31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy, with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
Amend the Medical Benefits Schedule so as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Baillieu, Mr Birney, Mr Bourchier, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Burns, Mr Cadman, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Dean, Dr Edwards, Mr Falconer, Mr Fisher, Mr Fry, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman, Mr Lusher, Sir William McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Ruddock, Mr Scholes, Mr Short and Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The undersigned citizens of Australia humbly pray that you reject the motion to be moved by Stephen Lusher MHR which proposes: to remove items from the standard medical benefits table which currently permit medical benefits for abortion, and to cease the funding of medical benefits schemes through which claims for termination of pregnancies can be made.
Your petitioners humbly pray that you support: a woman ‘s right to choose abortion as a claimable item under all health benefit schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Baume, Mr Birney, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Burns, Mr Cadman, Mr Carlton, Dr Cass, Mr Dobie, Mr Ellicott, Mr Falconer, Mr Gillard, Mr Hunt, Mr Sainsbury, Mr Scholes and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Carlton, Dr Edwards, Mr Howard, Mr Humphreys, Dr Klugman, Mr MacKenzie, Mr Martin, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Ruddock, Mr Sainsbury, Mr Scholes, Mr Sinclair and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the present provisions of payment for abortions through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the level of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed each year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
Request that legislation be introduced in order to prevent payments for the unnecessary destruction of unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Calder, Mr Donald Cameron, Dr Everingham, Mr Humphreys, Mr Peter Johnson, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will take action to require those Members who have not honoured their undertaking, to resign from the Parliament in order that the people of Australia can choose Members who will represent the wishes of the electors and who will honour any undertakings they gave.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Klugman and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lucock and Mr Neil.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Tregear, Nolch & Associates, respectfully showeth:
That current requirements of the Commissioner of Taxation for the lodgement of Income Tax Returns by Registered Tax Agents restricts the trading of such agents to a period of 8 months in any fiscal year. The demands by the Commissioner for lodgement of Income Tax Returns before the 28th February following the tax year is an imposition and a restriction, limiting the trading from twelve to eight months.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law should be amended to permit any registered tax agent to trade for a full year and lodge Income Tax returns to the close of the respective tax year.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say we are concerned about the deteriorating standards of A.B.C. radio and Television programmes.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry in the A.B.C. which:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations-
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBradfield.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will undertake to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in accordance with Liberal Party values and principles the Government will assist us in seeking a reversal of the decision of the Trade Practices Commission.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will do all in its power to preserve the existing Newsagency system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of electors of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth that the import of live tropical fish benefits far more people and has had less negative impact on the environment than the stocking of our rivers and streams by carp (European) and predatory trout.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a rational approach to fish imports be adopted and only noxious fish e.g. European carp and trout, be prohibited. by Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australian respectively showeth:
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $ 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr West.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe the Federal Government changes to the health insurance system are unjustified, costly and artificially bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85 per cent to 75 per cent of the scheduled fee is an attack on real wages.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decisions on these matters and develop proper consultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr West.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the former head of the South African Department of Information, Dr Rhoodie, has made wide allegations of bribery of government members and officials in some Western nations and of the use of members and officials for propaganda purposes? Can the Prime Minister give a guarantee that no Australian Government member or official has received funds from the South African Embassy or any South African Government front organisations? If the Prime Minister cannot give such a guarantee, what action is he prepared to take to enable him to do so?
-There are two points and two points only that I would like to make. This Government’s views of apartheid are plainly known. It has made quite clear that apartheid is an abhorrent practice and one that is doomed to failure. That is not a new view of governments. It is one that Sir Robert Menzies indicated in 1960 or 1961. On purely practical grounds he indicated that it was a policy that could not succeed and privately he sought to dissuade the proponents of apartheid from its abhorrent practice. Having said that, let me say that if members of this House have allegations to make, let them make them. It is time that they stopped using the cover of this House to suggest by vague innuendo and implication that something has been done in a way that would warrant a reprimand from members of this House or from the House itself. I understand that there is an inquiry into this matter in South Africa. If the honourable gentleman has any information that ought to be made available, he can go to South Africa and make that information available. Some honourable gentlemen think that he should stay there. I think it would be a good idea if he came back so that Australians could be constantly reminded of some elements in the Australian Labor Party that I would not like them to forget so quickly. If the honourable gentleman has allegations to make, let him make them. Let him stop making vague innuendoes through questions.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Would the Government be prepared to use the external affairs power of the Australian Constitution to introduce a Bill of rights?
-The present Government has set its face against using the external affairs power to expand the Commonwealth’s power and influence at the expense of the States. The Government believes that this is a correct course to take because the founders of the Constitution certainly did not mean the external affairs power to be used in that way. We know that during the previous Administration the external affairs power was used for a number of purposes designed to expand Commonwealth power. We reject that approach. In addition, we have introduced a number of changes in the negotiation of treaties and accession to treaties and international conventions in terms of cooperation with the States, in terms of consulting the States and in terms of having their observers present during negotiations and consultations, at the same time seeking where possible to have federal clauses built in which are designed to protect the position of the States. I believe that that is the correct course to take in a federation.
The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to use section 51 (xxix), the external affairs power, in relation to a Bill of rights not only raises some serious legal and constitutional problems but also is totally at odds with the philosphy and policy I have outlined, which is designed to work in harmony and co-operation with the States, and also in a way that protects the basic rights of the States to the extent that that is possible. I think it also overlooks the fact that we have already legislated in a number of areas to protect the rights of citizens and will continue to do so where there is a need. The Ombudsman, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and other provisions are areas where the Commonwealth has shown concern for the rights of individual citizens against, for example, what can sometimes be regarded as a large, powerful and hard to understand bureaucracy. Protection for the rights of individuals in a modern society I think is necessary. We have legislated to put those matters into effect.
We are also quite well advanced at officer and ministerial levels in developing co-operative Commonwealth-State human rights machinery. That co-operation would fly out the window if there was any suggestion that we were suddenly going to use the external affairs power to expand the Commonwealth’s role at the expense of the States, and we have no intention of doing so. I think that this particular instance highlights the difference in philosophy between those on this side of the House who do believe in co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States and the Australian Labor Party which does not believe in the States or in the Senate.
– Will the Prime Minister explain to the House the procedure followed by his Ministers when appointees to statutory or other bodies become the subject of criminal charges? Is there a higher standard to be followed when the body concerned is responsible to a Liberal Minister than when the responsibility rests with a National Country Party Minister? Is it a fact that recently a government appointee was required to resign from a body responsible to a Liberal Minister, but similar action was not initiated by two National Country Party Ministers to whom the same person was responsible in other capacities?
-If the honourable gentleman is speaking of recent instances I think it is worth noting that the person concerned took what I indicated at the time was the appropriate course and resigned from any government positions.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister or the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it fair that a member in this House should be described by his or her religion? Is he aware that this has been done several times recently by Australian Broadcasting Commission journalists from Canberra? I am not referring to the parliamentary broadcasts themselves. The first example was by Duncan Fairwealher this morning when he referred to the honourable member for Grayndler in the
ABC news as a ‘Catholic Labor man’. The second was by Miss Julie Flynn on PM referring to Catholic Labor men’ in regard to the Lusher motion to be debated later today. I ask: Will he do what he can to request the ABC to ask its journalists to cease this kind of practice forthwith?
– I will be happy to ask the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to take this matter up with the ABC management.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the discussion of and support given to public funding of campaigns by political parties? Does he agree with this concept and will he now establish a joint committee of this Parliament to look at all aspects of the financing of political parties during campaigns?
– I have noted the views of the Australian Labor Party in this particular matter and also the views of the Premier of New South Wales. The position of the Government at this time is that it is certainly not convinced that the taxpayers ought to be paying the election expenses of the Labor Party, the National Country Party, the Liberal Party or any other party. It will be interesting to see what the Wran inquiry indicates in terms of equity for small parties and in terms of those who wish to form a party. One could well understand circumstances where that kind of payment might entrench existing parties in power, very much at the expense of the democratic position and those who might wish to establish new parties. Those matters also need to be kept very much in mind. I think it would be a good idea if honourable members could turn their attention to the reservations of a British Minister who recently took part in this debate. Lord Peart, Leader of the House of Lords, said:
Political bodies in this country have until now been traditionally voluntary bodies, and their financing has been organised on a voluntary basis. Clearly, the introduction of state financial aid would breach this principle, and it might also have considerable repercussions on the activities of political parties … As today’s debate has shown, there are wide and important differences of principle involved here. The introduction of state aid would undoubtedly mark an important change in the political life of the country.
I think this matter ought to be treated seriously, but failure to recognise the fact that it would involve fundamental changes would only lead this Parliament into error.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to his statement last week regarding the handling and storage problems confronting the wheat industry, in which he said:
One obvious conclusion is that it is essential that another port outlet for grain should be secured urgently in New South Wales.
I ask the Minister Is that an added reason for the development of the Iluka port on the Clarence River to serve the northern and north-western wheat areas as an export outlet? Will the Minister confer with the New South Wales Government and also with his colleague the Minister for Transport on this important matter?
– The remarks I made related to the absolutely deplorable industrial record that has affected New South Wales wheat growers so adversely that they are likely to finish this season with an abnormally high percentage of the total carry-over of grain in Australia. Ships have been bypassing New South Wales ports to load grain in ports elsewhere in Australia. The reason, of course, is the industrial dispute affecting the Grain Elevators Board, which is the bulk handling authority in the State of New South Wales. It has meant that next season the New South Wales wheat growers could well be faced with at least the same quantity of wheat in their silos as would normally be received in an average wheat season. This would place enormous pressures on the whole of the grain handling system, and it could well prejudice the benefits that would flow to everybody in the Australian community from another good wheat year in the 1979-80 season.
My remarks, therefore, looked at some of the sources of these difficulties. I saw the problems existing at the moment in Newcastle and the port of Sydney and I suggested that alternative port facilities were necessary. I know of the honourable gentleman’s commitment to the development of the port of Iluka- a commitment that I endorse. I trust that it might be possible for further facilities to be installed in the port, which could lead to a significant extension of the base there. I hope that the New South Wales Government will listen to the honourable gentleman’s request and, as it has the responsibility, pick up the challenge and invest the necessary funds to ensure that the port is developed in a way that its natural facilities permit. Certainly, the Federal Government looks forward to the installation of further facilities, be it in the port of Botany Bay, as I suggested on that occasion, or in the port of
Iluka, where admirable deep water berths could be made available and where I am sure there would be a capacity for the handling of significant parts of the northern Australian wheat crop if bulk handling facilities were to be established in that port.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Did the collapse of the finance company Associated Securities Ltd involve total losses of nearly $300m of investors’ money, including the personal savings of thousands of small depositors? Did the directors fail to lodge by 31 January certificates required under statutory provisions and did that delay until 8 February the announcement of the ASL receivership? Did the turnover of ASL shares climb from a weekly average of 50,000 in November 1978 to a total of 320,000 between 5 February and 8 February, the date on which the company’s huge losses were announced? If those are the facts, what action does the Minister propose to take to prevent insider trading and abuses of statutory provisions of this kind? More specifically, what action does he propose to take in relation to the disturbing implications of the ASL share turnover between 5 February and 8 February?
– The matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning ASL fall within the purview of responsibility of the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Attorney-General is the Minister responsible for the State Corporate Affairs Commission. It is on public record that the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales is conducting certain investigations into the whole matter, particularly the specific points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member asked what action the Commonwealth is taking. I would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition, and indeed all honourable members, would know that this Government is proceeding as rapidly as possible towards the implementation of a uniform scheme for the control of the whole area of companies in the securities industry. One vital piece of legislation that is necessary in this whole scheme is required to establish the Commission. Under the terms of the agreement between the Australian Government and the State governments entered into on 22 December last, the Commonwealth has agreed not to proceed with this legislation until all parties to the agreement have signified their support. At this moment all States in the Commonwealth with the exception of New South Wales have indicated that we may proceed with the legislation. The Commonwealth is ready to proceed as soon as the New South Wales Government gives it the go ahead.
-I ask the Minister for Finance whether he has responded to suggestions from the Young Liberal Movement of Australia for an extension of daylight saving. Is the Minister in a position to give a cost benefit analysis of possible savings from an extension of that program?
-It is true that the Young Liberal Movement through its vicepresident approached me to see whether I could organise a cost benefit analysis of extending daylight saving. I have done all I can to achieve that through my Department. Indeed, maybe a number of departments of State could take an interest in this matter. I congratulate the Young Liberal Movement on that initiative. I see that it has been taken up by Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales. He is not slow to take up somebody else’s idea if he thinks it is a good one. As a Queenslander I am looking forward to a cost benefit analysis. I even have enough optimism to believe that my friends and allies in the Queensland Cabinet will change their view, if the analysis can prove the benefit of daylight saving.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Has the Government purchasing committee before it tenders for the construction of an underway replenishment ship for the Department of Defence? In assessing tenders will the Australian firm, which has submitted a tender, be given the same assistance and benefits as would be the case were the ship a commercial ship rather than a military ship? If not, is the Minister able to indicate why a substantial subsidy would be given to an Australian shipbuilder building a commercial ship, but no such assistance would be available for the Australian construction of a military vessel?
– The matter is not before the committee to which the honourable member refers. In fact, at the present time there is no Government purchasing committee. In due course the matter will come before the Industry Policy Committee where it will be treated on its merits. As the matter at this stage is therefore hypothetical I give no indication of what will be the Government’s decision.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. It concerns extraordinary rumours this morning that the Jubilee Trust Fund is having problems. Will the Minister inform the House -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to base his question on rumours. If he seeks an explanation of fact he may proceed with his question.
– I require the Minister for Administrative Services to provide the facts. What is the amount held by the Jubilee Trust Fund of Her Majesty the Queen? Where is it banked? Are there any justifications for the rumours that the matter involves the Harry Miller organisation or that the Trust Fund is not secure?
– The short answer is no; but I do not feel like giving a short answer today. This matter has been raised again following a letter I wrote to the honourable member for Prospect in answer to a question of a week or so ago. It seems as though the way to get things into the media is to write to the honourable member for Prospect. That is what has happened. I think I should read from the letter so that the matter can be quite clear to members of the House and to other people interested. The letter reads:
Amounts totalling $86,959 have been paid by the Organisation to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians. The Chairman of the Organisation has informed the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Trust for Young Australians that a further contribution of some $17,000-$ 18,000 would be made. The amounts of $86,959 and $17,000 taken together approximate the $100,000 referred to by the Chairman of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation in his Report.
The actual amount of the payment which has yet to be made will depend upon the finalisation by my Department of the accounting for the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Program Trust Account.
