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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2281

Mr CHIPP (Hotham) - I think this is the first time 1 have spoken in the Grievance Day debate in 11 years in this Parliament. I am impelled to do so to grieve over the way in which the question of abortion law reform has been treated in this Parliament and outside this Parliament. I am conscious of Standing Orders and therefore will not refer to the debate itself of last week. Firstly, I grieve about the way in which the debate was allowed to be conducted. As I have said before, a matter which at some time or other impacts itself upon every family in this nation was allowed 3i hoars of debate. I was one of many members who wished to speak on this important subject but were gagged by the Government. Perhaps that is not important. What is important is the way in which the matter was put to a vote. One had to vote either yes or no to a Bill, without being given the opportunity of explaining one's attitude.

Dr Klugman - Or moving an amendment.

Mr CHIPP - Or moving further amendments. There were 2 other amendments, to my knowledge, which were circulated and which had a particular appeal to some honourable members but which were not allowed even to be referred to in the debate.

I am impelled to speak today because of an article by a so-called well informed, objective, unbiased journalist, David Solomon, which appeared in the 'Canberra Times' on Tuesday last. One wonders about his objectivity, because since the election his pen has not been seen to have raised one criticism of the way in which the Labor Party is running this

House, of the evasive way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is answering questions or of anything like that. Every time his pen takes to paper it seems to be in criticism of a Liberal or Liberals. Without me or my friend, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), being allowed to speak in the debate, this man, without coming to see us or soliciting our attitudes, wrote:

.   . Liberal voters with liberal leanings have always been able to point to progressive Liberals within the party such as Mr Peacock and Mr Chipp, but after Thursday's vote they had no one to point to as upholding their banner on their behalf . . .

Mr Chippand Mr Peacock meantime have cut themselves off from those in the Liberal Party who looked to them for a lead in liberal attitudes.

Then came this contemptible allegation:

They would not risk antagonising their more conservative colleagues, but they have gained nothing by doing so.

What impertinence for a man to write that and to ascribe those motivations to my friend the honourable member for Kooyong, and me without paying us the courtesy of asking us What are your views on abortion?' when, because of the way the debate was gagged in this House, neither of us had an opportunity to put our views. I take this opportunity to put them.

I am for abortion law reform, but I was opposed to the Bill as it was presented here last Thursday. That was the dilemma in which I and many other members of this House found ourselves.

Mr McKENZIE (Diamond Valley) - You did vote for the royal commission.

Mr CHIPP - Yes, 1 did. Some of the reasons why I was opposed to the Bill were stated during the debate. For example, the Bill did not provide for, say, a 13-year-old child who is pregnant to have reference to her parents before an abortion is carried out. That palpably was a weakness in the Bill. The Bill made no provision whatever for a husband to be consulted on the matter of his wife having an abortion. I am not suggesting that a husband has paramount rights; but I would have thought that in many circumstances equity would have screamed out for consultation with the husband. Even though, as a liberal, one could get oneself to the view that a woman has every right to do with her body as she pleases - that could be a liberal view - once one overcomes, if one can, the hurdle that a foetus has a right to life, I was finally persuaded by a report by Dr and Mrs Wynn who had some evidence that once a woman had had 3 or 4 abortions and then decided to have a child the chances of that child suffering some serious pre-natal or perinatal handicap were increased considerably. As a liberal who cares for human beings, if this evidence is right and I do not know whether it is, I must be concerned that there is a possibility, where there is abortion on request or demand, of a child being born seriously handicapped. These considerations bothered me and that is why I could not vote for the Bill as it was.

I was confused by so much of this socalled evidence that the Right to Life Association sent me with the accompanying statement of Sir John Peel, the Queen's gynaecologist, describing the Wynn report as a very valuable piece of research. I do not know how valuable the piece of research was. For all I know, Sir John Peel might have gone on to say that although it was a good piece of research he did not agree with the conclusions. So, what I and my friend, the honourable member for Kooyong, and other honourable members wanted was an inquiry to ascertain more facts about this question. This brings me to the point of why I am speaking today. The Right to Life Association mounted the most cohesive organised pressure campaign that it has been my experience to see since I came into this Parliament. I do not object to that. I encourage pressure groups to put their views to members of Parliament. Those people who believe that abortion is bad had every right to try to get the Bill killed. I admire people who enter into the public controversial arena to put their views to Parliament or to members of Parliament.

However, I regard it as the height of impertinence that, once the word got out that the Bill had no chance - that was about Monday of last week - from information fed by members of this Parliament to the Right to Life Association, that was not enough for it. lt then had to kill the royal commission. What that means in simple language is that the Association will forbid this Parliament and members of this Parliament spoiling a good argument by the addition of a few facts. If we have reached the stage where members of this Parliament are pressured not to inquire into these tremendous social problems by a pressure group which is entirely opposed to any reform, we have reached a very sorry state in the affairs of this nation. On Wednesday and Thursday 2,500 telegrams were deliv ered to members of this Parliament - paid for by God knows who, but somebody out there had plenty of money. Those telegrams were not directed to asking members not to vote for the Bill; they said: 'No Bill; demand you vote against the amendment'.

Mr Peacock - Any amendment.

Mr CHIPP - Any amendment. The amendment that was before the House said, in effect: 'Let us get some more facts'. I, like every other member of this House, have gone through the agony of the question: What is the right thing to do about abortion reform? I do not know. I had to come to the view that the Bill, as it was, was not the right thing, although I pay a compliment to the proposer of the Bill, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), and the seconder, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), for the splendid way in which they presented the Bill. I thought it was wise and proper to raise this objection on Grievance Day. I give notice - and I have the permission of my friend and colleague the honourable member for Kooyong to join him with me - that I will not be daunted by a pressure group such as this which says to me Chipp, you must not have any more facts' on an important social question. I will sponsor a move, if someone does not pre-empt me as I believe someone may to put a motion before this House for some inquiry to be made into these agonising questions on a matter which impacts itself on every family throughout this nation at one time or another. Such a proposal will have my utter and complete support.

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