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Tuesday, 29 August 1989
Page: 511

Senator HARRADINE(8.58) —I have always considered that the tragic death toll and suffering caused by the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Australia requires absolute frankness and commitment to the truth. There is a great need in the educational arena to tell the facts of life and that ought to be at the basis of Government policy. I am not intimidated by people who might suggest that I am being judgmental or that I make moral judgments. Those who know me would know that this allegation is completely untrue. Most of them would be aware of my strongly held view that no human being has a right to judge the interior disposition of another and that AIDS sufferers are entitled to our unconditional care and support.

As for making moral decisions-and I think Senator Coulter was quite wrong-we have to make moral decisions. We are required on the basis of the threat which this disease is posing to the national health to do what is best. If choosing what is best done and what is best avoided is a moral decision, then I am happy, and everybody else ought to be happy, to be accused of making a moral decision. What is a moral decision but to choose what is better or best? We all have a responsibility to work for the care of AIDS sufferers, for the prevention of the disease and for the creation of a social atmosphere which will avoid the spread of the disease.

I have had some other pressing matters to attend to today, as no doubt other senators have, and I am not in a position to deal with all of the paper. The AIDS White Paper contains some very welcome initiatives, but it has aspects which I consider will entrench the very sexual promiscuity which is a major cause of the spread of AIDS. I refer to the latest epidemiological figures. In regard to the relating to the transmission categories of known cases of AIDS, homosexual-bisexual transmission represents 88.4 per cent of the total; transmission through IV drug use, 1.1 per cent; through homosexual-bisexual IV drug use, 2.7 per cent; through blood transfusions, 3.9 per cent; in haemophilia cases, 1.1 per cent; heterosexual transmission, 1.6 per cent; causes under investigation, 0.4 per cent; and none of the above, 0.8 per cent. These figures clearly reveal that of all AIDS cases in Australia 91 per cent have a homosexual cause. That is a fact that one must acknowledge and deal with. The question is whether the educational strategies are dealing with this. There is a trend in some surveys relating to IV drug users. One survey suggested that there are a large number of IV drug users at risk, but such surveys are inadequate. Nevertheless, we should address those problems.

I raise a number of issues concerning the White Paper, particularly in regard to the educational strategy, which is directed towards three groups-people whose activities place them at a greater risk of infection than the general community and those infected; carers of people with HIV, including professional care-givers; and the general community. Chapter 4, paragraph 4.2.1, which concerns education for the general community, says:

Education for the general community will explain the facts of transmission of HIV, address fears and misconceptions and stress the need for men and women to take responsibility for safer sexual practices and other behaviour which may lead to infection.

The stress will be on the need for men and women to take responsibility for safer sexual practices. On page 42 `Safer Sex Practices' are explained. It is stated at paragraph 5.3.1:

The promotion of safer sex practices as a preventive measure has been integral to the general community education campaign. Safer sex practices include:

sexual activity not involving intercourse; or

the proper use of condoms during intercourse.

It goes on to explain what the first point means. Honourable senators ought to read that paragraph on page 42 as an indication of what we are likely to expect from the Government's AIDS education campaign over television and radio stations. The whole push is going to relate to safer sex practices. Any policy that addresses the problem of sexually transmitted AIDS without warning against promiscuous behaviour and which implies to young people that homosexual acts are just another way of life is deceptive and will create the climate for the continued spread of AIDS in the future. The White Paper states on page 31:

Sexually active young people

4.2.15 The key messages to be conveyed to young people in relation to their sexual activity are that risk can be eliminated through:

abstinence from sexual activity;

sexual activity only within a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner; or

safer sex practices.

The first two options are important and valid for many in our society. However, there is a need to be realistic about the behaviour of young people, and their freedom within the law.

Mention of the first two matters was made in the Minister's original statement to the Parliament, but those matters have not really been stressed in any of the education campaigns thus far. Indeed, the Government is now talking about being realistic. I am particularly concerned that, in the interests of what the White Paper calls `realistic' education, our youth will end up receiving a message that they can do what they like whenever they like and with whom they like provided they use a condom. This would have devastating and deadly results. It would attack the efforts made by parents to ensure that their children lead mature and flourishing lives. At paragraph 4.2.17 on page 32, the White Paper says:

The States can contribute to the education of young people by using curricula for schools which are honest, explicit and comprehensive about the options available for preventing HIV infection and about the care and treatment of HIV-infected students. The Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) will arrange for assessment of the curriculum, and development of teaching materials for teachers and students through the Curriculum Corporation of Australia, a jointly-owned company formed by the Commonwealth and State Ministers of Education. The curricula will be developed further as necessary. DEET, in conjunction with DCSH, will report an implementation of HIV-related curricula in schools. The States should ensure that HIV-related education is provided at the appropriate school level.

Where do the parents come into any of this? The White Paper's treatment of AIDS education in schools ignores the rights of parents who do not even rate a mention in the development or approval of AIDS curricula let alone their right in regard to their children's education. I am sure that, given what is in this White Paper and what has taken place so far, the facts of life still will not be told. The students will not be told the simple fact that homosexual acts are deadly and that any young man who tries homosexual acts, even with condoms, is running a deadly risk. The figures are there. That is not a judgment on the interior disposition of homosexuals. It is a question of telling the truth-and the truth is being hidden.

