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IVF amendments are bad law.

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IVF Amendments Are Bad Law Robert McClelland, Shadow Attorney-General, Carmen Lawrence, Shadow Minister for the Status of Women, and Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Health

Joint Media Statement - 27 February 2001

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The report of the Senate Committee examining the government's Bill to wind back the Sex Discrimination Act is a tremendous setback for the Government, according to Shadow Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Shadow Minister for the Status of Women, Carmen Lawrence and Shadow Minister for Health, Jenny Macklin.

In a strongly worded cross-party report, the Committee found that - comprising Senators Payne, McKiernan and Greig - found that:

the Bill is completely ineffective in implementing the government's stated intention to ensure the best interests of the child (paragraph 5.6); ●

the Bill will amend the Sex Discrimination Act so as to conflict with the very treaty that the Act is intended to implement (paragraph 5.8); ●

the Bill is contrary both to the spirit and the letter of the Sex Discrimination Act (paragraph 5.10); ● no compelling case had been made that the rights of children will be advanced by the passing of the amendments, but the rights of some women will be diminished (paragraph 5.14). ●

The Committee also recognised that while there are a number of complex ethical and moral questions associated with the provision of assisted reproductive technology services, amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act were not an appropriate or effective vehicle for their consideration and resolution.

"This confirms Labor's view that the Government's amendments are simply bad law," said Mr McClelland.

"The Senate Committee has taken a good, close look at this Bill and they've found that it comes up short.

"It's not surprising given the government's early drafting difficulties which would have reintroduced discrimination as between married and de facto couples for the first time since the Sex Discrimination Act became law in 1984.

"Now the Committee has found that the Bill is flawed in a number of other respects.

"Given the Committee's finding that the Bill conflicts with the very treaty which the Sex Discrimination Act is intended to implement, the Bill would itself be subject to a new High Court challenge."

"If the Howard Government was serious about the appropriate use of reproductive technology, it would commit itself to developing a national framework to ensure that the whole of society is well served by advances in reproductive science in accordance with the ethical and social values of the community,"

said Ms Macklin.

"In marked contrast, the Howard Government continues to ignore the clear recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council that it should develop a national framework for regulating assisted reproductive technology.

"This attempt to wind back the Sex Discrimination Act will achieve nothing other than to drive women who wish to access reproductive technologies to those states in which they can access the treatment which they are seeking."

"The Committee's report confirms that it is not good legislative practice to introduce discrimination into anti-discrimination legislation," said Dr Lawrence.

"This Bill would make access to assisted reproductive technologies contingent on postcode rather than on the basis of rational and considered national principles.

"It will do nothing at all to establish a national approach to address the complex social, moral and economic issues associated with the use of assisted reproductive technologies.

"Given these findings, the Government should now withdraw the Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill (No 1) 2000 from the notice paper."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.