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Health Minister does not want his son's case to be used in the anti-abortion debate.

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Monday 21 February 2005

Health Minister does not want his son's case to be used in the anti-abortion debate


MARK COLVIN: Truth is stranger than fiction. That's how Tony Ab bott describes his encounter with the son he gave up for adoption 27-years-ago, and the woman who bore that son thinks that one day, someone will make a movie out of the story. 


Kathy Donnelly received a letter from her son on Christmas Eve last year, along with a photograph of him. She says she was staggered by the family resemblance. 


Daniel O'Connor is a sound recordist with ABC Television at Parliament House in Canberra, who decided to track down his parents before heading off on an overseas holiday.  


In their first conversation on the telephone, Kathy Donnelly broke the news to him that he had not just a famous father, but one he'd stood beside on a number of occasions in his job with the ABC. 


Alison Caldwell reports. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Kathy Donnelly never thought she'd find the son she gave up for adoption 27-years-ago. 


But on Christmas Eve, a letter arrived from a Daniel O'Connor in Canberra. 


KATHY DONNELLY: I opened the letter and there was a photo and a hand written note and I looked at the hand writing on the back of the photo and it was the exact same hand writing as my 20 year old son, Chris. And I thought, this is uncanny. They write the same way. I turned the photo over and it was my brother Joe. I just knew he was one of us.  


ALISON CALDWELL: She phoned him soon after and the subject of who his father was soon came up in conversation. 


KATHY DONNELLY: He said, "Who is it? Who is it?" And I said, "You, surely you must have guessed?" And he said, "no."  


But I think it was shock, you know. And I said to him, "It's Tony Abbott." And it was just absolutely deafening silence. I would say minutes of deafening silence.  


ALISON CALDWELL: And then he said, "I know him. I know him. You know, I work in Parliament House." And I said, "What do you do?" And he said, "I'm a sound recordist in the media gallery."  


ALISON CALDWELL: For Tony Abbott, the news came in the form of a voice message from Kathy on Boxing Day. 


TONY ABBOTT: Well I certainly was, I suppose, flabbergasted but at the same time thought to myself, well, what do you know ay? Truth is stranger than fiction. 


But it's been a really exciting time because the call of flesh and blood is strong. 


ALISON CALDWELL: Several members of the media knew about the story but held off while Kathy and Daniel were given time to get to know each other in Sydney. 


KATHY DONNELLY: I think it was the third night that I had known Daniel. There was a huge family party already planned for my youngest brother's 40th birthday. But of course relatives from far and wide came once they knew Daniel was coming.  


TONY ABBOTT: I was contacted by the Bulletin a couple of weeks ago. They said they'd discovered about Daniel and they knew the contact had been made and they were asking questions about it and they were going to write about it. And the only issue was, would they write about it with our cooperation or without it.  


And I thought, well, there's no reason why we shouldn't cooperate if they're going to pursue the story. And we came to the view pretty quickly that there was no reason to be coy about it because it's a good story.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Now overseas on an extended holiday, Daniel O'Connor is said to be uncomfortable about the publicity generated by a story like this one and how it might affect his adoptive parents. 


DANIEL O'CONNOR: Yeah, well, it's a bit of an intrusion really. Everyone's trying to figure out where they belong in the whole situation and it's a complication that we could all do without, I'm sure.  


TONY ABBOTT: It is good news and I think this is a happy beginning.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Just three weeks ago the abortion debate was reignited when National Party Senate Leader, Ron Boswell, asked Tony Abbott a series of questions about abortion in Australia. 


At his press conference today, the long time anti abortion campaigner was asked if his own story would be used in the abortion debate.  


TONY ABBOTT: If others want to draw lessons to other debates let them, let them do it. But I'm certainly not doing that.  


ALISON CALDWELL: Would you be concerned if your story was used in a debate about abortion? 


TONY ABBOTT: Well I can't help what other people say, but I certainly don't think that Daniel ought to become a political football. Well, well, well, I would just ask people to respect his privacy and Kathy's privacy on this issue.  


KATHY DONNELLY: I'm aware that that's a possibility. I would never criticise another woman for having an abortion but I'm not pro-abortion myself. I, you know, when I met Daniel I said to him, you know, I deserve a medal. You are gorgeous. The universe is a better place for you.  


MARK COLVIN: Kathy Donnelly, Daniel O'Connor's mother, speaking from her home in Western Australia, to Alison Caldwell.