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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 960

Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) - In supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and seconded by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), I draw attention to the fact that it has some similarity to the motion of which I gave notice on 29 May. I want to make one thing clear about what was said by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I take him to task on 2 points. I take him to task for saying that he had consultation with me. If consultation is about 2 sentences in the passage outside the chamber. I suppose he did have consultation with me. But, in view of the fact that I had had that motion on the notice paper for so long and he and everyone else knew that my door was open and that I was trying to look at the problem, I say that I was not consulted. In fact, I have had to work very much on my own. I also take the honourable member for Hotham to task for saying that the amendment precludes certain areas of inquiry that he wants to see inquired into. It does not. His statement shows that he did not read very closely paragraph (d) of our amendment, which refers to the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures of which he spoke. In fact, towards the end of his speech he again centred his remarks entirely on the fact that this inquiry basically is an inquiry into aspects of abortion, and very little else.

In speaking to the private members Bill in May, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) expressed very well a view which was widely held by many members on both sides of the House, although a free vote was allowed on that Bill. The Leader of the Country Party opposed, as did this House, a motion to permit abortion on request and an associated amendment. I found myself in total agreement with his statement that the problems which were enunciated at that time were of national concern and of considerable magnitude. We rejected the narrow, unacceptable proposal put forward at that time, but he and others said - I believe this - that the problems should not be swept under the carpet and forgotten but should be studied in depth to discover answers and solutions which are not offensive, confined or insufficient but are practical, effective and humane.

I believe that this amendment is a positive step along that road. It appears to have similar motives and intentions to the motion of which I gave notice, and therefore I support it. I cannot support the motion itself any more than I could have supported the original notice of motion which it has replaced or the subsequent notices of motion which have appeared almost every week. I cannot support the motion because I believe that it is narrow and negative. I believe that it is an indirect means of achieving the result that would have been achieved by the amendment which was moved by the same honourable member in May and which we rejected decisively.

This motion is deficient in a number of areas. It calls for a judicial inquiry by one sole judge. I feel that, right at the outset, this would prejudice the information and full comprehension which honourable members have shown they desire. Under the terms of the amendment, an inquiry would utilise medical, social worker, religious, legal, educational, economic and - if you like - female representation, which would make available the expertise which is so vitally necessary. Whether we care to admit it or not and whether the mover and seconder of the motion, the honourable members for Casey (Mr Mathews) and Hotham deny it or not, medical and psychological problems are an integral part of this question. Education is fundamental, legal implications inevitably are to be considered, religious and moral persuasions cannot be absolutely ignored and social and economic implications are not only relevant but also deeply fundamental. To limit the inquiring authority to one Federal judge, no matter what his excellence and even his understanding may be, is to so limit the value and scope of the expertise which is so necessary that it would risk the imposition of a single point of view, invite criticism and lack of co-operation which could well be avoided and which must be avoided, and render the consequential advice a good deal less valuable than it could, should and must be.

We want from this motion more than mere availability of contraceptive facilities and techniques. We are interested in the rights of children as well as the rights of women and the value and worth of the family unit, rather than the concept of sex without responsibility. We want ignorance to be dispelled. We want to look positively at the implications and complications of unplanned - unwanted, if you like - and often economically disastrous pregnancies. We also want to assist people who want children but whose circumstances are such that family planning, even family limitation, is not only desirable but also necessary. I have no right - the honourable member for Hotham can be assured of this - and I make no attempt to impose my own moral persuasions and standards on other people. No matter how impolitely the honourable member for Hotham may care to label me, I still value the institution df marriage, the trust between marriage partners and the role of the family unit and I see danger in the denigration of moral standards. I am firm on that point and I believe in those things.

This does not make me a judge of others; but it does not render me incapable of understanding, for instance, the trauma of teenage extra-marital pregnancies, nor does it cause me to stand in condemnation. But it does make me concerned with the inadequacies of existing education and counselling programs. It makes me concerned to provide knowledge and help in the place of ignorance and disaster. It makes me concerned to encourage, beginning at medical school as is stated in the amendment, the training of the medical profession in the important role of family planning and contraceptive counselling, as well as its acceptance of it, because so often it is the doctor lone who has the opportunity which is often denied to parents, friends or other advisers. Very often, the doctor is the only person who is consulted and who can give such advice.

