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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 16

Senator BOSWELL (10:40 AM) —I wish to make some comments about a couple of the submissions made to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration. Firstly, the submission presented by the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance was the same as the submission from the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. That in itself is cause for concern. Senator Moore, as chair of the PGPD, presented the submission to the committee. In the covering letter, she writes, ‘Thank you for the opportunity to present the PGPD’s views. Yours sincerely, Senator Claire Moore, Chair.’

However, not only was the submission a straight copy of another submission; it also did not have the support of the PGPD. It was wrong to claim that the submission represented the views of the PGPD. The submission was not put before all members of the parliamentary group to gauge their support or input. It was put forward as the group’s submission without consultation. I understand that several members of the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development have resigned or disassociated themselves from the submission. As a result of this submission going forward in their name, the credibility of the PGPD must now be seriously in question. There is a very good reason for disquiet from members of the PGPD. The submission essentially argues that abortion is a cheaper alternative to looking after children with severe disabilities. The submission includes a section entitled ‘The community impact of increased numbers of children with severe disabilities.’ It states:

The removal of item 16525 from the Health Insurance (General Medical Services Table) Regulations increases the likelihood of a greater number of persons being born with severe disabilities and high support needs … The cost and impact of an increased number of individuals with severe disabilities living in Australia cannot, however, be ignored …

        …         …         …

The financial cost of caring for a severely disabled individual is high not only for the family, but for the greater community. Removing item 16525 would save the Commonwealth, by some estimates, $181,560 per year based on 2007 utilisation of item 1652515. Adequately supporting an individual with high support needs costs the community and families far more than this.

I would like to know whether the government supports the approach that disabled children be aborted rather than put further strain on the disability services sector, because that is what is clearly implied by this offensive submission. Its underlying premise is that some lives are worth less than others because they will cost too much to support. This is the kind of thinking that was typical of the Hitler regime. It set itself up as judge of who deserved to live and who deserved to die. This revisiting of eugenics principles is repugnant to a society that prides itself on the contribution of all, regardless of whether they have disabilities. We are all human and equally deserve to live.