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Tuesday, 30 June 1998
Page: 5705

Mr TONY SMITH (9:01 PM) —It is a pleasure to speak on a piece of legislation like the Family Law Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998 . Any moves that will facilitate the adoption of children, particularly children from overseas, are good moves that not only demonstrate a healthy Australian society but also indicate that we as a country are prepared to assist those countries that are sometimes less fortunate than ourselves and that do from time to time have difficulties with housing and the care of children who may be orphaned or otherwise separated from their parents or in some way needing the nurturing and care of a family. There are many good reasons for facilitating intercountry adoption in this way. Any move to help that process is a good move and I am glad to support it.

Oddly enough, I am surprised by the statement of the preceding speaker, the member for Fisher (Mr Slipper), that there are only 300 children adopted each year. I would have thought that there were more than that. People in my electorate have contacted me about overseas adoptions and the difficulties that they have encountered from time to time. It is interesting that we should be referring to the Peoples Republic of China, because we do know that, under that country's one child policy, there have been some very sad circumstances involving particularly female children. We have seen and read about the appalling conditions in some of the Chinese orphanages, which really do call for the facilitation of a measure such as this. It is very sad to see children suffering anywhere in the world, particularly when there are so many parents who are anxious and keen to provide loving homes for children.

Some people in my electorate came to see me recently about this particular matter. There are many people looking for the mechanisms and the means to adopt children from overseas to complete their family picture. This particular couple came to see me some months ago. They had been in a relationship since 1991. They were a happy couple but were unable to have a child. After a period of about five years they still remained childless so they went to make inquiries. They did the right thing—they went to their doctor, they looked at the IVF/GIFT program. They then looked at overseas adoption. They went to a seminar about that and made some contact with the state department of family services. They had been in a strong de facto relationship for seven years and were married in November 1997. When they inquired about overseas adoption they were advised that they would have to be legally married for two years before an application could be submitted. This was a devastating blow for them, and it is a real anomaly.

I took it up with the relevant minister at that time, Mrs Naomi Wilson, who was an extremely helpful minister in the Borbidge government. She wrote to me very promptly and explained the situation. She said that the particular act in Queensland, the Adoption of Children Act, was being reviewed. I hope that, under the new Beattie government, that act will be reviewed with a view to changing that situation because it is a real anomaly. People who have been together in a very solid relationship for seven years having to wait this additional time because they were not legally married is, in this day and age, an anomaly that needs to be corrected.

In their case, unfortunately, there was no discretion available. However, they urged me to help and I will be urging the new minister—whoever that is, and I think it will probably be Mrs Anna Bligh—to look at that act as a matter of urgency to try and help people in their situation. As I say, the adoption of children from overseas is a priority for many couples who want to complete that natural desire to have a family, to have children to care for, and there are many children overseas who are in desperate need of care.

With those few remarks, let me say I support this measure. Any measure to help facilitate this means of adopting children will, no doubt, benefit the community as a whole and the world as a whole. This is a good thing and we should encourage it.