It makes me concerned to see that there is absolute adequacy in the provision of effective, active and fully trained family planning advisers, and facilities and clinics available and accessible to all. I am completely and sympathetically aware of the pressures resulting from unplanned and unwanted pregnancies - I think the amendment states this - and I am aware not only of the conflict of mind in determining whether to proceed with a pregnancy or to terminate it but also of the fact that some people contemplate suicide and other equal disasters. This amendment seeks to detail many of those pressures and to suggest a scope of inquiry. Perhaps the list is not exhaustive; but I believe that, if our inquiry is not at least as comprehensive as this, it will be of little value. If this amendment is passed, the implementation of this complete and comprehensive open inquiry will provide the means by which, with greater certainty and with more complete knowledge, we can move constructively to solve or at least to alleviate problems, heartaches and torments which undoubtedly exist. The motion will not achieve this. It is narrow and limited and it touches the mere fringe of the problem. The concluding few words of the final clause might be high sounding and impressive, but they are so vague that to me they are suspect.

Perhaps the inquiry is comprehensive and perhaps the scope suggested is wide; but surely the problem is of vast proportions. If any honourable member had any doubt about this, it should have been quickly dispelled by the unprecedented influx of letters and petitions which we all received prior to the private members Bill concerning abortion which was presented in May this year. Many of the letters received were sincere and plaintive cries for help. This amendment is an earnest endeavour to answer those pleas. The adequacy and availability of contraceptives, advice on contraceptive techniques and family planning facilities are most certainly fundamental and at the heart of the inquiry, but the motion itself makes this virtually the total scope of the inquiry. Paragraph 1 (e) which was amended again last night is something of an afterthought. I believe that paragraph 1 (d) reveals the real intent of the motion and the emphasis is absolutely evident. I do not at all deny the rights and the problems of the mother but 1 refuse to ignore the rights of the child. I am in full accord with the United Nations declaration incorporated in the amendment.

The motion ignores almost entirely that declaration. To pass the motion is not to solve the problem; it is to substitute other equally vexing problems in its place. I thank the mover of the motion for even using some of my exact wording in the latter part of his motion but that does not make the motion any more acceptable to me. In fact I am amazed at the course of action taken by the movers of this motion. Having given notice of a motion centred completely on a move for an inquiry into abortion and abortion alone, I was then prompted to give notice of a motion providing what I considered was a much more acceptable, reasonable, constructive and comprehensive alternative. Then the mover changed completely the wording of his motion and actually pirated some of my wording, presumably because he felt that his motion lacked the support which mine might attract. Despite changing his motion he still maintained his order of precedence in private members' business. But the intent of his original motion is not changed. It focuses completely on birth prevention, it ignores completely - despite the few words he added last night - the pressing needs of family life with its real and relevant problems.

As the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn has rightly commented, the mover has attempted to find solutions without first examining the basic problems. His motion provides no machinery and no intent for a really comprehensive inquiry into social, economic, medical and social welfare problems of families. No matter what he says and how he condemns the amendment, the amendment does make that provision. In clearly making that provision it recognises the sanctity of life and the rights of the child. It seeks facilities and adequate opportunities for every Australian-born child, whatever his estate, whatever the circumstances of his conception. It provides also for a full and extensive evaluation of all the pressures on women beset by unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. At a quarter to eleven last night the last draft of the motion was presented to this House. I believe that it is a serious motion which warrants our consideration but how can members be expected to be able to study, research and analyse such important matters with that sort of notice? It is just as well that it hit the deck today or there would have been another one by lunch time. The new motion is just a little more piracy, a little more pinching from the amendment circulated earlier. It is a small concession to something that the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn said but I know that it will be totally unacceptable to him. lt is still transparent, deficient, narrow and negative. Obviously, the mover still does not know what he wants because he has changed his mind so often.

I commend the amendment. I appeal to all honourable members to be so cognisant of these problems that they will not dismiss them and in the name of humanity will pass the amendment so that we can quickly and effectively meet the responsibilities which we should shelve no longer. I ask honourable members to reject the motion because it is a hotchpotch of additions, deletions and alterations and to support the amendment which is constructive and definite, as I have tried to show. The movers of the amendment know what is required. They have sought to obtain an inquiry that will be absolutely complete and will give us the information and guidance we need. It will tell us where we are going and it is not vaccillation from one proposal to another. I support the amendment and hope that honourable members will do likewise.

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