Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1162

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (11.07 a.m.) —I apologise to Senator Harradine for the fact that he has not received an answer to his question. I was not aware of his question because it was tabled before the estimates committee hearing and, as I recall, it was not raised in the estimates committee itself, so it did not come to my personal attention.

Senator Harradine —Are you sorry I wasn't there?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I ask the honourable senator not to test me on that subject. Since the matter was not drawn to my personal attention at the committee in Senator Harradine's usual, very direct way, I am afraid I did not appreciate that it had not been responded to. It seems that because the question was raised under program 1.3, which is a DFAT program, rather than under the relevant AIDAB program—without going into all the boring detail—AIDAB thought DFAT was doing it and DFAT thought AIDAB was doing it. In the event, nobody did it. I will have an answer for Senator Harradine as soon as possible which addresses the particular question he raised about the applicability of the Rogers v. Whitaker principle in the context of medical procedures where we are funding population control programs.

  The most I can quickly tell the honourable senator now is that AIDAB has policy principles for assistance in family planning and those principles have been reduced in the AIDAB programs operations guide used by officers and consultants. These principles advocate quality of care in family planning programs. Some of the elements of that quality of care, as specified by the principles, include: choice of method of contraception to suit individual needs based on the principle of informed consent; adequate information and counselling services; and the improved technical competence of family planning service providers. We recognise that many family planning programs in various parts of the world have serious deficiencies in those and other aspects of care. It is the aim of our family planning assistance programs to help improve the situation through technical assistance, training and other inputs.

  What Senator Harradine wants to know with a little more precision is, as he put it in his question, what is actually done when Australia is helping to fund these programs to ensure that full and frank disclosure is made to the ultimate recipients of the health risks associated with the operation of the various contraceptive measures. It is a fair question. How much by way of a detailed answer I will be able to give the honourable senator I am not quite sure, but I will make sure that the question is properly addressed and that he gets his answer as soon as possible.

  I would like to have a closer look at the issues of principle involved, at their applicability in other contexts, and at their practicability. Some pretty rigorous standards were set in the High Court case cited. Beyond that, I cannot sensibly comment further at this stage. I can only promise to take Senator Harradine's points on board and to assure him that the principle of informed consent is one that I certainly endorse. How it works in practice is a matter on which I will try to make further response.