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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3516

Senator DURACK(3.08) —This is an important statement that has been made by the Government in response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the status of children born either as a result of the techniques of artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation. The statement addresses the matter from a more narrow base than that of the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill that was introduced by Senator Harradine and which has been the subject of reports by a Senate select committee and also by the Family Law Council. I think that these reports should be dealt with together because between them they address the whole area of this problem. I do not think that this is a suitable stage to say anything further in relation to that matter. I have already spoken in response to the report of the Select Committee on the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill 1985. At that time I said that this was a matter to which the Government should give urgent attention. I hope that the Government is doing so.

The response of the Government now before us says that the Government is also giving attention to the report of the Family Law Council which is concerned with the wider aspects of reproductive technology in Australia. I do no more than repeat the importance of adopting a uniform approach to these matters. I also emphasise the fact that a uniform approach is much more likely to be successful in this country if it is done in a co-operative way with the States. I am pleased to see that the Government in this response prefers this approach to that recommended in this report of the Senate Committee. The Committee seemed to have a greater belief than I have in the ability of the Commonwealth to act unilaterally in this matter. I think that is not likely to be the most successful way of approaching this. As I said, the matter is most important. For many people it is of growing importance. It is a very sensitive issue both from a moral and a social point of view. From the legal point of view the problem is greatly complicated by our federal system and the difficulty of the Commonwealth acting unilaterally and, of course, the traditional fact of the States having legislated in respect of the status of children and of controlling medical procedures and medical ethics. So it is a very complicated matter from many points of view.

I believe that the reports that have been made, such as the report of the Senate Select Committee on Senator Harradine's Bill and the report of the Standing Committee on this question, which is the subject of this report, together with the report of the Family Law Council, all go a very long way towards solving these problems, or at least to pointing the way in which they may be solved. I repeat my concern, which is that the Government should now be moving quickly in giving effect to what I think is a rather surprisingly wide degree of agreement about the way in which these matters should be approached and can be solved. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.