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Thursday, 20 March 1980
Page: 899

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I did not expect to speak in this debate because, as honourable senators know, I had a commitment this afternoon in Sydney. However, as I sat in this chamber I thought it was right that I should express my views on the subject. In a previous debate on this matter, when honourable senators said what they thought, there was a polarisation of views. I found it necessary to speak very bluntly to people who held views at both extremes. My attitude to this subject is fortified by statistics that have been submitted by Mr Don Aitkin, who I think is a Country Party supporter, and who writes frequently for the National Times. I think it was Senator Hamer who referred to striving to attain the middle ground, but Don Aitkin's report indicates that 25 per cent of people hold extreme views. The righttolife people are extremely bitter in their attitude at the one extreme, and the abortionondemand people are just as worked up at the other extreme. However, well over 50 per cent of the people try to adopt a sane approach.

We have to look for the root cause of the problem, and in that respect Senator Chipp was extremely lucid in his remarks. If we are practical, and I think we are, we all know of cases where we or our staff members have had to counsel people. In some cases we might have been able to convince a woman that a child should come into this world, but in other cases the girl has had nothing to hang on to to bring that child into the world, irrespective of religion. I make the point very clearly about the need for practicality. Whatever interpretations are put on the Simon amendment, it does indicate that nobody is rubbing anyone 's face into the ground.

I wish to make my attitude clear for another reason. Frankly, to me this Bill of Rights is a gigantic joke. I am completely cynical about it, and I say that particularly to Senator Missen and Senator Evans, who use wonderful phrases about a Bill of freedom. Twice I have been involved in situations where I have had to protect my person. Because I defended myself the wonderful laws about which the honourable senators have talked helped a well-paid lawyer serve a writ for assault on me. Those honourable senators should not talk to me about Bills of freedom. Their wonderful scraps of paper will not protect me or anyone else if we are attacked by a semi-terrorist. They should get all that rubbish out of their heads. The trade union movement is not helped by this Bill of freedom. It is helped as long as it stands up to the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Let us get away from all this hypocrisy about bringing in a Bill that will help the individual. No Bill can do anything at all about that. Sometimes people have to take the law into their own hands in order to protect themselves. Under the system supported by those honourable senators, all some of us get is a writ for assault, and I make that point quite clear. This Bill on human rights and freedom leaves me cold and indifferent. Senator Elstob would know that if waterside workers engage a slick lawyer to help them when they are having a conflict with the boss they do not get very far, and in my life I have not got very far either. Let me be quite frank about it.

As to the Simon amendment, I have put my views to the right-to-life people, and, like Senator Chipp, I want to involve the various Christian doctrines. I have said before to the Catholic Church that, as most people are aware, it will have to modernise its attitude on family planning and contraception. It cannot separate one from the other, and I think I have made that fairly clear. People who belong to the righttolife organisation have conceded to me that they will not argue on the modern attitude to family planning, but some of them still do not accept that modern attitude. This is where inconsistencies occur on their side. On the other side, if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that, in regard to abortion on demand, there are often middle-aged women who have a nostalgic recollection of a situation where perhaps they were over-prompt in having a pregnancy terminated. I do not say that in a male chauvinistic way. I know about all the cross-currents, and it is for that reason that we cannot arbitrate generally. If we adopt the Simon amendment or its equivalent, people can still claim that they won, but I am more concerned with realities. To return to the Human Rights Commission Bill, although I am more interested in Bills dealing with trade union rights, I think I have made my position clear on this issue.

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