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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9947


Mr WHITELEY (Braddon) (13:26): Of all the many policies governments are called to deal with, those dealing with the lives and welfare of children—the most vulnerable group in our society—must surely be amongst the most important. Children everywhere deserve a safe and secure home environment. However, it is a sad reality that in some countries, for a range of complex social, cultural or economic reasons, there are children who are unable to be cared for by their parents, extended families or anyone else and who have no possibility of growing up in a family environment in their country of birth. For some of these children, intercountry adoption might be the only way in which they will have the opportunity to be part of a secure and loving family and to have a better chance at a better life.

Intercountry adoption is a complex and sensitive matter for all parties concerned. And a decision to remove a child from its country of birth, and possibly in some instances from its birth parents, is not one that the Australian government believes should ever be taken lightly. Nevertheless, we have, and do, support international adoption arrangements made under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which has established safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and which offers eligible, caring families in Australia and elsewhere the opportunity to adopt an overseas-born child and provide it with a family, a home and a future he or she may never otherwise have.

Unfortunately, and for too long now, significant barriers have faced Australian families wanting to adopt from overseas. Inconsistent rules, high costs and lengthy waiting periods are common; so much so that they have been found to deter many people who would like to adopt a child from even starting the adoption process. In recognising that the processes required bringing together those children from overseas who legitimately need a safe and loving home, and those Australians who dream of providing that home, have been overburdened with inconsistency and complex red tape, the Prime Minister announced in December 2013 that the government would simplify overseas adoption by the end of this year. At this point I want to recognise the personal commitment to this issue by our Prime Minister. By removing those bureaucratic requirements and delays, which serve little real purpose and benefit no-one but simply add to the complexity and costs faced by adopting families, the government wants to make it easier to adopt when such action is clearly agreed by all parties to be in the best interests of the child.

Australia's overarching requirement of any potential partner country willing to participate in an intercountry adoption arrangement with us is that the country essentially meet ethical and legal framework standards and safeguards equivalent to those required under the Hague convention, to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. In those cases where a country is not a signatory—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue his remarks.