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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1463

Mr IRONS (9:42 AM) —I rise this morning to speak about an important report tabled in the Senate on 10 February. This report is entitled Donor conception practices in Australia and I want to bring it to the House’s attention. Almost exactly one year ago I spoke in the House on behalf of the Donor Conception Support Group of Australia. Members of the group had visited the parliament to call for an inquiry into donor conception practices in Australia and as patron of the Donor Conception Support Group I was pleased to be able to support their cause.

I was a foster child and I know there are other members in this place who have been adopted. I, along with those members, certainly empathise with members of the donor conception group who want to find their relatives. It is perfectly natural for people to try to seek out their biological family and, despite the controversy which often surrounds this topic in public debate, I will do what I can to help their cause in the federal parliament because I know what it is like to wonder who your parents are and who your siblings are. On behalf of the group, I would like to thank all the members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for making this possible. The report and its recommendations have the potential to make a big difference to the lives of thousands of donor conceived Australians across the country and we cannot just let it collect dust on a library shelf.

I want to talk about a couple of the 32 recommendations that have emerged from this report and, in doing so, urge the government to give serious consideration to them. One of the first recommendations calls for nationally consistent legislation on donor conception that should include at a minimum:

  • a prohibition on donor anonymity;
  • a limit on the number of families a donor is able to assist;
  • rights of access by donor conceived individuals to identifying and non identifying information about their donor and siblings; and
  • protection for the welfare and interests of donor conceived children.

There is no doubt that drafting such legislation will be challenging for the government, but I believe it will be well worthwhile. We should not forget the story of Leonie, a member of the group, who found out her son has a total of 29 half-siblings conceived across two states. When you hear statistics like this, it is unsurprising that one of the key concerns of the Donor Conception Support Group is the worry of consanguineous relationships.

Many IVF children want to know that their father is more than just a test tube. There are compelling reasons to implement many recommendations from this report. Perhaps the key recommendation of the report is the call for a national register of donors and page 105 stipulates that any register should operate according to four principles. This register would be the central plank of any reform. In conclusion, I would like to bring attention to some thought-provoking recommendations in the report, many of which the government should seriously consider. New legislation is certainly required to regulate this industry and I urge the government to make an immediate start. In the meantime, both I and the donor conception support groups look forward to the federal government’s responses to the recommendations of this report.