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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 682


Senator HARRADINE(3.26) —Perhaps Senator Peter Baume will be interested in the annual report of the Department of Health. It is somewhat different from the last report we debated this afternoon but it does go to the question of basic rights. I repeat my challenge to him: If he is proceeding along the lines of some sort of Senate inquiry, would he agree to a moratorium on experimentation?


Senator Peter Baume —I am not proceeding; it is you who are proceeding.


Senator HARRADINE —No, you are proceeding.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! Senator Harradine, address your remarks through the Chair.


Senator HARRADINE —Senator Baume has been exposed because he wants scientists to go gung ho with all of these sorts of things without a moratorium. We now see that the bureaucrats in the Department of Health are dealing with another fundamental question secretly, without publicity and without decision by the Parliament. It is in an area which is of fundamental importance to every family in Australia, namely, the responsibilities of parents in regard to their children.

We all know of the Gillick case in the United Kingdom. Mrs Gillick took to the courts of the United Kingdom the bureaucratic decision taken in the United Kingdom that departmental or council health practitioners could give contraceptive and other advice to underage children without the knowledge of their parents. Mrs Gillick won her case in the High Court in the United Kingdom. The case will now go to the House of Lords. What is the Australian Government's attitude on this matter? To get the Australian Government's attitude on this matter one has to go through the freedom of information legislation and tear the documents out of the Department one by one. For the past seven months I have been researching the stand taken by the Australian delegation at the International Conference on Population in Mexico in July 1984. Strangely, as a result of that investigation, I have turned up what the Government's attitude is. Maybe the Government does not know it but it is its attitude. The second collection of documents provided to my office under the freedom of information legislation only last week deals with this very question. The documents deal with the attitude that the Australian delegation would adopt, should moves be made to provide contraceptives to adolescents without parental knowledge or consent. Such a move was made and it was included in the overall population plan adopted in Mexico. The briefing notes prepared by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, which are identical to those provided to that Department by the Department of Health, whose annual report we are dealing with now, state:

The delegation should not support moves:

. . .

(ii) which insist on notification of parents as a condition of providing services.

Those services are health related issues, including contraception. It would appear, therefore, that this is the official unpublicised position of the Australian Government and that it has been adopted without the knowledge of or consultation with Australian parents or people in this Parliament. The problem has arisen from a 1983 report to the International Planned Parenthood Federation meeting which stated quite clearly that adolescents-adolescents were defined as those between the ages of 10 and 19-should have contraceptives and other health related advice without the knowledge of the parents.


Senator Peter Baume —Which age group?


Senator HARRADINE —Ten to 19 years-without the knowledge of the parents. I ask the Government to stand up on this. Have the bureaucrats given certain instructions to the Australian delegation in Mexico? I ask the Government whether that is a bureaucratic decision taken on behalf of the Government and to deny it.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.