I come to the position of parents or headmasters who may object to what is being taught to the students in the name of prevention of AIDS or safe sex. It is stated in paragraph 5.7.8 on page 47:

Protection is required for education and prevention workers from any liability which might exist for associated offences, such as aiding and abetting or counselling to perform illegal acts.

Later on, in paragraph 5.7.11 it is stated:

Laws regulating and/or penalising homosexual activity and prostitution impede public health programs promoting safer sex to prevent HIV transmission, by driving underground many of the people most at risk of an infection.

That is an assertion. In regard to homosexual activity where is the proof of that? I have not studied the situation so far as the prostitution side of it is concerned, but where is the proof in regard to homosexual acts? There is none. When was the last time any State legislation has been utilised in this regard? One of the protections that headmasters and parents have against the propaganda of the homosexual lobby into schools is this defence that it is against the law. And here is a recommendation in this document that educators should not be liable if they are aiding and abetting or counselling the performance of illegal acts.

Mr Acting Deputy President, there are a large number of other things that could be said about this report but let us be clear on it so far as this education program is concerned. I refer to page 48 of the document where it says this about dissemination of information:

Information about minimising transmission of HIV is sensitive and may need to be explicit to be effective in the media. For this reason, the Commonwealth will review laws relating to censorship and, in relation to broadcasting standards, will consult with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to consider removing any unreasonable impediments to education and prevention programs, and to ensure the promotion of such programs in a non-discriminatory manner.

So they are going to review the censorship laws. Once the Government's AIDS campaign programs go to air, all of us are going to get calls from our constituents. What are we going to say? Are we going to say we did not get up here and object to what is proposed? I think we ought to know what is going on. On the one hand the Government says there is a danger that censorship laws are preventing the information being disseminated. What sort of information is it? What sort of explicit information is to be shown on television and at what times? The Government suggests that it will review laws relating to censorship. Senator Peter Baume talked about anal sex. Many of the X-rated videos, which this Commonwealth Government under its censorship laws allows, promote this high risk AIDS behaviour. If the Government is going to look at censorship laws, best it look at those.

Mr Acting Deputy President, you will recall that on a previous occasion I spoke of my concerns about the suggestion that was in the AIDS policy discussion paper that unborn babies should be aborted on the grounds that they have or might have AIDS. I then asked: What kind of caring AIDS policy is it that would foster a public attitude that defenceless, unborn human beings do not deserve to live simply because they have or may contract AIDS? That is the ultimate in discrimination. But the White Paper does not mention that. But I want to know what it means when it talks on page 38 about testing and counselling being currently widely available. It is stated in paragraph 5.2.5:

Testing and counselling is currently widely available, but could be made more so to assist individuals in their choice. State governments should improve community access to testing with counselling by expanding the availability through family planning clinics and other community health centres.

The fact is that the more money over the last five years that has been given to the family planning associations the higher the abortion rate has been. I want some guarantee from the Government that no family clinic will recommend or counsel for the abortion of any unborn child on the grounds that that unborn child has or may contract AIDS. Apart from the fact that about 80 per cent of unborn babies of HIV-infected women are born without the virus, what sort of caring society are we if we have a policy of killing off an unborn human being, of saying that an unborn human being does not deserve to live because it might contract AIDS?

Finally, I come back to the overall theme of the educational program thus far. I consider it to have been inadequate and I fear that this White Paper will only exacerbate the situation. By inferring that the sexually liberated fast lane way of life is okay, we endorse the mentality of instant gratification which has led to the despair of drug addiction and the perversion of homosexuality. I fear that we could run the danger of sanctioning a way of life that is literally killing our young people. In addition to the many deaths, there is the trail of ruined lives and broken families which the dead leave behind. Those who teach people allegedly safe techniques of blowing their minds on sex or drugs delude them into thinking that they can take the leap into drugs or sexual promiscuity without suffering consequences. That is not being judgmental about the interior dispositions of people; it is stating a fact of life. No matter how safe the sexual licence or how safe the resort to drugs, the life spent in the pursuit of desperate self-gratification will lead ultimately to despair and, in one way or another, to death. What is more, experience teaches that the person who is desperate for gratification in the last resort will pay no heed to safety.

I fear that if this sort of education goes into the schools it will only promote further destruction in the ranks of the young. I fear that the campaign would serve to attack the efforts made by parents to ensure that their children lead mature and flourishing lives. As I said, nowhere in this document so far as curriculum development in schools is concerned do the parents rate a mention, let alone a recognition of their rights in regard to the education and upbringing of their children.

I hope that we can together approach this subject as it deserves to be approached, that as a caring society we can give unconditional care to the AIDS sufferers, that as a society we can ensure that the facts are told and that the policy is not unduly influenced by the homosexual lobby group which would have us believe that the homosexual lifestyle is equally as valid as the heterosexual. I consider that it would be totally unfair to our young people to introduce into schools a compulsory AIDS education program based on the philosophy of this White Paper.