The position is that more than the $17,000 mentioned in this letter is held in trust, but my Department is holding the amount back until such time as we can be sure that no more accounts will come in. One or two small accounts may be outstanding. As soon as that point is finalised the money will be paid over. It will be about $20,000.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of a statement made in 1 977 by the former Attorney-General, the present Minister for Home Affairs, that human rights should be the same all over the country, and of a further statement which reads: ‘We ought to be able to get together on this. If we can’t, well then federalism is dead’? In view of those statements and the statement of the Prime Minister today that the Commonwealth would not use the external affairs power under the Constitution to enact a Bill of rights which guarantees the provision of human rights by all States throughout Australia by the end of this year, will the Prime Minister guarantee that such rights will be brought into operation shortly rather than wait a further two years?
-The honourable gentleman could not have heard what I said. I indicated that negotiations were already well advanced at both officer and ministerial level to develop co-operative Commonwealth-State human rights machinery. The difference between members on this side of the House and members of the Opposition is that the Australian Labor Party does not bother about co-operation with anyone; members of the Labor Party just go marching over a cliff,
– Has the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs considered a suggestion to allow voluntary early retirement by persons in the work force who are not eligible for Public Service superannuation, such early retirements being subject to the agreement of a person’s employer to engage an unemployed person in his place? Subject to this condition, the person accepting such early retirement would be eligible to obtain an age pension. The payment of such pension would be offset by the non-payment of an unemployment benefit.
– From time to time commentators on the employment situation suggest that early retirement would lead to an increase in the availability of jobs for those who are presently seeking them. I notice in particular in the honourable member’s question that he puts a condition on early retirement, that is, that the employer should agree that he would employ an additional person when the present employee retires early. That is a new suggestion. I have not heard it before. I will put it to study. Obviously the implications of the honourable member’s proposition concern not only my own Department but also other departments, notably the Department of Social Security. I would expect also that the Department of Finance would have an interest.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that Esso-BHP has claimed to the stock market that the Fortescue oil field is a new field rather than an extension of the adjacent Halibut field? Will claiming Fortescue as a new field rather than an extension of the old field result in about $7 a barrel additional revenue to Esso-BHP, to the detriment of the Australian public? Are such claims by oil producers evaluated by the Minister’s Department and do such evaluations rely exclusively on the data produced by the companies? If the Government does rely on company information, how can the Australian public be certain that the oil companies are not conning the Government for their own benefit?
-The question of the Fortescue field being declared new oil or old oil is under consideration. It is worth while going over the arrangements that are in place for the evaluation of new fields. That will answer the remaining part of the honourable member’s question. The company will submit to the Department of National Development the claim on which a new oil field will be based. That will not be evaluated in the first instance by the Department of National Development but will go to the Bureau of Mineral Resources for evaluation. After the claim has received that technical evaluation it will then come back to the Department and a decision will be made.
-Is the Minister for Housing and Construction aware of the bitter controversy that has arisen in Tasmania as a result of the action of the Tasmanian Government in increasing rents for some State Housing Department tenants, particularly the elderly and people in low income areas? Does the Minister realise that my electorate has the highest number of State Housing Department tenants in Tasmania? I want to know who is responsible for this rental increase. Is it the fault of the State Labor Government or of the Federal Government? Will the Minister please tell me, as many other Tasmanians are keen to know the answer?
– I am aware of the controversy which is raging at present in Tasmania over the question of the rentals being paid by tenants in Housing Department areas. I appreciate the particular concern of the honourable member for Franklin and his deep interest in the welfare of the people living in those areas. It is an interest which is shared by many other members of this House. There are rumours around that the Federal Government has forced upon the States an increase in rents. I say quite clearly that this is absolute nonsense.
– Rumours! It is a fact. It was part of your last agreement.
– The honourable member for Reid knows that it is nonsense. A new agreement was negotiated and signed last year. Under that agreement there is a general policy that the States will move towards market related rents. That is not something that has been forced upon the States. That was, in the true sense of the word, an agreement. The Premiers of the States signed that agreement. They all signed the agreement; there was no duress of any kind. But the important point is that the control of rents, the amount of rents and the timing of increases in rents are matters entirely for the States. That is provided for in the agreement. So there is no way in which the States can blame the Federal Government for any increases that have occurred in the States because they have total control over the timing of rent increases and the amount of the increases. The important point is that the States collect the moneys from these tenants. They are not moneys that go to the Federal Government. Rebates are available to people paying higher rents in State Housing Department estates. Because of those rebates, which again were part of the agreement entered into, no hardship should be caused to people paying these rents. The problem is that it would appear in some cases that hardship is resulting. It is no good State Ministers- for example, Mr Chisholm in Tasmania- suggesting that it is the fault of the Commonwealth Government. He cannot blame us for the problems which result from decisions which he, his Government and the Housing Department have made in Tasmania.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that the Dampier salt operation near Carnarvon has closed down as a result of Cyclone Hazel? Will the Prime Minister ensure that Australian Government assistance is available, both to the company to hasten its reopening and to the employees, numbering about 100, who have now been retrenched? Can the Prime Minister say whether these workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the cyclone are considered to be victims in the same way as people who have lost property? If the current Commonwealth-State arrangements for disaster relief do not include this kind of assistance, will the Prime Minister amend those arrangements?
-The disaster relief arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth are agreed upon between the two governments. There are arrangements for the relief of immediate hardship and then there is an obligation upon the States to provide in a
Budget year certain basic amounts for major dis- » asters, after which support is shared between the Commonwealth and the States. Over the years a wide range of measures has been included in the basic core provisions in relation to national disasters, which are automatically agreed upon. But it is always open for a Premier who wants to raise particular matters in relation to a particular disaster to do so. In relation to Cyclone Hazel, some time ago I was in touch with Western Australia and made it perfectly plain that normal Commonwealth assistance would be available. I am not aware of any suggestion that the normal arrangements in relation to the damage caused by Cyclone Hazel are inadequate, but when I leave the chamber I will check to see whether there has been any communication in relation to this matter from Western Australia.
– Has the Minister for Finance noted comments made today in an editorial in the Australian newspaper which claimed that the accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had never been audited? As a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts- I am sure that other members of that Committee join me- I ask the Minister: Is that a fact?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is no, it is not a fact that the accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation have not been audited. I understand that the arrangement agreed upon in 1949 by Prime Minister Chifley, in consultation with his Treasurer and other Ministers, was that expenditure, other than expenditure for sensitive areas, would be subject to audit by the Auditor-General and that for the balance of money spent in very sensitive areas to do with the national interest, a certificate from the DirectorGeneral to the Auditor-General would be relied upon. I understand that that practice is followed in other countries as well. We have just amended the Audit Act to provide a right to prescribe organisations and for them to be exempted. Of course, it will be up to the Parliament to approve regulations for that purpose. But all that the amendments to the Audit Act will do will be to formalise what has been a practice in Australia for 30 years now, under governments of both political persuasions.
– I direct a very simple question to the Treasurer. I make it very simple so that he will understand it and will not be able to avoid answering it.
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question or he will not have an opportunity to do so.
– Will the Treasurer introduce legislation to prevent the avoidance of taxation through the use of family trusts for income splitting purposes?
-One of the things that have characterised the Opposition’s involvement in debates on tax avoidance matters is a total misunderstanding of any technical fundamentals as far as the operation of the tax laws are concerned. I have already made it clear and the Prime Minister has already made it clear that no area of taxation activity is quarantined from the Government’s campaign against blatant tax avoidance. To the extent that any section of tax activity represents blatant tax avoidance, under whatever description it may happen to come, it will be the subject of Government action, if appropriate circumstances arise.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I refer you to Standing Order -
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will wait until he is called. The honourable member for Chifley is now called to take his point of order.
-Mr Speaker, I refer you to Standing Order 145 which relates to questions. It states:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
I asked the Treasurer a simple question. It was in these terms: Will he introduce legislation to prevent family trusts from being used as a tax avoidance measure through income splitting? I asked for a specific answer.
-I heard the question. No point of order is involved. I remind the honourable member for Chifley of two matters: Firstly, he is a Deputy Chairman of Committees and ought to give a good example in the conduct of the House; and, secondly, frivolous points of order are disorderly.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. At Question Time, is a member allowed to ask whether legislation will be introduced into this House? Is the answer yes or no?
-Can the Minister for Trade and Resources indicate what progress is being made with our bilateral negotiations with our major trading partners under the multilateral trade negotiations? Are there any hopeful signs of conclusions being reached?
– I presume that when the honourable member for Leichhardt refers to our principal trading partners he is talking about the United States of America, the European Economic Community and Japan. As honourable members would be aware, the multilateral trade negotiations have been proceeding for a number of years and are now reaching a crunch point. We have reached the point where bilateral negotiations are proceeding, with examination of the offers made by each country. In the case of the United States, a team of senior Australian officials has been in that country on a number of occasions this year. It was reported to me today that the group that went to the United States last week is now reaching a stage in the negotiations where it can present the offers that have been reached to the respective Ministers and those Ministers, in turn, can present them to their countries. If the negotiations are to be brought to a conclusion, it will be necessary for me to go to Washington next week to try to bring the matter to finality.
The agreement with the United States is the cornerstone of our multilateral trade negotiations. Once that has been concluded we can put into place the offers that are being made in relation to the EEC, Japan and, of course, other countries. In the case of the EEC, the Minister for Special Trade Representations is currently engaged in negotiations and discussions with the commissioners of the EEC and also with member countries. It is not possible at the moment to anticipate what will be the outcome of the negotiations, but there are hopeful signs in that a number of member countries of the Community are showing increasing understanding of what is needed if there .is to be a mutually satisfactory agreement. I am hoping that a result is near at hand. In relation to Japan, negotiations have been proceeding in that country. It is expected that we will have every chance of reaching a mutual agreement in the very near future.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of his previous claims that movements in official interest rates have been in line with market realities, will the Government be taking account of those market realities in setting official interest rates at the extraordinary Loan Council meeting to be held on 2 April? Further, given that market rates for government bonds are 0.5 per cent above official rates set for the February conversion loan, will the Government guarantee that any official interest rate movements, in response to what the Prime Minister terms ‘market realities’, will not spill over and lead to increases in the important housing loan and bank overdraft interest rates?
-Perhaps I should put the Leader of the Opposition right on one thing from the outset. The Loan Council meeting to be held on 2 April has not been called to discuss interest rates. A decision to call that Loan Council meeting was agreed at the time when the rates for the February conversion loan were set between the State Premiers and myself back in February. There have been a number of incorrect suggestions in the Press in the past few days to the effect that that meeting has been called to talk about interest rates and they have been picked up by the Leader of the Opposition. The meeting has been called to talk about Loan Council procedures. It has been called to talk about a number of proposals so far as the marketing of securities generally is concerned, as I alluded to in my Press statement on the February conversion loan. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that the rates that were set for the February conversion loan were the rates indicated as being appropriate by the market at that time.
The Leader of the Opposition asked for guarantees from the Government about the movement of interest rates. I have told him already that no government has a capacity to guarantee movements in interest rates.
– The Prime Minister did in 1977. Was he talking through his hat?
-The Prime Minister did not guarantee movements in interest rates. The Prime Minister indicated the likelihood of a movement down, given certain eventualities with the economy. The only thing that this Government can guarantee in the interest rate area, and will guarantee in the interest rate area, is that it will continue to follow policies which are designed to create the conditions for further reductions in interest rates. That is a guarantee that we are happy to give. But to ask us to guarantee the future level of interest rates is an irresponsible question and, in fact, is quite unhelpful to the cause of lower interest rates in Australia.
-Has the Treasurer seen Press reports last week of proposals to introduce a capital gains tax, to introduce a petroleum revenue tax, to terminate family trusts and to restructure income tax scales? Can the Treasurer say what effects such proposals would have on national economic recovery, national productivity, inflation and national employment opportunities?
– Indeed, I have seen such reports- in fact I have read in full the speech that the Leader of the Opposition gave to the National Press Club last week. The taxation proposals of the Leader of the Opposition were more remarkable not for what they said but for what they did not say. Perhaps I could take a couple of those proposals. Take the fondness of the Leader of the Opposition for a capital gains tax. He said that he will introduce a capital gains tax and that there will be a threshold of $200,000 under which people will be free from capital gains tax. He referred to this tax in the context of a package of proposals which presumably would raise $ 1,000m of extra revenue in the financial year 1979-80. He did not say how much of that $ 1,000m was attributable to a capital gains tax. So one has to go back a little further into what the Leader of the Opposition has said to find out how much would be involved. I do read his speeches on occasions. Those speeches are a mine of very interesting information and contradictions. If one goes back to his post-Budget speech of September of last year one finds that he said that a Labor government would raise $300m from a capital gains tax. The only way in which one can raise $300m from a capital gains tax in the 1 979-80 financial year is, first, to make the tax retrospective- in other words, to tax gains that have accrued already. Secondly, if one is to have a threshold of $200,000, in order to raise $300m one would have to apply the tax to people in receipt of over $200,000 at an absolutely confiscatory rate. This proposal is very interesting when one looks below the surface.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about restructuring the taxation scales for the top 2 per cent of income earners. He said that he would do that and, as I understand it, in his post-Budget speech he said that he would cream off $200m from that exercise. My understanding is that in the current financial year the top 2 per cent of income earners are those on incomes of $27,000 or more. If the Leader of the Opposition is to claw back $200m from that section of the community and at the same time to keep in place the standard rate scale and the intermediate rate scale- in other words, preserve the benefits of our tax reforms for low income earners, which he has said he believes in preserving- the only way that he can get $200m from the top 2 per cent of income earners in this country is to lift the marginal rate of tax to 80 per cent. This is not bad stuff! This is good old, soak-the-rich, Labor dogma of the old school and it is about time that the Australian community really understood what this is about.
He talks blithely about a resource tax. The only way one can introduce a resource tax and get a revenue gain for the coming financial year is to introduce a new tax retrospectively. That would be great for business confidence! That would be great for overseas perceptions of the government of this country! When one goes through the taxation proposals of the Leader of the Opposition bit by bit one sees that they are ill thought out and based on outmoded Labor Party dogma. A former Leader of the Opposition and former Labor Prime Minister of this country said by implication in 1972 that that dogma was outdated when he said in his Blacktown speech, which also is a mine of information about taxation matters, that we do not need to increase the rates for people in the high income brackets because those rates are already high enough. He was then speaking of a marginal tax rate of 65 per cent, which this Government has reduced to 6 1 lA per cent. So when one examines the alternative tax proposals of the Opposition one sees that they are ill thought out, they are based on outmoded dogma and they demonstrate that, far from the Leader of the Opposition having come clean on how he would finance his alternative tax proposals, he has contrived to keep us very much in the dark.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Non-Government Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1977 I present a report concerning guarantees and payments made under guarantees pursuant to the Act for the period 19 October 1977 to 31 December 1978.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-The Minister may proceed.
