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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 951

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - I move:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: in the opinion of this House Commissioners should be appointed to inquire into the family, social, education, legal and sexual aspects of male female relationships with particular emphasis on the concept of responsible parenthood, such enquiry to investigate and evaluate the following matters in Australia and overseas and make recommendations for areas within the jurisdiction of the laws of the Australian Parliament and further to indicate whether such recom mendations should be implemented through existing bodies or through government instrumentalities to be created:

(a)   The extent and effectiveness of existing education programs in providing a sound basis in the fundamentals of inter-personal relationships in the Australian social environment:

(b)   The extent and adequacy of existing programs in medical schools directed to providing comprehensive medical training in contraceptive techniques and encouraging acceptance by the medical profession of its responsibilities in the field of contraceptive counselling;

(c)   The provision, adequacy and effectiveness of existing family planning facilities, and

(d)   In the event of conceptions which are unplanned or unwanted, the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures on women in determining whether to proceed with the pregnancy or to have an abortion. Such pressures should be examined having regard to the adequacy of (i) housing, (ii) child-minding facilities, (iii) pre-school facilities, (iv) disabilities of families with handicapped children and the means of assisting them, (v) domestic assistance for families and working mothers, (vi) adoption procedures, (vii) assistance to single parent families, (viii) social status of -women in the community and (bt) other assistance to mothers employed in industry.

(2)   That all matters relevant to these problems be investigated having regard to:

(a)   the United Nations declaration of the rights of a child which states that 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, and

(b)   the sanctity and preservation of human life.

The amendment is sponsored by me and the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) and will be seconded by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). Before speaking to the amendment I would like to draw attention to 2 aspects of the speech made by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews). I think one aspect that he mentioned - which was false - shows his attitude to this question, because when I, amongst a very large number of other people, questioned the sex education program of the Australian Science Education Project it was because the original documents were suggesting that sex should be taught as an entirely biological animal function quite unrelated to and divorced from the social and human factors of personal relationships which are so very important. By criticising the criticism I then made of the original ASEP proposal, which was accepted by the organisation at a later date, I think the honourable member for Casey reveals his own attitude to this matter. The last point and the only other point I would like to make about what he says is that I believe his charges of deception are unworthy of being made in this House on a subject of this kind, which ought to be treated on a bipartisan and calm basis.

The amendment is being moved to the motion because the motion, which is the fourth coming from the honourable member for Casey on this subject, is negative, misdirected and inadequate. It is negative because it concentrates too much on birth prevention, and the first 4 paragraphs will show this. It is narrow because its result would tend to be a mechanical and arithmetic survey of what happens, and it is based on an unproved presumption that greater sexual and contraception knowledge would provide a solution to the real problems that are involved when the problem is much more fundamental and far wider than that. Greater emphasis is required on a range of problems associated with personal development and family life. In my view the proposed terms miss the point of why an abortion occurs, and the fact that abortions do is not an argument for legalised abortion. It is an argument for a wide-ranging study of the problems and pressures that lead to that act and the decisions that might then have to be made as a result of that study.

The motion does not adequately emphasise the psychological, social and economic factors and pressures. The reason why unplanned pregnancies occur would not be revealed as a result of the inquiry. It emphasises sexual relationship as opposed to personal relationship of which sexual relationship is only one part. It mentions psychological factors but only psychological factors relating to the termination of or failure to terminate a pregnancy, when we need to have an examination of all the psychological factors that lead to the situation and to the decision. Family life, which is essential to our social, religious and moral system, has only been recently mentioned in the much changed motion. The motion, I believe, is misdirected and inadequate because it tends to look at fertility control and abortion in isolation from the complex of interpersonal relationships, and it is an inquiry into fertility control and not into sexual responsibility in its wider sense grounded in the total growth of a person in the entire social environment. lt is inappropriate that such an inquiry should be conducted by a judge, and it is much less appropriate that it be conducted by a single judge. Judicial inquiries are directed to establishing facts, and in the proposed inquiry we need an evaluation on matters in which a judge would be no more competent than many others. 1 was glad to see that clause (e) was altered because I think the clause in its initial sense offensive. I am glad that that was recognised. But it does not cover the imperfections in the terms, and I submit with the greatest of respect that the suggestion that that alteraion would thus win the support of the Archbishop mentioned by the honourable member for Casey was inaccurate and misleading this House and anyone who might be listening. Even with such an inquiry, narrowly based we would be no more enlightened on the basic problem which gives rise to the need for fertility control. Clauses (a) to (c), as I have mentioned, are largely involved with contraception, and clause (d) introduces abortion in a manner which I think shows no awareness of the available evidence and which shows that abortion is used not as a means of coping with failed contraception but very often as an alternative to contraception.

Surveys here and overseas show that the great majority of women seeking abortion - 80 per cent or more very often - took no contraceptive precautions at all. Abortion becomes not a last resort for an unplanned pregnancy or failed contraception but just another means of fertility control after pregnancy. An abortion mentality is generated. For example, in the United Kingdom in 1972 there were over 20 legal abortions for every 100 live births, and there have been reports concerning the effect of this on illegal abortions in a number of countries which indicate that the impact on the number of illegal abortions has not been what the authors of the changes had originally hoped and that illegal abortions had continued - and continued at a quite high level. Such studies are available for the Scandinavian countries and for the United Kingdom.

