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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 1997

Mr STEWART (Lang) (Minister for Tourism and Recreation and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) - I have been asked to correct a statement that was made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) who said that Cardinal Knox of Victoria is in favour of the establishment of a royal commission to investigate the subject of abortion. I am told, and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) just confirmed it, that Cardinal Knox has issued a statement saying that he is not in favour of a royal commission. I should like to make a couple of comments on the speech of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), who delivered a homily on when a baby becomes a baby. I ask the Minister whether when his wife was carrying their children and they knew she was pregnant did they refer to that baby as a blob of jelly or did they refer to it, from the time that they knew she was pregnant and they were going to have a baby, as a foetus or any other name but baby? Did they expect at any stage during that pregnancy that 3 white mice or a kangaroo was within his wife's body?

The Minister for Social Security has disregarded statements that have been made all round the world by leaders, both civil and religious, about the rights of the unborn child. We all believe that human life is precious and should not be lightly destroyed. The unborn child is worthy of the same protection the law gives to the infant after birth. Some of the statements that have been ma:e about the rights of the unborn child appear in the Declaration of the Rights of a Child, United Nations General Assembly, 20th November 1959, which reads:

The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.

The World Medical Association in its declaration asserts that it will preserve the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception. The code of ethics of the Australian Medical Association states:

I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception; even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.

Statements have been made by the Vatican, by the Orthodox Jewish Church and by various other churches and I concur with most of those statements. I believe that a child when conceived is a human being and I have a great regard and respect for human life.

Because the time for this debate has almost expired I will not deal with the subject matter of the Bill. It seems to me that the proposal to establish a royal commission - the amendment that was moved by the honourable member for Casey and seconded by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner)is now the matter that needs some consideration. I am opposed to the amendment calling for a royal commission. I ask all honourable members to oppose not only the amendment but also the Bill. The institution of a royal commission or a comittee of inquiry in the terms proposed can serve no other purpose than to delay the inevitable defeat of this Bill. The people of Australia do not want abortion on demand and now, rather than face a decision, the subterfuge of an inquiry is being used. My Government has already instituted over 30 committees of inquiry of various types to investigate matters of government policy. We have before us now a proposal to institute a royal commission into the need for abortion on demand in Australia.

For more than 2 years in the United Kingdom the Lane Committee has been taking evidence on this very subject. The United Kingdom has had experience of abortion on demand. since 1967. It is the first time, so shortly after the introduction of a Bill, that the United Kingdom Government had need to set up such an inquiry. It has had experience with an Act similar to the Bill that we are now discussing. What is the purpose of our duplicating an inquiry which has been in operation for 2 years - an inquiry, as the honourable member for Casey said, presided over by Mrs Justice Lane? If an inquiry is needed let us wait until Mrs Justice Lane brings down her report. Let us consider such a proposal then. At present the Government has more than 30 various committees of inquiry investigating matters of government policy.

The honourable member for Casey became rather emotional about a statement that the Right to Life Association had written to him. I draw his attention to a statement which was made before the enactment of the United Kingdom Abortion Act. The Secretary of the British Abortion Law Reform Association, Madeleine Sims, and a co-author Keith Hindell, state in their book, 'Abortion Law Reformed', at p. 243:

Three postures may be distinguished in the abortion debate: The extremist, the middle-of-the-road and the hypocritical.

Dealing with 'the hypocritical' the abortion on demand people say:

They retreat behind the device of a 'royal commission' or an 'independent inquiry' or some other time-consuming device that will postpone the day of reckoning on which they will have to declare themselves publicly.

This Bill and this amendment must be defeated. I am one who openly admits that it should never have been presented. One can only regret the incredible amount of time wasted and energy consumed over this issue which has stirred up such deep and latent passions.

Our Government has undertaken to reshape Australian life to make this Australia of ours a better place for all of us to live in. There are numerous social welfare, economic and industrial problems that cry out for urgent remedy. We are getting our priorities all wrong by even dealing with this Bill, by promoting yet another manifestation of permissiveness to such an unreal pedestal. It would be a tragic day for Australia if we submitted to the hysterical and uninformed pressure of a minority clamouring for abortion on demand as part of human rights. If human rights are involved in this, let me invoke the supreme right of all - the right to life. On all counts possible - moral, ethical, medical and economic - I want to repeat and stress my strongest possible opposition to this Bill and to the amendment.

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