– Yesterday, in a debate concerning the Prices Justification Amendment Bill, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) made certain allegations which, I might say, are quite unprincipled and unjustified. In talking about the Prices Justification Tribunal and the application by oil companies to that Tribunal for increases in the price of their products, he said two things. First of all, he said:
On 13 February that action was followed nationally and the significance of that is that on 13 February the oil industry conference was held. The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) attended that conference. I am reliably advised that once he was certain that petrol supplies were assured for Australia, he made it quite apparent that he was unconcerned about the matter of pricing.
Later, in talking about the evidence for making this allegation, he said: the Minister for National Development through his compliance was a party to this conspiracy against the Australian motorists.
That is a totally unprincipled attack. I have made it clear in any conferences or conversations I have had with the oil companies or principals of oil companies that the decision for pricing of their products is entirely a matter for the Prices Justification Tribunal and that that Tribunal is quite independent of any influence of this Government. That is the first thing. Secondly, as to the meeting on 1 3 February, if there was a discussion on prices, which I cannot remember, I certainly would have reiterated the comment which I have just made and certainly would not have been encouraging any other view.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-If the honourable member claims to have been misrepresented he may proceed.
-The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) in his reply in the debate on the Prices Justification Tribunal Amendment Bill last night stated that I had been offensive to Mr Michael Long, a former member of the Prices Justification Tribunal, by claiming he had been sacked by the Government. In his speech last night the Minister stated:
I am sorry that the honourable member for Griffith is not in the House now because I believe his remarks, implying that Mr Long had been sacked, were quite offensive to that former member of the PJT. He served the Commonwealth for a period of five years as a member of that Tribunal. The fact of the matter is that his five-year appointment expired and he has not been re-appointed by the Government.
I emphasise that point: ‘He has not been reappointed by the Government’. If that is not the sack, I would like to know what is. If anyone has offended Mr Long it is the Minister, for not renewing his commission.
– I claim to have been misrepresented in relation to certain tax matters raised by the Treasurer (Mr Howard).
-Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
-The Treasurer sought to misrepresent the revenue levels which would be obtained from certain tax sources which I had proposed. The resource tax proposal is not novel and certainly must have had a great deal of virtue at one stage because it was recommended by the present Government, which subsequently retreated from the commitment. Presumably it retreated because of pressure from vested interests. On a conservative estimate, a resource tax would raise $150m. The Opposition has served notice that it intends to introduce such a tax. Those mineral development corporations enjoying about normal or reasonable levels of profitability- that is, return on funds investedshould take that warning on board. The Opposition makes no apologies about that. Family trusts should attract about $100m of revenue. The Opposition estimates that changing the tax scales would raise somewhere near $200m on the simple basis that the tax changes in early 1978 provided over $500m worth of benefit to the top 10 per cent of income earners. On our calculations, the top 2 per cent to 3 per cent of income earners achieved some $300m of that benefit. It was out of all proportion according to any scale of equity to what they were entitled to, and the Opposition makes no apologies about that. Petroleum revenue tax would raise something like $400m to $450m in next year’s Budget. Finally, there is the capital gains tax. The usual figure used in places such as the United States of America and Canada is that it raises about 5 per cent of total tax revenue. On that basis, in Australia we would expect to raise something like $500m from that sort of tax when it is fully operative.
-The honourable gentleman is now proceeding too far.
– It is necessary to explain the actual figures. I will do it very briefly. Even cutting it down to about $ 100m -
– I wish to raise a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is not only debating the question but he is also bringing in a separate set of figures to those previously accredited to him in his speech, to which the Treasurer referred.
-There is no point of order.
– Even bringing the capital gains tax down to $ 100m, we still find a total revenue raising of $ 1,000m. The final point is that there are choices available to the Government. If it has to raise that amount of revenue it can resort to this area or it can increase personal taxes and sales taxes. The Opposition prefers the former; the Treasurer performs the latter.
-The honourable member is now arguing the matter. I will not permit him to continue.
-I claim to have been misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden).
-Does the Treasurer wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
– In his attempt to put into context what he had said the Leader of the Opposition made three mistakes. Firstly, he confirmed the fact that the resources tax would be introduced retrospectively.
– I wish to raise a point of order. The Treasurer is clearly arguing against the Leader of the Opposition. He is not referring in any way to what the Leader of the Opposition said about him.
-I call the Treasurer.
- Mr Speaker, are you going to give a ruling?
-There is no point of order.
-The point I made, and on which the Leader of the Opposition did mislead the House, was not the question of whether or not a resources tax should be introduced. Opposition policy on that is clear; Government policy is clear. That is not the argument. The argument is the method by which $ 150m should be raised for next year. The only way that you can do that is to introduce it retrospectively.
-The honourable gentleman made that point in his answer to the question. I ask him not to debate the matter.
– I am sorry. So far as the top two per cent of income earners is concerned, the point I made, and the point I make again, is very simply this: If you are to leave -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Standing Order 64 reads:
Having obtained leave from the Chair, a Member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no question before the House; but such matters may not be debated.
I ask you to rule that the Treasurer is debating the question and is not in any way explaining matters which are allegedly of a personal nature to him and by which he has been offended.
-There is no point of order.
-The point I made, and the point I make again in regard to the area of misrepresentation by the Leader of the Opposition, is this: If you are to keep the standard and intermediate rate scales the same, and surely the Leader of the Opposition is not saying that he is going to increase the standard and the intermediate rate scales, in order to obtain the $200m out of the top two per cent of income earners you have to increase the marginal rate to a much higher figure than it was when the standard rate scale system was introduced. Not only did the standard rate scale system reduce the marginal rate; it also restructured the minimum and intermediate rates. That is the point the Leader of the Opposition has missed completely.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to be misrepresented?
-Yes, I do.
-He may proceed.
-On page 900 of Hansard for yesterday, 20 March, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is reported as saying that I, the honourable member for Denison, ‘may end up stuffed and mounted’. In so far as that statement contains an expressed threat, I demand that the Leader of the Opposition withdraw it.
-I do not see any need to require a withdrawal.
– by leave- In May 1978 I informed the Parliament that when a formal United States proposal was placed before the Government to install a replacement satellite ground terminal at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station it would be considered on its merits. A formal US proposal was received on 17 February 1979. It has been considered by the Government. The Government has concluded that the installation of a GSC-39V ( 1 ) satellite ground terminal, formally designated AN/MSC-61, to replace the existing AN/TSC-54 satellite ground terminal would depart in no way from the agreed purposes of defence communication for which the station was established. The Government accepts that a need exists for the communication equipment at Harold E. Holt to be sustained at levels of technical performance fully compatible with the US Defence communication system of which it forms an integral element. It supports the installation that has been proposed.
On 25 May last year I stated in respect of the replacement terminal that if it were proceeded with, it:
I confirm now to honourable members that those assurances apply equally to the replacement terminal now formally proposed for installation.
-by leave-The statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) brings at least temporarily to a close one of the less satisfying episodes in Defence administration and the Minister’s own administration of the Department of Defence during his tenure, and possibly an earlier period. Last year this particular proposal resulted in a censure motion being moved in this House against the Minister; not because he wilfully mislead the House but because information was withheld from him. I said on that occasion that this exercise had been wilfully mishandled because, in accordance with the well-known ‘need to know’ doctrine, information had been withheld from the Minister. This information was important to Australia and important to Australia’s defence. That incident led to the Minister and the Government being seriously embarrassed.
When there were disclosures on that occasion we were told that the information had not been made available to the Australian Government. In fact, the proposition had been before a United States Congressional committee and details of plans to alter the station in Australia had been approved in the United States. On that occasion the Minister said that no formal notification had taken place; but a week before that statement he took the United States Government to task for not informing the Australian Government that the alterations were even in the pipeline. In fact, the technical area of the Department had known of this since 1 972 but the information had not got through to the top of the Department. the policymaking segments. That statement also raised extraordinary doubts. I can only put it at that level. A number of extremely high level Australian missions had gone to the United States in response to the Schlesinger-Barnard agreements of 1973 to discuss this particular base, its administration and the Australian-American agreements relating to its operations.
The policy people in those delegations told the Minister that they did not know of this matter but in fact they were briefed on it in the United States at least a year earlier. The policy people in the Department apparently did not look at the matters on which they went to the United States as being serious, or else they did not look at the matter of the Australian Government knowing what was going on on Australian territory as being very serious. It is a matter of concern that a Minister is able to make that sort of mistake. He should know about major decisions in respect of installations on Australian soil which could be significant targets in any worldwide conflict, or even a smaller conflict. It is known now- it was not known at the time- that on at least one occasion, if not more, this base was used to convey messages to alert United States forces and that the Australian Government was not apprised of this until after the event. If hostilities had taken place this base would have been one of the prime targets for a nuclear strike or some other strike on Australian soil. That could have happened. It still could take place without the Australian Government knowing that messages had been sent through that station.
There is another matter which is of. equal concern. On 17 February this year, at least a year, and possibly considerably longer, after the United States Government was able to put detailed information of its proposals before a US Congressional committee, the formal request came to the Australian Government. The Harold E. Holt base was mentioned at the Congressional committee’s hearing as a site for this installation. I would have thought that the Australian Government would have been kept informed. I am surprised that the American Government did not think Australia important enough to advise it that such a proposal was running. As I understand it, a formal request in diplomatic terms is a request made at a particular time by one government to another government when it knows that it is a request that will be accepted. I think that the American Government would have known well before 17 February this year that this proposal would be acceptable.
There are problems of political control. I am very concerned about remarks made by the Minister in another debate here less than a fortnight ago, when he indicated that, whilst it was all right for the Opposition spokesman to be briefed on defence matters, he did not feel that information should be readily available to the Parliament for assessment and consideration, even though the Parliament appropriates the funds that are spent by the Department. I am concerned- we do not have the information on which we can judge this-that money being spent on defence policies in this country may not be being considered in the best circumstances, the most efficient circumstances; nor may it be being spent in a manner that will ensure that in fact we do have defence. I am aware of the Minister’s acceptance of responsibility. I am also aware that the Minister said that if he fails in his duties this House has a full right to censure him. I accept that, but I wonder what would have happened or what relevance it would have had if the French National Assembly had called itself together in 1.940, when the Germans were invading Belgium, to censure the French Minister for Defence because defence planning was out of date and adequate money for defence had been spent badly.
– This is bringing us up to date. Are you complaining about that too? We can’t win!
-I suggest that it is an irrelevancy in a matter such as defence, where long term planning is necessary and where information is necessary, for anyone to suggest that there might be a censure motion if we fail. If we fail we will not catch up.
The Opposition does not oppose this proposal. However, we do believe that there is need for the Parliament to be given more information about these facilities and similar facilities in Australia. We believe that there is a failing at the strategic level. I understand that the Minister has not visited Washington for some years for discussions with American officials. I believe that there is a need for that sort of exchange so that we can be fully acquainted with what the United States is doing, especially on our soil. There is too much trust and subservience in the Australia attitude. That is not good enough. We will be in a position in the future where we will have to depend on our own initiative, and we should know exactly where we stand. That cannot be done through public servants. It cannot be done by an organisation dominated by a single man. I believe that this House as a House of Parliament has to demand far greater information from the Government than it is receiving or has received in the past.
This particular instance can be described only as a comedy of serious and tragic accidents leading to a Minister making statements that he had to withdraw within a week. The statements would never have been made had it not been that the public servants concerned obviously believed that they were entitled not to tell the Minister what was going on but to ensure that they themselves were fully informed on matters on which several of them had been sent to the United States on regular occasions for discussions. There was an attempt to hang the blame on Air Vice-Marshal Jordan. That was not good enough either, because a senior civilian officer and at least one other officer were involved. Their names were not mentioned, other than in answer to a question; but apparently they were thought to be blameless. We have a very substantial defence establishment- not as big in the civilian areas as the Press would have us believe; nevertheless, very substantial. There are many people of great capacity, and I believe that this incident and a number of other incidents that are not dissimilar indicate that they are not being utilised to the maximum. I do not believe that the mistakes that took place earlier on this issue have been dealt with properly at an administrative level. I am concerned at reports that we are not capable of finding a replacement for the present Secretary to the Department and that the Government has sought permission to have the option of appointing him for a further 12 months.
– That is not true.
-There is a question on the Notice Paper. The Minister could have answered it at any time he wished. I suggest that it may well be that the Department needs considerable examination. One of the things that disturb me is a recent statement by a retiring air commodore, who said:
The Minister for Defence says pretty well what Sir Arthur wants him to say.
Then he went on to say -
– That is just nonsense, and you know it.
– I am quoting. He went on to say:
I’d say that 99 out of 100 times Sir Arthur’s opinion is so strong that it prevails.
That may well be because Sir Arthur Tange is usually right, but I doubt it. I know of no one who is right 99 out of 100 times. That quotation is disturbing, not because it may or may not be right- the Minister disputes that it is right- but because a senior officer in the Defence Force thinks it is right and other senior officers also think it is right. That kills initiative and destroys and senior capacity of a major policy-making department to do its job. If it feels that it is dominated, if it feels that it is a waste of time showing initiative, then initiative will not be shown.
As I said a moment ago, this announcement relates to information which we were incapable of being given and which the Government admitted it did not even know about six years after the facility was proposed. It is a formal acceptance of a formal proposal, the end of the line.
– We still have not appropriated money fork.
-We have not appropriated money for the TFF program either, but the Government is well on the way to making the final decision. When the final decision is made it will be too late for this House to consider seriously whether the appropriation should be made. The Opposition does not oppose the proposition, but we feel that it is time procedures were set up that would prevent the occurrences that have led to this announcement and ensure that the Department not only does its job and is seen to do its job but also tells the Minister what is going on.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I present the report of the Committee on Ginninderra Creek, Lake Ginninderra and proposals to vary the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs, 66A series, together with a transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I have presented the report of the Committee on Ginninderra Creek and Lake Ginninderra which incorporates series 66A of variations to the plan of Canberra. Dissents have been recorded on two aspects of the Committee’s recommendations. Because of the unique system of government in the Australian Capital Territory, this Committee often becomes an important avenue of appeal for citizens interested in or concerned about developments or proposals for development in the national capital. The Committee has in the past been involved in many issues of concern to residents of the Territory. The Committee’s first report, which was presented in 1957, dealt with trading hours in Canberra. The Committee has also been involved in inquiries into the local milk industry, Sunday observance, employment opportunities, breathalyser tests, waste disposal and a range of others.
