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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1619


Senator HARRADINE(10.31) —I move:

Page 3, paragraph (1) (f), proposed new sub-sections (5), (6), (7) and (8), lines 28 to 42, leave out the proposed sub-sections.

This amendment seeks to leave out proposed new sub-sections (6), (7) and (8) of clause 4 paragraph (1) (f) of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1984. In the second reading debate I foreshadowed that I would be moving this amendment. Clause 4 provides for a number of amendments to section 5 of the principal Act. Paragraph (f) of clause 4 proposes that new sub-sections (5), (6), (7) and (8) be added to section 5 of the Act. I do not have any quarrel with new sub-section (5). I am, however, very concerned about new sub-sections (6), (7) and (8). These new sub-sections provide fixed rules for the purpose of decreeing under the Act the descent or immediate ancestral line of a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination by donor or in vitro fertilisation.

During the second reading stage when I raised this matter I indicated that I believed this Bill was not a suitable vehicle for seeking to settle or even contribute to the current public debate on the acceptability of AID or IVF procedures generally and or on how those procedures should be regulated by law. I think it is generally conceded by both sides of the chamber that these procedures should not be used as a means of taking a definitive approach in respect of these matters on an ill-informed basis. I think the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, in his thoughtful response did acknowledge that there was no intention on the part of the Government to do that. The provisions are consistent-I think that was the word the Minister used-with their incorporation in certain other pieces of legislation by the Commonwealth. The difference is that it may well be suggested that it is necessary for them to be incorporated in other pieces of legislation whereas it is not necessary for them to be incorporated in this legislation. I remind the Committee that the principal Act does have this provision in section 32:

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Minister may, upon application in accordance with the approved form, grant a certificate of Australian citizenship to a person with respect to whose status as an Australian citizen a doubt exists.

It is therefore available to the Minister to resolve those doubts in accordance with section 32 of the legislation. This would not be a major administrative job because the cases would be few and far between. Also, the Minister has the power to delegate his authority in respect of this matter. I suppose that I would reluctantly accept provisions in line with the new sub-sections (6), (7) and (8) if the Minister did not already have the power to resolve those doubts under the existing section of the legislation. I reiterate that the reason for my concern about clause 4 is that the medical procedures of artificial insemination by donor and in vitro fertilisation raise bio-ethical questions of considerable importance to the whole of the community. They are questions on which public debate is continuing amongst well-informed sections of the community. They have not been resolved in an informed and responsible way by legislation or otherwise . In these circumstances, this Parliament should not seek to contribute in a wholly uninformed way to the resolution of these questions.

Unless the paragraphs that I propose be omitted from the Bill are omitted, their existence in the legislation could well be used by those who would seek to legitimise AID and IVF procedures, in their totality, as legislative recognition or endorsement of their legitimacy. A citizenship amendment Bill is not the occasion for this Parliament to get itself involved in bio-ethical issues raised by AID and IVF. The cases, which would be few and far between, can be dealt with under the existing section 32.