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Thursday, 20 March 1980
Page: 917

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) -I wish to take the opportunity to indicate that I am persuaded by the comments of my colleagues Senator Tate and Senator Mulvihill to support the proposition put to the Senate by Senator Durack. It seems to me that the position is a reasonable one. After talking about the amendments and raising issues which have been talked about, Senator Durack stated:

Where law or practice need changing, the Commission will have no power to effect these changes itself. Its function will be to report, with recommendations, to the Minister and through him to Parliament. So the Commission will bring back to the Government, and to this Parliament, the problems it has encountered in working out the implications of the amendment.

I am prepared to accept that it may well be that the arguments put up by Senator Missen and my colleague Senator Evans could develop into a matter that simply accelerates the debate in the community about abortion and its related issues that irritate many people in Australia. Although my views are different from those of a large number of my colleagues, because of my beliefs, I too resent the push that people are giving to these matters and the interference to honourable senators who are of good moral standing when making up their minds about important issues.

All I want to say about the covenant is that it seems to me that, whilst it might provide to the Commission a large amount of work and a great deal of thinking in areas upon which it will have no positive deliberations, the issues will stay in the community generally for many years. To a large extent, in the Senate today there has been a very good interchange of views but it is clear also that there was a lot of emotion from those honourable senators with extreme opinions. Those opinions are reflected even more so in the community. Somehow the matter has to be resolved. I do not support either Senator Harradine 's proposition or Mr Martyr's amendment but I think that all honourable senators are concerned about the unborn child. That can be judged by the honourable senators who have spoken.

What the Opposition has said is true, in that we should be paying attention to the care of the mother, and to the conventions and covenants which talk about welfare and care, because we are talking about something which has turned into a moral question. I say that only to explain the position I take. I do not think that there will be a great hardship to the Commission. It may well be that the Commission, in reacting to the complaints which will come forward, will be able to show to the Parliament a path upon which the community generally can converge. Most covenants, international conventions and meetings involve a consensus. The matters that can be agreed on are agreed on and the difficult issues are left aside. I suppose that to some extent that is what the argument is here- to put aside the difficult issues which cannot be determined and about which the doctors, biologists, specialists and lawyers can argue. In summing up, I believe it would be in advantage to try the Simon amendment, and I have given my reasons for supporting it.

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