Again, because of the system of government in the Territory the Australian Capital Territory Assembly was able to express its opinion to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) on the proposed developments relating to Ginninderra Creek and Lake Ginninderra. This Committee, however, was able to call representatives from both the Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission to appear before it and question them on the issues involved. We are also able to present this report to the national Parliament as a basis for the Federal Government’s and its agencies’ future planning for these areas. The Committee has, in recent years, also endeavoured to allow for greater public participation in the planning and development process in Canberra to the extent possible through the Committee’s activities and within its terms of reference.
This inquiry has, in the Committee’s view, been an especially important one. It has also allowed the public to have a say on an issue that aroused interest among a large number of people in the Belconnen area in particular. But there is also now wide acceptance that authorities involved in urban planning and development have a responsibility to preserve important elements of the natural environment not only for their own sake but also as an essential element in the future urban environment for a variety of recreational and educational purposes. Canberra is a rapidly growing urban area although there has been a slow down in the growth rate from the very high levels of the recent past. With rapid growth it is more difficult to sustain a long-term perspective on the future needs of the community. This particularly relates to such amenities as open or green spaces. It is essential that the future needs of a highly urbanised society for open or green spaces should be taken into account to the maximum practical extent in urban planning. This is an issue of considerable significance to all those associated with, but particularly those living in, the national capital. In this report the Committee has set down its views on how it believes development along Ginninderra Creek and around Lake Ginninderra should proceed. It recognises that it does not have the specialised expertise to be dogmatic about all future planning needs and priorities. It has framed its recommendations in the context of the views expressed to it in submissions and by members of the community who have an interest in the issues. We have sought to reach reasonable and practical conclusions taking into account, to the extent we can, the future needs of the community.
The main issue in this inquiry was the importance of recreation space in the urban environment in one of the Territory’s newest and fastest growing areas. Belconnen has grown from a population of just over 15,000 in 1970 to about 70,000 in 1979. It is not only the amount of open or green space provided for recreation which has to be considered, but also the quality of that space. The Australian Capital Territory is a dry inland area particularly subject to the vagaries of the elements as dramatically emphasised by the recent bush fires. In this report the Committee has referred to another report by Professor George Seddon on ‘An Open Space System For Canberra’. In that report Professor Seddon noted inequities in the distribution of natural resources for recreation within the Australian Capital Territory and made particular reference to the lack of recreation areas in Belconnen. Lake Ginninderra and Ginninderra Creek provide the opportunity for the development of recreation areas in Belconnen which could make a significant difference to that situation. Before moving to the Committee’s findings and recommendations I must refer to some reservations which the Committee had about the submissions made to it by the Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission. The Department made a seven page submission which the Committee found inadequate in detail and in its treatment of the issues involved in the inquiry. It can perhaps be best described as a scrappy effort. The National Capital Development Commission provided a submission which dealt mainly with Ginninderra Creek and gave only limited attention to Lake Ginninderra. It was in fact a booklet produced in October 1 978 for other purposes and it had been distributed before this inquiry began. The NCDC did provide further information at the Committee’s request. For example, estimates were provided of costs involved in proposed future development or its curtailment around the lake though the Committee did not find these entirely satisfactory. In contrast, the Ginninderra Community Council provided a comprehensive submission to the Committee. The Council, in putting forward its submission, was supported by a petition from over 1,600 residents of the area. The Committee compliments the Council on its submission, and, despite relatively limited resources, its efforts to make it comprehensive and detailed and to involve a substantial number of people from the community in its work. In this report, which I now table, the Committee has approved the variations along Ginninderra Creek proposed by the NCDC. In addition it has suggested the deletion of a further 1 9 housing blocks in Evatt in an effort to slightly extend the area of open space along the creek. This should ensure there is no undue intrusion of housing development on the natural areas of the creek in this area. The Committee has also recommended that the proposed extension of Conley Drive to Copland Drive not proceed until there is a clear demand and need for that extension.
The Committee was particularly concerned to ensure that Lake Ginninderra be effectively developed as a major recreational asset in the northern area of the Territory. The Committee has sought not to be over-prescriptive in its recommendations for the lake but has aimed at preserving reasonable areas of open space around the lake. It has not tried to usurp the role of the planners but rather to set before them clear guidelines within which they should operate in planning for the development of the lake and its immediate environs. The Committee has found that housing development on the Lake Ginninderra peninsula would be inappropriate and that any future development on the peninsula should be limited to recreational purposes. It has recommended that NCDC provide a range of options for the peninsula and for the community to be consulted before final decisions are made. In relation to the western side of the lake, the Committee has suggested that some of the land proposed for housing be retained as parkland with further provision for recreational facilities. The Committee is also concerned about development occurring close to the foreshores in certain areas. However, the Committee does not propose what Professor Seddon referred to as the Cordon Sanitaire for that area. There is scope for what is referred to as hard edge development at certain points around the lake. A further recommendation proposes an investigation into the establishment of a wildlife refuge, preferably in the north eastern shallows. The Committee has also recommended that the former hospital site be retained for recreational or institutional purposes.
One dissent by four members of the Committee relates to development along Ginninderra Creek in Latham. The Committee had previously approved the development of sections 102, 103 and 104 in Latham. The Committee has recommended that the gazettal of sections 102, 103 and 104 stand. However, the dissenting report recommends that the development of those sections for medium density housing should not proceed. The other dissent concerns the peninsula of Lake Ginninderra. Two members have recommended that more information be provided on a wider range of possible uses for the development of the peninsula.
The Committee in its report has tried to adopt a reasonable and balanced approach to the development of residential accommodation and the provision of recreational areas and facilities for the residents of Belconnen and the Territory. It is recognised that the community’s needs and wishes even in the near future may differ from those of today. The Committee is conscious of the lack of natural recreational areas in Belconnen when compared with other parts of Canberra, and its recommendations are intended to assist in overcoming this imbalance. Ginninderra Creek and Lake Ginninderra should be a valuable recreational, educational, social and historical resource for the residents of that area, but also for residents of the whole Territory. The Committee considers that its recommendations make suitable provision for the recreational requirements of residents now and, we hope, in the future.
As a signatory of the dissenting report, I would like to say how disappointed I was that the majority of the Committee did not agree that sections 102, 103 and 104 should be withdrawn for development. We did ask for a response from the community and we received an excellent response. One of the strongest responses was against the development of these three blocks. Whilst the Committee made concessions to community views on every other area, on precisely that area, where community views were the strongest, the Committee made no concession, and that gave rise to the dissenting report.
– by leave- I join with the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) in commending the report to the Parliament. As one of the dissenters on the peninsular area, I should explain to the House that it was my opinion and the opinion of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean), that that particular peninsular area should not at this stage be completely used for recreational purposes. We were not happy with the information that was provided to us by the National Capital Development Commission, and we wished to leave the door open for the NCDC to bring further information to the Committee at a future date.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Robertson, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide an assurance that it will not permit any exploration, testing or mining on or in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-Australia possesses at least -
– It is with some regret, following a discussion I had earlier, that I move:
– This is disgraceful.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!
– We have been listening to drivel for the last three weeks, and this is the first opportunity -
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Is the honourable member raising a point of order?
– No. I want to speak to the motion.
-The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveproposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No. 36, General Business, being called on forthwith.
– I want to place on record the fact that the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) has just suppressed discussion of a matter of public importance which has been put forward by the Opposition concerning the Great Barrier Reef. I think that that matter is important. I think also that discussion of Notice No. 36, General Business, is important. The Leader of the House ought to be able to make arrangements so that all matters of such importance are able to be discussed. He is unable to do so. No wonder the nation is in such a state when the Leader of the House cannot even run the affairs of the House. Something is odd about our procedures when Notice No. 36, General Business, is brought on for discussion before the other 35 notices. I think that honourable members on this side of the House have been treated with extreme discourtesy. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) was notified only a couple of hours ago that discussion of the matter of public importance which he had proposedwould not proceed. Whilst all of us wish to debate these matters, I think a few courtesies are due to the people who have to work together consistently in this building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent:
a ) the debate on the motion to be moved by the honourable member for Hume relating to the termination of pregnancy to be a cognate debate covering the motion and all amendments given to the Clerk, reported to the House and circulated to members, and
on a motion ‘That the questions be now put’ being agreed to, or at such earlier time as the debate may conclude, the Chair shall put the questions on circulated amendments which are capable of being put, in the order determined by the Chair, and any other questions necessary to conclude consideration of the matter
Provided that the Speaker may, in his discretion, before putting the question ‘That the questions be now put’, call on the mover or seconder or any other member to make a personal explanation.
I wish to explain briefly to the House this point of procedure. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has just suggested that in some way there is something extraordinary about bringing on notice No. 36. Of course, notice has been given to the public at large in Australia that this debate is to take place today. It is intended that there should be adequate opportunity for everybody who is concerned with this motion to consider it. But of course, there is not just one motion before us. Already a number of motions have been distributed. The purpose of the suspension that I am now putting to the House is to enable each honourable member when he rises to canvass not just those matters which under our Standing Orders would be peculiarly a matter for consideration- that is, the motion or an amendment thereto for the time being before the House- but to debate all those amendments and the motion as they are before us. It is thought that this will enable a far more adequate expression of points of view on what seems to be a topic for a good many alternative perspectives.
Part (b) of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is intended to provide an opportunity at the end of the day for the mover and the seconder of the motion or the mover of an amendment to have some opportunity of a right of reply. It is expressed in somewhat a different order from an ordinary motion because it is obvious that there are areas where, Standing Orders having been suspended, it is only at your discretion, Mr Speaker, that honourable members in the chamber can rise to be called on at a particular time. It is felt that by the second part of the amendment an opportunity will be preserved for those who have a particular point of view and present it by way of a motion or amendment in this debate to rise after that motion has been put. That will enable them, if they wish, to exercise a semi right of reply. That, of course would only be a matter of personal explanation, therefore the time available would probably be no more than five minutes. I commend this suspension to the House as a more effective way of dealing with an extraordinarily complex motion and series of amendments than just relying on the Standing Orders as they now exist.
-The Opposition does not oppose the procedures as outlined by the Leader of the Government (Mr Sinclair). However, in reference to the comment made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr
Bryant), we believe that it would be impossible for the national Parliament of this country to be used on very many occasions as it is being used today. For instance, if someone is to give notice next week about capital punishment, are we to believe that the Government is going to turn over one day of our sittings to debate capital punishment? Are we going to go through all the procedures of the amendments that may be moved in a debate of that nature? In my opinion, and on behalf of the Opposition, in view of the matters that the Government refuses to debate in this Parliament, it is most derisory that so much time is being spent going over a subject which has already been debated at length in this Parliament. Now that the Government has brought it on, we have no opposition to the procedures. We just wish that some of our speakers may have had more time available to them.
The way that the procedure will be followed, the mover of the motion and the mover of the first amendment obviously will be given precedence in the debate. Some honourable members on our side will not be allowed to make their views known as they ought to be because the Government, in its idiotic manner of handling business in this Parliament, has encouraged every pressure group in Australia over the last fortnight to try to change our minds from the way we may have voted some years ago in the Parliament on the same subject. What the Government is doing today really exposes that it does not want to discuss some of the national economic issues which confront it.
- Mr Speaker, I just say quickly that part (b) of Mr Sinclair’s motion refers to the fact that you will determine the order in which amendments will be put. Would you inform the House of your intentions in this regard?
-I am unable at this time to indicate to the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) how I will put the amendments. There are two reasons for that. One is that I do not know what the amendments will be. Secondly, I do not know now what will be the mood of the House. There are provisions in the Standing Orders which we could have followed and if we had followed them we would have had the following situation: A motion, an amendment to the motion, an amendment to the amendment, and an amendment to the amendment to the amendment. I think that would have become so complex that honourable members would have had difficulty confining their remarks to the particular question at the moment before the Chair.
To allow the debate to be broader and to allow all the different points of view to be expressed in a cognate debate meant suspension of the Standing Orders and then one of two things. We could have tried to draw up an alternative set of Standing Orders which had to deal with a number of complex issues including a number of matters before the Chair at the one time. That would have been impossible. The only alternative was to invest the Speaker with a discretion, the discretion being to put the amendments as he thought might test the mood of the House so that it could come to a resolution of the matter as quickly as possible. That is the question before the House on which the House will vote. If it agrees to the motion that will be the course. If it does not agree to the motion we will be confined to the strictness of the Standing Orders. I cannot give the honourable gentleman an answer as to how I will apply the procedure. I am unable to answer him at this time.
-I raise a point of procedure, Mr Speaker. The motion says that there is a requirement that amendments be put before the House in the order of their being handed to the Clerk. Would that give persons submitting amendments- I ask this from a purely practical point of view- priority in calls so that they can move their amendments? Does that mean that in all probability honourable members who do not have amendments will not get the call at all?
– No. It is not necessary under the proposed motion for an honourable member to receive the call in order to move his motion or his amendment. What the honourable member will do is to provide the Clerk with the amendment. The amendment will be reported by the Clerk to the House and it will be circulated in the House. In that way all amendments can be put as soon as they are formulated by the person who wishes to put them and they may be debated by all speakers. They will have ail the facets before them. It is not necessary to be called in order to move an amendment. Of course, a person who has moved an amendment will be more likely to catch the eye of the Chair than a person who has not. But at the end of the debate, whenever that may be, it will be for the Speaker to determine the manner in which he puts the several amendments so that he can endeavour to enable the House to vote upon the issues in as simple and forthright a manner as possible.
– Who will get the first call?
-The first call will be the call of the mover of the original motion, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). I will then call upon the seconder to the motion. Then I will call upon somebody who I believe opposes the motion. I will then try to alternate the calls between those in favour generally and those against generally.
-Mr Speaker, your comments are disturbing in this regard: The amendments before the House which have been circulated to date are in some way restrictive or anti-abortion. It seems to me from the remarks you have made that because this debate is restricted no honourable member who wants to support a woman’s right to decide whether she will have an abortion will have an opportunity of entering this debate. Mr Speaker, I am disturbed by the rulings and the guidance you have given.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-I hope, Mr Speaker -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-I hope that you will adopt a better course of action.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I am very disappointed that the honourable member for Reid continued to speak after I asked him to resume his seat. He has been here long enough to comply with the forms of the House. I am most disappointed. Clearly the honourable gentleman has misunderstood what I have said. There is no reason at all for him to be perturbed. He can stand and seek the call. I have indicated that, insofar as I know it, I will endeavour to alternate between those honourable members who are generally in favour of the original motion- that is, the motion of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher)- and those honourable members generally against it. If the honourable gentleman is generally against the motion he will be able to get the call.
