garema Place, where plenty of protests take place. There is a whole range of options. But it is quite clear that, in their current form and their current construct, these protests are about demeaning individuals. That is what this legislation is seeking to prevent.

Here in the ACT we, quite proudly, live in a human rights jurisdiction and this bill does, indeed, impact on the right to freedom of expression set out in section 16 of the Human Rights Act and related rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of peaceful assembly. But, as our own Human Rights Commission have stated in their submission to the exposure draft of this bill, they:

… commend the bill for recognising and seeking to remove some of the practical barriers women face in exercising their right to lawful reproductive services. In our view, the bill will assist to protect the ability of women to exercise autonomy and freely make important decisions without undue influence or coercion. It is well established that safe and accessible reproductive health services are an essential component of protecting and promoting women’s human rights.

Their submission also noted:

The Human Rights Act, however, recognises that few rights are absolute and in accordance with established international human rights norms, reasonable limits may be placed on the right to freedom of expression (and related rights) with the aim of balancing competing interests.

This bill does that. It carefully balances competing interests.

Since releasing the exposure draft and then having tabled the final bill in September, I have been grateful for the level of conversation this issue has raised. The vast majority of submissions and emails my office has received have been either supportive or positive, with genuine questions or suggestions to improve the bill. As I mentioned in the tabling speech in September, I have tried, where possible and practicable, to consider these suggestions. I pass on my thanks to the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office for their professional input into this final bill, as we work through those details.

I am sure that most members of the Assembly have been approached by both sides of the debate since I first put this issue on the agenda and released an exposure draft in August this year and subsequently when I tabled this bill in the last sitting. I am pleased that each member of the Assembly has been canvassed and has been able to consider the merits of the bill before us and has taken a moment to reflect on the specifics of what we are debating here today, which is, first and foremost, about access to medical treatment. I had some good discussions with members right across this place, and I appreciate that those discussions have been thoughtful and considered.

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