I believe the proposal is in fact directed towards fertility control instead of towards the basic responsibility of interpersonal relationships. Such findings as this type of inquiry might produce would be useless for implementing the more realistic need. The present pro*posal isolates the inquiry from the social setting and personal development of the individual within which sexual responsibility is developed. Above all, the proposal ignores the obvious fact that sexual relationships are developed in the context of highly personal sensitive areas of interpersonal relationships. These take their first form in the family context. It is here that attitudes to sexual responsibility begin or fail to begin. It is here that there develops a network of interpersonal relationships which form the basis on which the individual will develop or fail to develop an attitude of sexual responsibility. All the available contraception clinics and all the provision of contraception training in medical schools will be useless if this attitude, formation and motivation of the individual are left unexamined or unprovided for and if unreasonable pressures and hardship on individuals are not encompassed in the inquiry.

It is just such a misdirected approach which I believe this proposal takes. It begins at the wrong end, assuming that if contraception advice is available and the mechanics of fertility control are studied it is tackling the basic problem. The opposite is the case. The failure of the proposed inquiry to face the question of sexual responsibility in the necessary context of the family and of social and economic pressures and their influence on shaping attitudes of responsibility is an index, I believe, of the unrealism of the proposal. A realistic approach to the question is to study precisely those pressures and problems that make it increasingly difficult for the family to perform that function. Earlier this year in the United Kingdom a report on unplanned pregnancies was published by what I believe to be an authoratitive group, the working party of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It says, amongst other things, that it is a serious oversimplification to say that a planned pregnancy is wholly desirable and the outcome will always be satisfactory; that an unplanned pregnancy is always harmful and inevitably leads to dire consequences. The more important factor in regard to the outcome for the child is its upbringing after birth rather than whether it was planned or unplanned. The working party said that in respect of both married and unmarried persons, the failure to use any form of contraception is the most frequent cause of an unplanned pregnancy. It said that at present there are great pressures on the young from the mass media to experiment and emulate adult behaviour and that it saw a need for education into a greater sense of responsibility in human relationships and caring concern in emotional situations.

The working party said that it is thought that sexual permissiveness and unplanned pregnancies are not due so much to ignorance or too much knowledge as to the decrease in parental responsibility and control and increased unsupervised leisure. It said that there is a general cultural failure to relate the emotional and physical aspects of sex and to see them in the context of moral and social responsibility, that all the evidence emphasises that environmental factors, especially in the home, are far more important in regard to the ultimate outcome for the child than whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned. It said that much evidence emphasised that the prevention of pregnancy in the unmarried teen-age girl is a much more complex problem than can be solved by a simple provision of contraception and that sex education should be provided not as a subject in isolation, but as part of health educational programs, and of education for responsible human relationships and family life.

I believe that the report, if it was read in full, would emphasise the need for caution, for care and for a wider approach than the honourable member has suggested. Therefore, we have the alternative proposal in the amendment before the House. A positive program for an inquiry that could be expected to produce results that could be acted upon would encompass a study of the extent of existing educating programs and the need to provide a sound basis in the fundamentals of interpersonal relationships and of personality development in the context of the Australian social environment. Since the family is the basic social unit, such an inquiry should investigate those problems, their root causes and the aggravating factors that prevent the family from performing adequately its rightful function in developing human personality and responsibility in inter-personal relationships and towards parenthood.

In particular, the areas of inquiry should include the social, economic and psychological pressures on family life. If a house is too small and if it is already overcrowded, how much influence does that have on a mother who might want to seek an abortion? Therefore, I would think that this aspect is not irrelevant. Its inclusion would not unnecessarily widen the inquiry. It is one of the matters that could be significant in certain decisions on this matter. The problems of working mothers, of single parent families and the need for social welfare support are all highly relevant. The pressures of inadequate housing, as I have mentioned, child minding facilities, adoption methods, the social status of women, the problems and attitudes of parents who might already have had a handicapped child and their attitude to another pregnancy, surely are matters that ought to be encompassed within an inquiry that is to give this Parliament some realistic evidence and advice in these matters.

I believe that the amendment encompasses these broader issues which are important for getting to a decision. An enlightened inquiry will look to the causes of the problems of forming individuals for responsible sexuality, responsible parenthood and .responsible social behaviour. It will also produce means for the individual to find for himself the contented life that makes real the quest for a better quality of life. It will .give a greater hope for the happiness which too many people fail to find.

Mr SPEAKER -Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Stewart - I second the amendment.

Mr MATHEWS(Casey) - I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr MATHEWS - Yes. The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that I had claimed that my motion would win the support of Archbishop Cahill. It would have been presumptious for me to make such a claim and I did not do so. I said that my seconder and I had been impressed by suggestions put forward by Archbishop Cahill in his Press statement last night and that we had incorporated certain words and suggestions from that Press statement in the revised version of our motion.

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