-I said what I did, Mr Speaker, because you indicated that those honourable members who have indicated that they wish to move an amendment will catch your eye and probably will get the call before other honourable members who wish to speak. If that procedure is to be followed I think that very few other honourable members will get the opportunity to speak in this debate because it is a restricted debate.
-We will find that out as we go along.
– in reply- Mr Speaker, for the information of those honourable members who are concerned about the premature abortion of the debate, I assure them that that is not our intention. Hopefully there will be adequate time for as many honourable members on either side of the House who wish to make a contribution to do so.
-This is rather an unusual course to follow. It is a debate in which there are many facets of opinion. I think that the course outlined in the motion is the right course to follow. I express that opinion because I spent a good deal of time trying to work out how every honourable member’s views could be heard. The motion before the Chair now is for the suspension of Standing Orders in the terms moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair).
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, further to what the Leader of the House -
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. The honourable member for Denison is out of order. He is out of his place. He should not interject and he should not use offensive terms when referring to another member. I ask him to maintain behaviour fitting a national parliament.
- Mr Speaker, just to clarify the final point made by the Leader of the House, at what time has it been determined that the vote should be taken? We on this side of the House take it for granted that we are not going to be debating this issue beyond 10.30 p.m., but is it the Government’s intention to continue with this debate tomorrow?
-If need be, yes. At the end of business tonight, if, for example, we are voting at 10.30, it may well be necessary to negative the automatic adjournment to allow that voting to be completed. But if in the course of the day it appears that there is still a number of outstanding speakers the debate will be adjourned at 10.30 p.m. and will be resumed tomorrow, when it will be debated until its conclusion.
– If speakers are still listed will the debate continue tomorrow?
-If there are still honourable members who appear to want to make a contribution and if the House is of a mood that it wishes to continue the debate- presumably that will be gauged by intending speakers being listed- that will be so.
– We have 25 intending speakers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
I bring this motion forward as a means of gaining an expression of opinion from this House as to whether it supports continued use of public funds for the payment of medical benefits for elective abortions. I do not bring the motion forward as a political or sectarian issue but in the hope that this House will debate a matter which is of concern to many members of the House and of the public in a rational and unemotional fashion. I ring the motion forward because of the difference that has developed between views expressed by an earlier Parliament and the situation that has developed in practice. I bring the motion forward because, although strictly it deals with parliamentary responsibility for the proper use of public funds, it is inevitably associated with an issue of conscience and for this reason it is difficult for the Government to bring it forward as a government measure.
Honourable members will recall that on 10 May 1973 the House defeated the Medical Practice Clarification Bill. This was a private member’s Bill introduced by the then honourable members for Diamond Valley and Latrobe which sought to provide for abortion on demand. The proposition was rejected by 98 votes to 23 on the second reading. Less than one year later, in the life of the same Parliament, the administrative decision to allow funding for a specific abortion item was taken without reference to the Parliament, which had expressed so definite a view on so closely related a matter less than a year before. The Parliament was never informed in any specific sense that this important decision was being taken by the Government of the day in 1 974. To the best of my knowledge no publicity was given to this decision, nor was the fact referred to by the Medical Fees Tribunal. Because no one knew of the decision, it was not challenged in the Parliament.
On 15 September 1977 the now Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) announced that he had asked his Department to ‘examine the whole area to ascertain whether there are ways and means of ensuring that benefits are payable only to mothers who have had an abortion on proper medical grounds’. I believe that to have been a commendable initiative by the Minister. I do not imply any criticism of the Minister when I say that Parliament has not seen or been informed of the results of that review. The review was an internal departmental procedure designed to provide advice to the Minister. It is not normal for departmental reviews or advisings to be tabled. The review resulted in no change to the status quo. I want to make the point that the result of the review is not secret or confidential. When I asked, I was told of its findings and of the reasons. I understand that this information has been made available to other honourable members. Parliament may or may not have agreed with the decision, but it was not informed. .
Two related issues did come before the Parliament. The first was the Minister’s decision to allow health funds an option to put up for approval a table of benefits which excluded abortion payments. This option was approved by Parliament in 1978. The second was the gazetting of an ordinance by the Minister to regulate the occurrence of abortion in the Australian Capital Territory. This ordinance was challenged in, and upheld by, the Senate in November 1978. Parliament has yet to express an opinion on the propriety of using public funds for elective abortions.
This Parliament has no power over the legality of abortion. That question is a matter for the State governments, each of which has settled on the conditions under which abortion will be allowed as a legal operation. The existing situation is different in different States. The only question that relates to abortion which can be considered by this Parliament is whether a medical benefit should be available for the operation and, if so, under what circumstances. This is, of course, the major issue which the House will be dealing with in this debate. The fact that changes in the medical benefits system became effective on 1 November last year and have resulted in the Commonwealth meeting all but $20 of the cost of pregnancy terminations emphasises the need for Parliament to determine an attitude on the subject. It is my hope that the House will express a firm opinion in favour of the motion and that the Government will translate the expressed view of this chamber into legislation which will prevent the use of public funds for elective abortions.
The Department of Health has informed me that the following is the situation: In 1977-78, 50,900 abortions were performed at a benefit cost of $3. 4m. I emphasise that this amount and this number relate only to item 6469 abortions because it is the only specific abortion item. These figures do not take into account abortions performed in public hospitals, abortions that are not claimed for some reason, or the associated anaesthesia and pathology and other services which are usually part of the abortion procedure. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships estimated that there are 60,000 abortions annually. This figure is hard to dispute. We know that medical benefits were paid for 50,900 abortions and there would almost certainly be another 9,000 or so performed within the public hospital system, or performed under an item other than 6469, or simply not claimed.
From the public money point of view, the known benefit payout is $3. 4m but, taking into account payments under other items and for other related medical services, I believe the public money payment to be at least $6m. The question that the House has to resolve is whether it believes that the bulk of that $6m, which is paying for on demand, elective, or non-medically necessary abortions through the medical benefits system, is a proper use of public funds. The number of live births in 1977-78 was 226,364. The ratio of abortions to live births is about one to four. I do not believe that there is a member in this House who would accept that, given the state of medical technology today, there can be any medical necessity for aborting one pregnancy in every four. It is probably the highest ratio in the Western world.
I shall now deal with the meaning and the intent of the motion. The first part of the motion is designed to prevent the payment of benefits for termination of pregnancy unless the termination was the only way in which the mother’s life could be protected from a specified physical condition. The second part of the motion is designed to provide for the payment of benefits only in certain circumstances. Under part (2) (a) of the motion, the doctor who performed a service which could result in the termination of pregnancy should certify that the operation was not performed to terminate a pregnancy. In simple terms, if a doctor performs a normal dilettage and curettage for normal gynaecological reasons, he should say so and the benefit will be payable.
Under part 2 (b), the doctor who performed the service which resulted in the deliberate termination of a pregnancy should certify that the termination was the only way in which he could protect the mother’s life from a specified physical condition. Again in simple terms, if the woman had cancer of the womb which could be treated in no other way than by termination of the pregnancy and her life was in danger, then benefits would be paid if the doctor so certified. The words ‘and the life could be protected in no other way’ are necessary to cover those situations where an abortion is only one of the means available to protect the life of the mother. If, for instance, the mother was anaemic, an abortion would probably cure her, but iron tablets and a change of diet would cure her also. What the motion says is that the termination must be the only way in which the life can be protected, if benefits for it are to be paid. The motion seeks to apply a test of medical necessity to abortions for which medical benefits are claimed. Few people will argue that the present situation, based on and related to a concept of legality which stems from Menhennitt, has not caused an extension and direction of public funds into an area, the width of which was never contemplated by this Parliament. This has resulted in the excessive use or over-use of public funds, and Parliament should see that it does not continue.
I must acknowledge that the motion provides for certification by the doctor. This approach is not unique in sentiment, although it may be in practice. Already the Government has applied tests of medical necessity to the use of pathological services, to the use of health scanning services, and to the use of some cosmetic surgery. It is likely that a test will be applied to the use of X-rays if the suggested abuse can be shown to be serious. The Government has denied benefits for life assurance check-ups. It restricts prescription of some drugs under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Under the other restrictions the Government has applied to the eligibility for medical benefits, the matter is left to the ethical judgment of the doctor.
Unfortunately, in the area under discussion there are doctors who have openly stated that they will flout and ignore the laws. It is because of this limited number of doctors that I believe the certification is necessary. There is little point in introducing a new regime which is accepted by most doctors if a few doctors abuse it, attract all the business and are responsible for the vast majority of claims for benefit. I believe that the House will see this as a reasonable proposition, and that although, in practice, it goes beyond other requirements or tests, it is, in this instance, justified.
I realise that the question of certification has caused concern within the Australian Medical Association. I will come back to that point later if I get the chance. At this stage I want to acknowledge that difficulties in legislating to implement the spirit of this motion, if passed, and in administering it will almost certainly arise. I am asking the House to express support for the motion as a statement of principle with the acknowledgment that some form of certification will be required. If the motion is passed, it becomes a matter for the Government and Parliamentary Counsel to propose a method of implementation and administration, and for that to come back to the Parliament as an Act or as regulations. At that time the House can express a point of view as to the appropriateness or otherwise of the manner in which the principle has been translated into legislation. I shall quote briefly from the second reading speech of the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) when introducing into the Parliament last year, I think it was, a Bill in relation to the health screening activity. He said:
Under existing legislation medical benefits are payable for such services regardless of there being any indication medically for the necessity for the service or its effectiveness. I am sure honourable members will agree that the medical benefits system should not operate in such circumstances and that the costs of such services should be borne by the individual electing to have them rendered.
I ask the House to apply the same principle to pregnancy terminations. I hope that honourable members will vote today on the point of principle and not on the administrative implications. The principle of the motion differs deliberately from the Menhennitt judgment in Victoria and the Levine judgment in New South Wales. In Davidson’s case in 1969 Mr Justice Menhennitt ruled as follows:
For the use of an instrument with intent to procure a miscarriage to be lawful the accused must honestly have believed on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was:
necessary to preserve a woman from the serious danger to her life or her physical and mental health, not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, which the continuation of the pregnancy would entail; and
in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.
In Wald’s case in 1972 Judge Levine ruled in substantially the same terms but went on to say:
With regard to mental health it is proper . . . to consider whether the danger to mental health arose from not only mental disease, or disease of the mind, but from the effects of economic or social stresses that may be pertaining at the time.
It is well to examine the basis upon which these two decisions stand. The Menhennitt judgment is a decision of a single justice of the Victorian Supreme Court. The Levine judgment is a subsequent decision of a single judge of the District Court of New South Wales, a court of similar status to a County Court in Victoria. Neither judgment has been confirmed by a full or superior court and I understand that neither would be.
The honourable member for Lang has obtained an opinion from a leading Queen’s Counsel of the New South Wales and Victorian Bars which I have seen. This opinion makes it abundantly clear that these two judgments have no basis in law. The legal reasoning which is relied upon by Menhennitt and which is followed by Levine is totally discredited and has never been applied by a senior appellate court anywhere in the English speaking world. The famous English case of R. v. Dudley in 1884, where the castaways killed and ate the cabin boy, rejected necessity as a defence. With the exception of Menhennitt and Levine, it has never been accepted as a defence since. The Victorian Full Supreme Court itself rejected it in 1978 in R. v Dawson. Menhennitt and Levine stand only because successive Attorneys-General in Victoria and New South Wales have not challenged the judgments.
Although the status of Menhennitt and Levine is a matter which relates to State legality, and as I have already acknowledged legality is properly a matter for the respective State governments, it is very relevant to this debate because there are some who would seek to apply State legality as the test for the payment of Commonwealth medical benefits. The point I want to make is that these two judgments are not good law and it would be untenable to write them into any administrative or statutory instrument of this Parliament in the knowledge that they are not good law.
The motion before the House does not provide for mental health or economic or social stresses. It provides only for protection of physical life. The reason for the divergence is firstly that, as I will explain later, there is no nexus between State legality and obligation on the Commonwealth to pay benefits. This is of vital and fundamental importance, and I stress it by repeating it: There is no nexus between State legality and obligation on the Commonwealth to pay benefits. Secondly, the interpretation of the judgments in these. two States respectively has been such that the ability to take mental health into account has allowed for the proliferation of legal abortions, all of which attract benefits funded by the Commonwealth.
South Australia also allows for mental health to be taken into account. That is the only State for which detailed statistics are available. In that State, in 1977, 96 per cent of abortions were performed on grounds of mental health. In South Australia, in 1977, 3,590 abortions were recorded. Of these, only 49, or 1.36 per cent, were due to specified medical disorders. I think these statistics speak for themselves. It seems extraordinary that the simple act of terminating the pregnancy immediately restored to sound mental health over 3,500 South Australian women in one year. The state of mental health of most of these women was such that they required no psychiatric treatment, they required no admittance to a mental institution, they required no follow-up treatment or consultation. All they required was to have their pregnancies terminated. They had to assume or to adopt a mental health disorder as a prerequisite to having their pregnancies terminated legally. Is there any requirement for the Commonwealth to accept that as a basis for paying benefits?
I would like to deal with some of the arguments that have been put up against this motion. Firstly, it needs to be understood that the Commonwealth cannot differentiate between citizens of different States when determining how benefits will be paid under any item in the medical schedule. There can be no deliberate favouritism. It has been argued that because abortion is legal in the States the Commonwealth should provide a benefit for the operation. However, as honourable members will be aware, this proposition is not one that falls evenly on each State because the availability and legality of abortion differs between the States. Benefits will be paid to citizens of some States and not to citizens of others, depending on State legality. The Commonwealth is entitled to set guidelines for the payment of benefits which differ from the accepted legal position in a State, particularly when the position differs as between States. There is no requirement for uniformity as between State legality and Commonwealth benefits. Indeed, in this case such uniformity is not possible.
Putting aside the legal differences as between States, there is a related argument that legality of itself creates an obligation to pay benefits. I do not believe that legality implies an obligation on the Commonwealth to provide a benefit. For instance, it is legal for a person to have a medical checkup prior to having a proposal for life assurance accepted by a life office. But this does not imply an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to provide a benefit for what is a proper and legal medical service. In fact, section 1 9 of the Health Insurance Act specifically excludes this medical service from medical benefits payments. There is no link between legality and benefits. I interpose to say that the Supreme Court of the United States of America determined in 1 977 that Congress has the power to decide not to fund abortions. The argument that legality implies benefits does not stand up.
