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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 963

Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - I support the amendment, perhaps for slightly different reasons from those of other honourable members who have supported it this morning. However, before speaking to it I wish to refer to one or two statements made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). To my mind he is in a state of confusion. He claims that about 200,000 children are unplanned and unwanted each year. There is a vast distinguishable difference between those who may be unplanned and those few who may remain unwanted. Very few children are born in the community who remain unwanted for very long. Even in those cases where they are unwanted by their mothers, thousands of others want those children. They are prepared to give them love and understanding, to take them into their homes and to treat them as their own. I reject completely the false, confused and illogical assertion that about 200,000 Unplanned and unwanted children are born each year. That statement is simply incorrect and is beyond proof.

I turn now to the suggestion made by the honourable member for Hotham about my friend and colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). He was accused of wishing to attach his personal principles to others: In this Parliament we accept a responsibility on election to make laws governing community standards. It is not a question of whether one seeks to impose one's own moral views on others. It is a matter of how one sees ethical and moral issues and the need for laws governing individual conduct within the community. Certainly there will be differences in attitudes but because there is a difference in ethical and moral values one does not deserve the jibe that one is attempting to impose his perhaps different views on the rest of the community.

I am opposed to the concept contained in the original motion that the inquiry could appropriately be conducted by a single Federal judge. I have opposed in the past the concept that all wisdom is deposited in the minds of the judiciary. Indeed, if one reads the case history of this country and elsewhere one could gain the impression that that is not at all the case and that those who argue that legal practitioners have sole responsibility for the reservoir of independence, integrity and impartiality are doomed to serious disappointment. I believe that this is a very important inquiry, one of the most important ever to be set up in this country, and certainly so in modern times. When the inquiry is established, as it surely will be, it ought to be conducted by people who are expert in the field.

It has been said this morning that we do not want moral judgments but facts. Let me remind the honourable gentleman who said it that moral values frequently determine how facts are seen, and more often and more importantly, they determine whether facts are recognised. I prefer an inquiry by qualified commissioners in the way suggested by the amendment. Many people who sit near me find a great deal of merit in the suggestion put forward by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen). At the moment we have 2 proposals before the House. The first is the motion and the second the amendment. When considering the proposed inquiry honourable members ought to keep clearly in mind that we are concerned with abortion and its consequences. The unborn child is part of the least privileged group in our society. These children have life but no voice. They are completely dependant upon others for the preservation of their lives. The right to life is the main basic civil right in our society. In my view it is axiomatic that life must be protected.

Every year we spend enormous sums of money in order to ensure that our fellow citizens have sufficient to eat, that disease is treated and eradicated and that the injured are given appropriate attention. This is done to ensure that life is protected and preserved. The same moral issue arises in respect of unborn children. I wish to make it clear to honourable members that I am opposed to the termination of life in any respect except in extraordinary circumstances. The proposed inquiry is of vital importance and I believe that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) is not to be condemned for moving this motion but congratulated for bringing this issue forward. I disagree with his proposal and I violently disagree with the proposal put forward last May for the so-called abortion law reform which would have justified and legalised abortion on demand. I absolutely opposed, and still do oppose, that proposition. One thing for which I am grateful is that by bringing this issue forward it has sparked a debate and has sparked controversy. It has brought to public attention the difficulties that many people are faced with which might otherwise have been overlooked.

The issue for this Parliament is what form the inquiry should take and what its terms of reference should be. I believe that there is little or no opposition to the fact that there should be an inquiry but the terms of reference will determine the direction of the inquiry. One of the basic questions will be whether abortion should be made easier or whether active steps should be taken to remove those factors which drive some women into what they see as economic and social compulsion to have an abortion. Those who strongly oppose abortion, as I do, have a particularly heavy responsibility in this regard. Abortion is not always the result of a selfish attitude. There are enormous psychological and economic factors which weigh heavily on those who find themselves pregnant outside the security of marriage. Many young women have been driven to abortion because of the narrow, selfish and petty attitudes of others in our society.

Pregnancy is not a crime and no woman should be cast aside because she is pregnant, irrespective of her marital state. Unmarried expectant mothers need and deserve kindness, sympathy and understanding. Those who subject them to ridicule, contempt or social rejection are guilty of a serious social offence. The inquiry should give serious consideration to the complete elimination of discrimination against persons who are cruelly and callously classified as illegitimate. It should also be concerned to ensure that there is appropriate economic protection for pregnant women. Women, single or married, should be in receipt of maternity leave - an issue on which this Parliament was slow in acting in past years. There also should be provision for adequate family allowances, particularly the provision of appropriate child minding centres.

We should be concerned with the United Nations declaration on the rights of a child, which is set out in the amendment, and which states:

.   . that the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth, . . .

I refer honourable members to paragraph (d) of the amendment. This is a comprehensive set of issues which have to be considered. Paragraph (d) refers to the question of housing and whether some particular assistance ought to be given to families; the question of the ability of the parent, whether single or married, to provide shelter for the child; the question of child minding facilities to which I have already referred; to pre-school facilities; the question of disabilities of families with handicapped children and the means of assisting them; and the question of domestic assistance for families and working mothers.

Working mothers in this community are not receiving much assistance at the moment. At present, a working woman confronted with pregnancy is often placed in the position where she stands to lose considerable sums of money by way of lost long service leave payments simply because she fails to qualify by a few months. If there were adequate provision for maternity leave and accrued rights in this regard it would assist the working mother. This is one factor, although perhaps it is not a major factor. There is also the question of part-time employment - tandem style employment. There are enormous practical difficulties associated with such employment but they are issues which need to be attacked and for which solutions need to be found. We also should keep clearly in mind that there is a great deal of hypocrisy on this subject. For the past year in Sydney - and at this moment - widespread illegal abortions have been taking place.

Mr James - It is a racket.

Mr RIORDAN - I am indebted to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). He put it far more clearly than Icould do. It is a racket which should be exposed. Those people who parade about saying that they are opposed to abortion but do nothing about it are, to my mind, hypocrites. We cannot close our eyes to facts. What we must do is to examine the causes of abortion and try to remove those causes rather than condemn those who perhaps have fallen into the error of subjecting themselves to abortion. I have no time for those people who simply oppose abortion and do nothing to make the social reforms necessary to eliminate or reduce its incidence.

The original proposal in my view, is far too restrictive and I think that the amendment before the House gives wider scope for the inquiry. I do not accept the criticism that because the amendment leaves out sex education and puts the emphasis on education in its totality, there is something remiss in it. I believe that it widens the scope and, after all, we ought to be concerned with total education in this particular field. Abortion and its causes are not simply because of lack of sex education. Indeed in many cases it is because of the lack of a total and proper well-balanced education. I support the amendment because it is broader in concept than the original motion. I believe it provides for a wider inquiry and a better equipped inquiry. I ask the House to adopt the amendment in preference to the original motion.

Motion (by Mr Berinson) put:

That the question be put.

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