The thrust of my argument is that there is no obligation on the Commonwealth to pay benefits for an abortion which the doctor is not prepared to certify is necessary on medical grounds. This brings into question the definition of the word medical’. I do not dispute that in the literal sense an abortion is ‘medical’. But in the wider sense I find difficulty in accepting that a procedure performed when a patient is not suffering from any specific condition and is not in danger of death can be considered ‘medical’. If, for instance, a doctor amputated a perfectly healthy and functional hand, whilst the procedure would no doubt be medical in the strict sense, no one would agree that it was medical in the sense that it was related to health and well-being. In fact it would be considered highly irresponsible and unethical in the case of the hand but not so in the case of the unborn child. I believe that Parliament is entitled to ask for a certification of medical necessity in the ‘protect the life of the mother from a specified physical condition’ sense before agreeing to make a medical benefit available.
I will not ask for an extension of time because many other members of this House want to speak in this debate. In conclusion, I want to set the scene for this debate. The Parliament at the moment is effectively allowing for free abortion on demand- at least in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The proposition I put is to provide benefits only for those abortions which are necessary on good medical grounds. The choice is a clear one. I commend the motion to the House.
-I call the Clerk to read four amendments which have been circulated.
Amendments were read as follows-
From the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon):
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should not pay any medical benefits for or in relation to the termination of pregnancy unless the procedure is performed in accordance with the law of a State or Territory’.
From the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde):
Omit all words after ‘way ‘(first occurring).
From the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman):
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted, with a view to substituting the following words: this House expresses its deep concern that for every three live births in Australia there is one abortion, and therefore is of the opinion that the Government should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that medical benefits shall not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancy unless the termination is performed to protect the mother when her life is endangered by a physical pathological condition’.
From the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury):
That all words after ‘way’ (first occurring) be omitted, with a view to substituting the following words: or where either (a) the pregnancy was as a result of incest or rape, or (b) the mother has been subject to disease or physical conditions which could reasonably be expected to result in serious deformity to or retardation of the child ‘.
-I second the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). The motion has been proposed because it is obvious that the abortion business in Australia is flourishing and expanding at a time when medical technology has permitted outstanding achievements in reducing both maternal and infant mortality. I start at this point simply to emphasise the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Hume that we are now paying medical benefits for procedures which do not seem to satisfy the test of medical necessity.
The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) is on record as saying that medical necessity is an important criterion for the inclusion of particular medical procedures in the medical benefits system. In this context I refer to abortion statistics in Australia. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships estimated that 60,000 abortions occur annually. In the three years between 1975-76 and 1977-78 the number of abortions related to item 6469 rose by 30 per cent to 50,900. Of course, the real number of abortions in Australia is much higher. It is estimated to be at least 80,000 per annum and perhaps even more. But given even the lower number, the ratio of abortions to live births in Australia in 1977-78 is about one to four. Does this criterion of medical necessity justify such a high ratio? I doubt it.
In 1977 more than 96 per cent of the 3,590 abortions performed in South Australia were performed on grounds other than physical necessity. It is harder to get an abortion there than in the more populous Menhennitt and Levine States where the private abortion clinics operate. Medical technology has advanced to a stage where abortions, if they are to proliferate, must be justified on other than a purely physical necessity basis. Maternal mortality rates in Australia have fallen steadily since the turn of the century and in 1976 stood at 0.13 deaths per 1,000 live births. So we have to look elsewhere for reasons for the proliferation of abortions in Australia in recent years. In my view we need look no further than the legal precedents established by Menhennitt and Levine and the way in which the States have very loosely administered the laws arising from those judgmentsjudgments which in themselves opened the abortion gate and which are now seen to be challengeable. We can do nothing about those laws or the way in which they are administered.
If we are concerned with the present level of abortions in Australia and the way in which they are financed, we are confined to acting on the only grounds available to us- that is, tightening the use of taxpayers money for these purposes. I simply say that if medical necessity is regarded by the Minister as being an important criterion for the payment of medical benefits for pathology services, health screening purposes and other medical procedures, how much more important is it for this test to be applied to abortions? We are referring not only to item 6469 in the schedule but also to other items covering procedures which may result in abortion.
At present in Australia we have, according to people such as Dr Wainer, a situation where abortions are available on demand and State laws are being violated. We do not wish to play the role of the major provider of funds for the private abortion industry according to laws which abortionists say they can ride a horse through. We only wish to stipulate those conditions under which benefits will be payable for certain abortions. We have proposed this motion because we are very concerned at a situation where the great majority of the 60,000 lives being aborted in Australia are obviously being aborted for maternal and societal convenience, not because of medical necessity. This is not only massively inhumane but also, in the terms of this motion, taxpayers funds should not be used to finance the costs of removing human lives simply because they are viewed by others as being either mistakes or inconveniences. Put quite frankly, the present administration of State laws is permitting abortion on demand and we in the Commonwealth Parliament are giving official sanction to this. Because .of the nature of the medical procedure which is the subject of this motion, the question of medical necessity requires each of us to answer certain fundamental questions about the general issue of abortion before we can reasonably cast a vote on the motion. What do we mean by acceptable necessity in the case of abortions? To me this involves value judgments over and above those which apply to other medical procedures, because a third party is involved.
If one can easily live with the judgments of Menhennitt and Levine which determine the legality of abortions in the States, one cannot logically believe that a separate life begins at conception and, therefore, one must believe that abortion on demand does not impinge on the rights of anyone but the mother. If this is the belief of any honourable members in the House, so be it; they should oppose the motion. After all, this motion quite clearly differs from the principles of these judgments in the way we intend to restrict the circumstances under which medical benefits are paid in respect of certain abortions. We do this because in practice necessity is no longer used as a criterion for abortions as under Menhennitt it is almost impossible to sustain a prosecution and abortion practitioners maintain that this law is unenforceable. Those honourable members who believe that life begins at conception and that there should not be abortion on demand must support this motion. After all, abortion on request, by definition, does not imply medical necessity even though it involves a critical medical procedure involving destruction of life. These two opposing views start from two distinct and irreconcilable premises, and from those initial starting points the two arguments cannot logically come together. The vote of an honourable member will quite clearly reflect his view, first, on the concept of foetal life and, secondly, his views on the sanctity of that life. An honourable member’s vote should not accommodate separate views on each of those questions.
My position is very clear. My support for this motion stems from my belief that a separate life exists from conception. Therefore, I argue that that life must be respected and protected from that moment. My attitude to Commonwealth appropriations in this area starts from that position. Strict medical necessity is a sensible criterion for spending taxpayers’ money in the health area. It is a critically important criterion for a procedure involving a decision about the future of life. There is no doubt that life begins with conception. I wish to quote from the report of the New Zealand Royal Commission into Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion which in March 1977 stated:
From a biological point of view there is no argument as to when life begins. Evidence was given to us by eminent scientists from all over the world. None of them suggested that human life begins at any time other than at conception.
The Royal Commission on Human Relationships said much the same. I submit that this evidence dictates the right of the foetus to be born, the rights of the mother and the obligations of doctors and legislators. It is my view, based on my belief that a separate life follows conception, that the right of the foetus to be born transcends all other rights, excepting the most extreme cases of risk of the life of the mother. This influences the obligations of legislators regarding appropriation of funds. In all the recent criticism of this motion regarding women’s rights and doctors’ responsibilities not one critic has yet put in a plea for the foetus. We have heard much from doctors objecting to this motion on confidentiality and other grounds. But do doctors not also have obligations in the vital question we pose? I refer them to the Declaration of Geneva which was adopted by the World Medical Association in September 1948 and which states in part:
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.
I believe that that statement is contained within the code of ethics of the Australian Medical Association. I would also mention that the original oath proclaimed by Hippocrates, which has expressed the ideals of medicine for 24 centuries, makes special reference against abortion. Is that not relevant to the case we put regarding the funding of abortions and the one exception we pose for acceptable funding? The 1949 International Code of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Oslo adopted in 1970 by the World Medical Association contained statements similar to those in the 1948 Declaration. Regarding the rights of the unborn, I think in this year, the International Year of the Child, when we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, we should have a close look at that Declaration. Its preamble states:
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.
What a tragedy it would be if this Parliament in the International Year of the Child ignored that declaration and voted against this motion. Quite clearly from the passages I have quoted from the Geneva and United Nations declarations it can be seen that the obligations of the medical profession and the rights of the unborn sit together and together constitute an obligation for legislators. But there are other rights to consider also- the rights of the pregnant woman. If we accept the right to life of the unborn and the right to freedom of choice of the mother, we have a real dilemma if we accept, as I do, the concept of foetal life. If we accept that the foetus lives, the rights of both the foetus and the mother cannot be protected at once; and I give my priority to the unrepresented and unprotected unborn, with the exception stipulated in the motion. That is my value judgment based on my belief that a separate life exists after conception.
I have said that this is a difficult issue for those who are liberal in the true sense of the word. I have received hundreds of letters of abuse from people who suggest that I should keep my morals to myself. To some extent they are right. Liberals should not seek to impose laws dictating the private morality of individuals. Individuals should make their own judgments dictated by their own values. That is a classical liberal posture. But this very happy position cannot be maintained if it affects another individual, and if one accepts the concept of foetal life this freedom of choice has to be moderated by other conditions. The criminal code imposes society’s contemporary morality against certain acts such as robbery, murder, rape and so forth because these acts affect another party. So it is in this case when one accepts the concept of foetal life. This difficult decision of the woman affects another personthe unborn life.
As one who accepts that life begins with conception, I can live with the liberal tradition and I can stand firmly against abortions which are not deemed to be medically necessary. There is no conflict for me, just as there is no conflict for those who accept this right of the woman to abort when they believe that a separate life does not exist from conception. But these two viewpoints cannot be reconciled as long as there is a different opinion on foetal life. That is the point of departure between those who seek to support and those who seek to oppose this motion.
Although there are many popular arguments being put against this motion which in my view can all be answered, I do not have the time to answer them here. I hope that later in the debate I will be given the chance to answer them.
I want to conclude by saying that the number of abortions in Australia is rising at an alarming rate. Fewer and fewer can be justified in terms of strict medical necessity, in terms of morality or in terms of the rights and obligations of all parties to the procedure; and these arguments should all determine our attitude to funding. This raises deep moral questions revolving around the legality of these procedures. Let me just say in support of the honourable member for Hume that these laws can and should be challenged. But even if they are not, this Parliament is under no obligation to appropriate funds simply because a given procedure is deemed to be legal. It is ludicrous that this Parliament has legislated to ban private abortion clinics in the Australian Capital Territory and yet the same Parliament pays handsomely for the same kind of clinics to operate in the States. I have raised other questions relating to the rights and obligations of the parties involved in an abortion and they lead me to conclude that this Parliament has an obligation to act within its constitutional constraints to restrict the payment of medical benefits for unnecessary abortions as this is the only way we can challenge what has become a massive abuse of the sanctity of human life. I ask all honourable members to support this motion. If they do not, this Comonwealth Parliament will be seen to be supporting and giving official sanction to abortion on demand. I reject that proposition totally. I second the motion.
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should not pay any medical benefits for or in relation to the termination of pregnancy unless the procedure is performed in accordance with the law of a State or Territory’.
In moving this amendment I am seeking to bring the real issue before the House; that is, whether the Commonwealth Government should interfere in the legislative right of State governments to control, restrict or totally ban abortions. This debate is not about abortion on demand, however that term may be defined today. One question before honourable members is whether we should discriminate against a large group of women; another is whether we should interfere in the confidential consultative process between a medical practitioner and a patient. This amendment gives honourable members the opportunity to debate whether Commonwealth medical benefits should be available for termination of pregnancy procedures. It gives honourable members the chance to debate whether State laws are adequate or, indeed, whether they are administered.
So far as I am concerned there is no middle ground in the present debate. The effect of the motion is to discriminate against women who have their pregnancies terminated in accordance with the law of the State unless their lives are in danger. Only those women would be entitled to Commonwealth benefits. Women whose physical or mental health is seriously prejudiced would not be entitled to receive medical benefits. Whichever way one looks at this aspect of the motion it clearly is discriminatory against the group of women whose pregnancies are terminated on grounds other than ‘to protect the life of the mother’. There is no room for compromise on the motion. It raises a clear conflict between the national Government and a majority of State governments. In a statement distributed to honourable members the mover of the motion admitted that the motion:
In the case of R. v. Davidson in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Mr Justice Menhennitt held that a doctor . . must have honestly believed on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was (a) necessary to preserve the woman from a serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail; and (b) in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.
I emphasise that the terms of the motion and of the amendments foreshadowed by the honourable members for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), Moore (Mr Hyde) and Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) fail to acknowledge the Menhennitt rule. In the New South Wales case of R. v. Wald and others in 1971, Mr Justice Levine, in applying the Menhennitt rule, held that it would be for the jury to decide whether there existed in each case any economic, social or medical grounds or reason which, in its view, constituted reasonable grounds upon which a doctor could honestly and reasonably believe there would result a serious danger to her physical or mental health. It is interesting to note that the representatives of the community on that body, the jury, are to determine the reasonable grounds.
The position of a majority of States other than Victoria is similar to that set out in the
Menhennitt judgment. Every State in the Commonwealth of Australia provides penalties for unlawful abortions. Every State in Australia recognises that the termination of pregnancy in given circumstances is a bona fide medical practice within the law. Every State law provides that a medical practitioner may terminate a woman’s pregnancy if the woman’s life is in danger. The majority of States in Australia permit the termination of pregnancy if in the opinion of the medical practitioner the woman’s physical or mental health is at risk beyond the ‘normal risk’ of pregnancy and childbirth.
In the course of this debate we must not forget that the decision to terminate pregnancy is that of the woman. She makes that decision after a great deal of anguish. To support that contention I refer to a report compiled by Dr J. A. Johnson while he was Research Director of the Family Planning Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and Mr D. B. Roberts, which showed that about 25 per cent of the women who have abortions in Australia are of the Catholic faith. However, Dr Johnson emphasised the ‘acute moral and ethical dilemma’ of those women in deciding to terminate their pregnancies. The pregnant 14-year old girl may seek the advice of her mother, father, friends or her priest and ultimately her medical practitioner. The 40-year old woman pregnant as a result of rape may seek the advice of her husband, her children and her doctor. Not one of us men in this House can speak of the personal experience which a woman or child undergoes in circumstances where she has to make a decision to terminate her pregnancy. Not one of us in this place has the right to interfere in the advice which a medical practitioner, a clergyman, a member of the family or a friend may give to a person who is giving earnest consideration to the termination of her pregnancy. We do not have the right to interfere in any way with the judgment of a medical practitioner in giving advice to this patient.
If the motion were passed the medical practitioner would be asked to provide a certificate to be used by the patient to support an application for medical benefits. The Medical Benefits Schedule Revision Committee, made up of representatives from the Government and the Australian Medical Association, states:
The legal and ethical responsibility for determining the medical need for a medical service rests with the individual medical practitioner operating within the framework of the relevant State law.
I am pleased to note that the honourable members for Moore, Mitchell and Eden-Monaro concede that certification causes difficulties and therefore suggest the removal of that section from the motion. To follow the certification procedure further, it would be necessary for a doctor to distinguish between, for example, the diagnostic procedure to determine whether a woman has a carcinoma of the uterus, whereby a foetus would be removed by curettage of the uterus, and the case where a woman ‘s life is at risk if her pregnancy continues. In either case I would submit that neither the Commonwealth Government nor any departmental officer has any right to that information. It is personal to the woman and to her medical practitioner. As the Australian Medical Association has pointed out:
The majority of these procedures - that is, relating to termination of pregnancy- are most frequently performed for reasons other than termination and some very rarely involve termination. Thus every year thousands of women who have no intention of seeking to end a pregnancy would be faced with the embarrassment of having to produce a certificate to that effect before being able to obtain benefits.
It is argued that the motion is aimed specifically and clearly at the control of Commonwealth expenditure for medical insurance. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has stated:
He went on to say: if there is no medical necessity then a taxpayer’s funds are being improperly applied.
I would suggest, respectfully, that it is an incredible impertinence on the part of the honourable member for Hume to apply his own personal belief- not knowledge based on fact- that no medical reason existed for the termination of the pregnancies referred to. If there is no medical necessity for termination of pregnancies the State Government authorities have the responsibility to take action to ensure that the penalties which the law provides are applied.
Against what cases does the motion discriminate? Let me consider some examples. Firstly, there is the position of a 14-year-old girl who has been the victim of an incestuous relationship with her father and is pregnant as a result. If she is a healthy, normal girl her life will not be in danger in giving birth to her father’s child. Under the terms of the motion she would not receive Commonwealth Government benefits to help defray the costs of that abortion. The girl, her mother or other members of the family must therefore pay the full cost of the operation to abort her father’s child. It may be argued that she could have the foetus aborted at a public hospital. This is a specious argument. It gives rise to an argument which seeks to confuse economics with ethics. The basis of the motion and the amendments is to persuade members of this House that abortion should be carried out only where the life of the woman or child is in danger. To restrict the argument only to the saving of taxpayers’ funds fails to recognise the emotive response and, indeed, intellectual arguments which flow from the very words used in the terms of the motion. The motion would remove a choice presently available to that young girl.
Another example to consider is that of a 40- year-old married woman, the victim of a pack rape. Until that attack she had been living happily with her husband and four teenage children. That family may not be able to afford an operation to terminate the mother’s pregnancy. The mover of the motion would suggest that because her life was not in danger she could not receive medical benefits from the Commonwealth Government but that she could have the operation at a public hospital. One can understand the circumstances- the pregnant mother must become visibly more pregnant as each day passes. This must be noted by the four teenage children and the husband, they also knowing that the foetus which is developing in the womb of the mother is that of one of several louts who subjected their mother or wife to the denigrating violation of the individual by rape. In these circumstances I see two competing moral questions: Should the mother carry that child, thereby causing unwarranted pressure on the family and perhaps even placing the family unity and wellbeing under threat, or should she have the child aborted? I would not turn my back on the woman facing that grinding mental devastation which can occur if a woman is unable to legally terminate her pregnancy.
Why should we in the Commonwealth Parliament endorse a discriminatory process against any one of the women in the cases to which I have referred? That is precisely what we would be endorsing if we passed the motion of the honourable member for Hume. If we were to allow this constricting motion to be passed, how would those honourable members who support the motion vote if a strong lobby were developed by members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. They have strong moral reasons for not undertaking a number of medical practices in our society.
The hospitalisation of an alcoholic should qualify for Commonwealth medical benefits. In many cases the alcoholic is a victim of a hostile environment. There is an increasing incidence of alcoholism in our society and an increasing number of people are receiving medical attention for that condition. But are we, as a Commonwealth government, going to respond to those members of our society who consider alcohol an evil and who may advance an argument that taxpayers funds should not be used to compensate the alcoholic? I think not. We should not seek to discriminate against the members of that unfortunate group who require the support of our society, not rejection. There are many pregnant women who seek support after the decision has been made to terminate a pregnancy.
There are many in this country who would not agree with sterilisation operations for men or women. Those people are also taxpayers and they could advance a strong argument that the Commonwealth Government should not allow any medical benefit to be paid to any person who wilfully undertakes an operation which will prevent conception. There are some who would say that the morality involved in a sterilisation operation is more serious than the morality involved in the termination of a pregnancy carried out in circumstances that accord with the Menhennitt rule.
Finally, I turn to the community debate on abortion and to the expressions of opinion on this subject by a wide spectrum of individuals and groups. The cases for and against the motion have been expressed by Anglican bishops, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, the Right to Life Association and groups of clergy within each honourable member’s electorate and there has been a large number of spontaneous, unstructured individual expressions of opinion and calls for support. I hope that our civilised society has developed to the extent where respect for and acknowledgment of the opinions of others are accepted. I hope that prejudice and intolerance will not result in the castigation of any honourable member because he holds to a strongly held principle. I have respect for the views of those who have taken the trouble to convey them to me. I have respect for the honourable member for Hume and respect for the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) in the way in which they have moved this motion, and for the views which they have expressed.
Lest there should be any honourable members in this chamber who are concerned with the retention of votes in a forthcoming election, I draw attention to the results of a Morgan gallup poll of 1 974. 1 seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Finding No. 169 and 170
Almost seven out of 10 people say abortion should be legal for women who have first had medical and social counselling, the Morgan Gallup Poll finds.
Australia-wide answers by 2,091 people were: Legal 69 per cent, Illegal 20 per cent, Undecided 1 1 per cent.
Men and women, as separate groups, gave almost the same answers.
ALP voters and L-CP voters are also in fairly close agreement.
The ‘Legal’ vote came from 74 per cent to Protestants and SO per cent of Roman Catholics, of whom 38 per cent said Illegal ‘ and 1 2 per cent said ‘ I’m undecided ‘.
Those who would legalise abortion after medical and social counselling usually said ‘It’s the woman’s personal choice’, ‘Only if absolutely necessary’, ‘Cut out back-yard abortions’.
Those against it said ‘Abortion is morally wrong’, ‘It’s murder’.
Copyright by The Roy Morgan Research Centre, the only Australian member of Gallup International Research Institutes Inc.
This is Finding No. 1 70 of the Morgan Gallup Poll. Detail results are in computerised report No. SO.
– I also ask honourable members to consider the views of the women in our society. For example, the convener of the National Women’s Advisory Council, the advisory body of this Government on women’s affairs, issued a statement on this subject last Monday. I draw the attention of honourable members to the terms of that statement. One amendment before this House states that for every three live births in Australia there is one abortion. That is a significant comment on our society’s standards and behaviour. Another appalling statistic shows that known rape offences in Australia have increased from 262 or 0.23 per cent per 10,000 people in 1964 to 680 or 0.52 per cent per 10,000 people in 1973. In many respects our society today is ugly. It will not be changed by discriminatory Commonwealth Government intervention in an area of State responsibility. If illegal abortions are being performed by State authorities the States should take action to stop those abortions. If this motion is passed, the number of abortions will not decrease. If the motion is passed it will discriminate against the majority of the women who presently terminate their pregnancies. If the motion is passed it will effectively override State law. I ask honourable members to support my amendment.
– I support the motion. Contrary to the impression that might have been given by comments in the media over the past few days, I do not stand here with my mitre or my crosier. My concern on the subject of abortion is that I am convinced philosophically, medically and intellectually that human life is continuous from conception to binh and throughout life. I am reinforced in my conviction by statements made by members of the medical, legal and academic professions, as well as by statements in the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. At paragraph 78 on page 54 of Volume 1 of that report this direct statement is made:
The development of the foetus from conception to delivery is traced in a timetable and it is concluded that life is continuous from conception to birth and throughout life. The destruction of the foetus destroys life and raises issues of serious concern.
At paragraph 71 on page 149 of Volume 3 of that report these words can be found:
From the moment of fertilisation, or fusion of the male and female gametes within the fallopian tube, a new life has its beginning. Interference with this process, either by the prevention of implantation, or by the deliberate removal or destruction of the embryo or foetus, brings that new life to an end. This is what makes abortion an issue of serious concern to everyone.
Those statements are only two of many that could be quoted from this and other sources. They make me agree with Dr John J. Connors- a Fellow of the Australian and English colleges of surgeons- of the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission that there is no way that the reported 60,000 or more abortions in Australia could be justified on medical grounds. I pose the question: Why do women seek abortions? For my answer I again quote from the final report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. Paragraph 102 on page 129 of Volume 3 states:
The reasons which may lead a woman to consider abortion as a solution are basically the reasons given for a pregnancy being unwanted. They include the lack of financial resources or financial support; inability to cope emotionally; family size completed or a recent baby; too old; too young to assume parental responsibility; desire to continue studies; desire to avoid a forced marriage; unwillingness to have the baby adopted. For many women there is more than one reason. Not wanting the child is an important factor especially among the young and single.
Of the ten reasons given in the report only one has anything at all to do with the mental or physical condition of the woman concerned, and that is the inability to cope emotionally. Why then should the Australian taxpayer pay for abortions which are desired for personal reasons only. What is being aborted? Again I quote from the report of the Royal Commission. Under the heading ‘Foetal development- Timetable’, paragraph 70 at page 149 of Volume 3 of the report states:
Weeks 8-16 up to ISO millimetres long; weight about 220 grams. The foetus grows continuously. At 9 weeks it can make a fist and grasp. The sex glands have formed. At 12 weeks it has a facial expression and can inhale fluid into its lungs. At 1 6 weeks the arms and hands are fully shaped; the foetus moves in its fluid and the mother may feel it ‘quickening’. It responds to pain, touch and cold, drinks amniotic fluid, gets hiccups, wakes and sleeps.
Time constraints prevent me from developing my case any further on the hypocrisy of the proponents for abortion on demand and for the taxpayers to pay for those abortions on demand. I wish to turn to the question of the legality of many of the abortions presently being performed in Australia. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), in his amendment, mentions the law of a State or Territory. There is only one State, South Australia, and one Territory, the Northern Territory, that have laws allowing the termination of pregnancy under certain conditions. In two States, New South Wales and Victoria, and the other Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, abortions are performed on a liberal interpretation of the law. In the other three States the law on abortion is qualified by a statutory exemption. The liberal interpretation of the law in Victoria and New South Wales has been given by two back bench judges. Their judicial decisions have never been tested in a superior court. In fact, the Premier of New South Wales has described the law on abortion in New South Wales as being judge-made law.
Because of the widespread criticism, indeed ridicule, in legal, medical and other circles of the decisions given by two back bench judges, I and a few of my colleagues in this House decided to seek an opinion from counsel. Dr Wainer, the infamous abortionist, has described the law in Victoria as wide enough to drive a horse through, and in his book It’s Not Nice he described his efforts to stretch the law as far as possible. The Royal Commission also made many critical comments on the laws in the States relating to abortion. In the light of that criticism and ridicule, my colleagues and I approached Mr John Traill, LL.M., Q.C., and Mr John McCarthy, LL.M., for an opinion. That joint opinion has been circulated to all honourable members, and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Re: R. v. Davidson
Re: The Doctrine of Necessity
Counsel have been briefed to advise on the current validity of the principles of judicial reasoning and decision of Mr Justice Menhennitt in R. v. Davidson ( 1969) V. R. 667 in which His Honour ruled on the circumstances which constituted the ‘unlawful’ use of an instrument to procure a miscarriage, an offence pursuant to Section 65 of the Crimes Act, 1958 (Victoria). The circumstances which prompt a reconsideration of this decision are the decisions of the Full
Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria in Watt v. Rama (1972) V.R. 353 and R. v. Dawson (1978) V.R. 536.
v. Davidson concerned a doctor charged on several counts of performing abortions unlawfully. Mr Justice Menhennitt inter alia, dealt with the element of unlawfullness in the charges. His Honour found that the leading English authority R. V. Bourne ( 1939) I.K.B. 687 as it concerned, inter alia, the interpretation of the English Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1928 was decided on a basis which was absent from Victorian Law. His Honour then stated, at p. 670,:
Accordingly what is lawful and what is unlawful must be determined by other legal principles ‘.
After reviewing certain cases and opinions in legal text books His Honour found, at p. 620-67 1 ,:
Having regard to the deliberate and repeated use of the word ‘unlawfully’ in Section 65 of the Crimes Act 1958 and the nature of the offence created and the history thereof and in light of the authorities and views of learned authors to which I have referred, it appears to me that necessity is the appropriate principle to apply to determine whether a therapeutic abortion is lawful or unlawful within the meaning of Section 65 ‘. (our emphasis added).
His Honour then ruled that the principle of necessity imported by the use of the word ‘unlawfully ‘ imports the two elements of necessity and proportion and that these elements involve subjective tests, subject to the beliefs being held on reasonable grounds. His Honour concluded his judgment by deciding the relevant law in relation to unlawfullness as follows, at p. 672,: for the use of an instrument with intent to procure a mis-carriage to be lawful the accused must have honestly believed on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was:
necessary to preserve the mother from serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) which continuance of the pregnancy would entail; and
in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be adverted.
Accordingly to establish that the use of an instrument with intent to procure a mis-carriage was unlawful the Crown must establish that the accused did not honestly believe on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to her physical or mental health or that the accused did not honestly believe on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was in the circumstance proportionate to the need to preserve the woman from the danger to her physical and mental health, (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy entails). (3rd June, 1969 the jury found the accused not guilty of each of the abovementioned 5 counts on which he was charged).
Similar issues were raised in R. v. Wald 1972 NSWDCR 25. His Honour Judge Levine sitting as chairman of Quarter Sessions in New South Wales in R. v. Wald 1 972 Vol. 3 DCR 25 had to rule inter alia on the interpretations of the NSW equivalent S65 of the Crimes Act Victoria. With great respect to His Honour he suffered from a great lack of binding authority, he did not re-examine the reasoning of Mr Justice Menhennitt in R. v. Davidson but uncritically applied the persuasive decision of a Superior Court in Victoria, albeit one based on the repeatedly discredited principle of ‘necessity’. This decision in no way adds to the authority of R. v. Davidson.
In 1978 in R. v. Dawson the full Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria (Starke, Anderson and Harris J.J.) had occasion to consider the legal principles applicable in the defence of necessity. The case concerned an application for leave to appeal. At his trial upon a charge that, being a prisoner, he had escaped from the prison, the applicant admitted the escape, but led evidence that he escaped because he feared for his life as a result of threats made against him in the prison. The trial judge directed the jury, inter alia, that the defence of necessity was not open. Leave to appeal against this ruling was refused. In the course of his judgment, Mr Justice Anderson said, at p. 539,:
Dealing with the defence of necessity, a passage in Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th edition, Vol. II, page 26, para. 26 succintly states:
Although there are cases in which it is not criminal for a person to cause harm to the person or property of another, there is no general rule giving rise to a defence of necessity, and it seems that, outside the specified cases mentioned, it is no defence to a crime to show that its commission was necessary in order to avoid a greater evil to the defendant or to others ‘.
Specific cases mentioned are self-defence defence of property, force used in the prevention of crime, duress and marital coercion and a few exotic other examples are given.
The defence of necessity is thus almost completely without reliable authority. It is, however, sufficient to say that there are virtually no reported cases where the defence of necessity has succeeded and the dicta of Coleridge C. J. in R. v. Dudley & Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273, indicates that even in the most extreme circumstances necessity it not a defence to a charge of murder and a number of cases, e.g. Buckoke v. Greater London Council ( 1 97 1 ) Ch. 665 at p. 688: 1971 2 All E. R. 254 at p. 258 and Southwark London Borough v. Williams ( 1971) 2 All E. R. 175 at p. 179, likewise tend to negate the existence of such a defence in respect of far lesser offences. On principle there seems to be no distinction between the nature of the crime committed because of an alleged necessity. The text books abound hypothetical situations in which it is submitted that the defence of necessity should succeed.These examples are cases in which, in order to avert some catastrophic situation such as the spreading of a fire or the foundering of a ship, the destruction of property might be justified. This present case in our opinion is not a case of necessity by any of the standards which are traversed in case, People v. Whipple (1929) 100 Cal. App 261, it appears that inhuman treatment is not an excuse for prison breach … I am not concerned to say in what circumstances the defence of necessity would arise. In R. v. Dudley & Stephens, supra, at page 286 appears the statement of the Commissioners preparing the criminal case to the following effect:
We are certainly not prepared to suggest an authority should in every case be a justification. We are equally unprepared to suggest that necessity should in no case be a defence. We judge it better to leave such questions to be dealt with when if ever they arise in practice by applying the principles of law to the circumstances of the particular case ‘.
Just as the Commissioners and the Judges in R. v. Dudley & Stephens, were deterred from formulating a code in relation to the defence of necessity, so, to, do I refrain from rushing in where other have declined to tread. It is proper to say however, that very few, if any, of the elements would be required to found the defence of necessity are present in this case. As well as many other elements would be the requirements of immediacy, in the sense that compulsion is present and continuous; and unavoidability in the sense of being no alternative to the doing of the criminal act’.
Mr Justice Harris also commented on the defence of necessity in the above case. He said, inter alia, at page 543:
In addition, in my opinion, it is at least doubtful whether there is any defence of ‘necessity’ known to the law. Lord Simon in DPP for Northern Ireland v. Lynch ( 197S) A.C. at page 686 referred to the concept of duress as an extremely vague and illusive jurisdic concept. How much more vague and illusive is the juristic concept of necessity. The facts in the macabre case of R. v. Dudley & Stephens (1884) 14 Q.B.D. 273 were insufficient to raise it. Text book writers (or some of them) have recognised the necessity as a defence (see Archbold 39th ed. para 14S0) but Halsbury (4th ed. Vol. 1 1 para 26) states that:
There is no general rule giving rise to the defence of necessity’.
There is an interesting discussion of the matter in Kenny’s outlines of Criminal Law ( 19th ed.) 1966 pp. 72-4 where the author observes (at page 72) ‘that there is no English case in which the defence has actually been raised with success’. However in the circumstances of this case the matter does not have to be investigated further’. Mr Justice Starke agreed with the reasons and conclusions of Anderson J.
In our opinion, the R. v. Dawson case must be regarded as authority for the following propositions in respect of the defence of necessity:
2 ) If there is a defence of necessity known to law ( and in our opinion there is not) then the circumstance must include, inter alia:
We note that the Full Court in Dawson’s case does not refer to the procurement of a mis-carriage as being a specified case in which the defence of necessity may be raised.
We are further of the opinion that the legal reasoning in R. v. Davidson cannot be regarded as a proper application of the defence of necessity. Mr Justice Menhennitt made no reference to the leading authority of R. v. Dudley & Stephens and either did not apply his mind to, or dismissed as irrelevant, the elements of unavoidability and immediacy. He also did not address the issue that the procurement of a miscarriage involves not one but two human lives, (the mother and the foetus) and that the foetus, even before birth, is entitled to the protection of a law which is clearly intended to be inter alia, for its protection.
In respect of the last mentioned proposition, the Full Court of Victoria has determined the matter in Wood v. Rama 1972 V.R. p. 353. In that case, the Full Court (Winneke C. J. Pape and Gillard JJ) held that a plaintiff, who at and after birth suffers injuries caused by the neglect of the defendant in driving his motor vehicle, such neglect preceding the birth of the Plaintiff in point of time, has a cause of action in negligence again the defendant in respect of those injuries. In the course of a long and closely reasoned judgment Gillard J. stated, at page 376,:
From these cases, it must be accepted that there is a rule of law which recognises that an unborn child may possess rights. This implies that there are correlative duties imposed on others in favour of the unborn child. It also implies that an unborn child is deemed to be a ‘person’ where the right is for his benefit, so if he survives his binh and obtains the requisite capacity to institute proceedings for an infringement of his rights, he may do so and obtain a remedy for the infringement when he was en ventre sa mere.
In the various cases, as was pointed out, by Cozens.Hardy M. R. the unborn child’s rights were considered separate and distinct from the mother’s rights. Because of lack of precedent one might be slow to apply this fiction to the law of negligence but I find no logical reason for rejecting the notion that the common law would protect a child en ventre sa mere against careless acts causing him or her injury. As its property, real or personal, is protected so should its physical substance be similarly protected by deeming it to be a person in being and imposing a duty of care on any other person not to commit any act of carelessness which as a reasonable man he would anticipate would injury the physical substance of the unborn child. Without being called upon to refuse to follow any authority binding on this Court, there appears to be no valid reason, in principle or otherwise, why this concept of protecting the unborn child should not be introduced to the developing law of the independent tort of negligence. Without claiming any pretensions of being authoritative on the matter, from reading the vast material placed before us by the industry of Counsel, it became apparent that biologically a person’s well being can be influenced, both universally and beneficially, by its prenatal history and experience. Disease and trauma happening at any time from the womb to the tomb apparently can affect one’s well being and future health. It is obvious that the ‘person ‘ who is conceived and develops in the mothers body is biologically the ‘same person’ who survives birth, lives and finally dies. Again adopting an expression of Lord Pearson, as ‘a matter of impression and instinctive judgment as to what is fair and just: such a ‘person’ at any stage of its development or life cannot realistically be held to be ‘an unforeseeable plaintiff. At all stages of its development or life; its possible presence in an area or risk or potential danger caused by a negligent person should be reasonably foreseeable to such person. Accordingly, if it were necessary to come to the conclusion that the infant plaintiff should establish an existance in law in order for a duty of care to be owed to her by the defendant at the time of the fault committed by him, I would be inclined to the view, on the basis of Lord Loreburn’s generalization, that for the purposes of protecting her interests, the infant plaintiff was deemed to be a person in being at the time of the collision, and on birth was entitled to recover compensation for any damage caused by any breach of duty by the defendant at that period. ‘ (our emphasis added)
We consider that the abovementioned judgment is authority for the proposition that the unborn child is recognised by law as a person separate from his/her mother and is the possessor of rights under law. The recognition of the unborn child as a separate legal person with legal rights which are enforceable on birth must mean that the law also recognises that that legal person cannot be deprived deliberately of its life by being aborted. In other words, not only must the unborn child not be damanged by careless or negligent acts, it must not be deliberately deprived of life simply because it exists.
In summary it is our opinion that the legal reasoning of Mr Justice Menhennitt, relying on the principle of necessity, as a defence to a criminal charge in R. v. Davidson would not be confirmed by the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria. There is not any authority of a Superior appellate Court in the English speaking world which upholds the doctrine or ‘necessity’ as a defence.
It is our further opinion based on the reasons for judgment in the appellate decisions of the Victorian Full Court in
Wood v. Rama and R. v. Dawson that the definition of unlawfully’ in section 65 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) given by His Honour Mr Justice Menhennitt in R. v. Davidson is wrong and would not be approved by a Superior Court.
It is our opinion that the only circumstances in which a deliberate and intentional procurement of a mis-carriage would not be unlawful within the meaning of Section 65 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Victoria) may be in the case of the imminent death of a pregnant woman where no other means, medically, are available to preserve her life. We consider that it is also strongly arguable that such action in those circumstances may lack sufficient intention by a doctor to directly cause the death of the unborn child by such an operation. The doctor’s intention in those circumstances is to preserve the life of the mother, and only indirectly to cause the death of the unborn child. Necessity is irrelevant. Legally the doctor’s intention in such a case can be characterised as a lawful attempt to preserve at least the life of the mother in the course of treating a medical pathological condition and probably the life of both the mother and the child. Given the current state of medical science we consider these circumstances would rarely occur.
Chambers 16 March 1979
John D. Traill Q.C.
-Mr Traill and Mr McCarthy stated:
In summary it is our opinion that the legal reasoning of Mr Justice Menhennitt, relying on the principle of necessity, as a defence to a criminal charge in R. v. Davidson would not be confirmed by the Full Court of the Supreme Court in Victoria. There is not any authority of a Superior appellate Court in the English speaking world which upholds the doctrine of ‘necessity ‘ as a defence.
It is our further opinion based on the reasons for judgment in the appellate decisions of the Victorian Full Court in Wood v. Rama and R. v. Dawson that the definition of unlawfully’ in section 65 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) given by His Honour Mr Justice Menhennitt in R. v. Davidson is wrong and would not be approved by a Superior Court.
We obtained that opinion in order to put it before this Parliament and so that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), and the Premier of New South Wales, the Premier of Victoria and their Attorneys-General could see that there is a divergence of opinion on the Menhennitt and Levine rulings. I challenge the legal authorities of this Parliament and the legal authorities and the Premiers of the States of Victoria and New South Wales to test before a superior court the law under which they are allowing abortions to be performed in their States. Until such time as that law is challenged, until the law is stabilised one way or the other, we will have in this Parliament a continuation of the debate that has taken place over a number of years on the subject of termination of pregnancy, or abortion. A few years ago we had a debate on the McKenzie-Lamb Medical Practice Clarification Bill. We then had a debate on the Mathews-Chipp motion to set up an inquiry into human relationships. Only recently in the Senate we had a debate on the disallowance of an ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory.
We in this Parliament have no real authority in respect of the laws of the States of the Commonwealth, and those laws are the ones that cover the liberalisation or the restriction of abortion in Australia. I believe that it is up to the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria to test the decisions under which their courts are working so that they can decide what they are going to do about this topic. It is a State rights matter as to whether the laws of the State should allow or disallow abortion. We in this Parliament are tearing ourselves apart time and time again over this matter, and the only authority we had was in the Northern Territory- it is doubtful whether we have that authority now- and the Australian Capital Territory. Why then do people continually look to the Commonwealth Parliament for guidance in this matter? Why do not those people who think so deeply about this matter, either pro or anti, go to the place where they can change the law- the State parliaments- and insist that they do something about it? Perhaps we could then agree to pay medical benefits for abortions that are legal. But I suggest that at the moment a number of the 60,000 or more abortions that are being performed every year in Australia are being performed illegally because the law under which they are being performed is not a valid law. I repeat the challenge I made: The legal authorities and the Premiers in the States of Victoria and New South Wales should test the Menhennitt and Levine decisions- the judge-made laws, as the Premier of New South Wales said- to see what needs to be done in the abortion laws of Australia. I support the motion.
– I oppose the Lusher motion. This motion, if it is passed, means a restriction on the availability of medical services to women. It means a restriction on the availability of abortion services to women on low incomes. The motion has been proposed because the Medibank rebate for the termination of pregnancy offends the moral and religious convictions of a minority group in the Australian community. Those people are entitled to their convictions, but they are asking the Government of a secular state to legislate in such a way as to universalise their convictions.. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships reported that there was no consensus on abortion in Australia. The Commission reviewed several opinion surveys, which showed that a majority of people supported the legal right to abortion in some circumstances. A survey of 1,000 women who had obtained abortions at the Preterm Foundation Clinic in Sydney in 1975 showed that 55 per cent of women nominated their religion as Protestant and 3 1 per cent as Catholic; that is, among Christians, attitudes to abortion are not clear-cut. Of course, Australia’s population also contains Christian religious followers and non-religious people. On what grounds then, can the state move to universalise the beliefs of one group? Let us also be clear that some of the people behind this well-orchestrated anti-abortion campaign, both in Australia and overseas, are prepared to go to any lengths- to violent lengths- to get their own way. This House should be aware of the fires that have occurred at Dr Bertram Wainer ‘s clinic in Melbourne and of the intimidation of some doctors, nurses and patients at women’s health clinics. Overseas there have been cases of petrol bombs exploding in the faces of women answering the door at abortion clinics. I am not claiming that a movement should be tarred by the brush of its fanatical fringe, but we should not overlook the fact that some groups use a religious front for other motives.
This motion does not seek to change the law in relation to abortion. It attempts to restrict the medical benefits available to women who have abortions. As such, it is a medical issue. The withdrawal of the Medibank rebate would reduce access to abortion, especially low risk abortion, particularly for women on low incomes. As such, it is a class issue. The motion is in violation of the principle of the universal health care system to which the Australian Labor Party is committed by policy. The present Government has already eroded Medibank. This motion seeks to erode it further in a discriminatory way. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships concluded:
This motion, if passed, will not lead, to a reduction in abortion. The removal of Medibank benefits for women seeking abortions will mean that more and more women from lower income groups, or those who are just plain afraid to get money from their husbands or families, will be compelled to take greater risks with cheaper and more dangerous abortions. There is evidence to support the view that back-door abortions are unsafe and that they cause a higher death rate among women having abortions. The Commission concluded that the death rate was even higher in public hospitals than in private clinics as a result of:
The use of older, less safe methods, the lack of experienced medical practitioners and counsellors, the uncertainty of medical attitudes, delays and requirements for hospitalisation . . .
The effects of this motion, if passed, will be to place a greater and immediate burden on public hospitals which are ill-prepared to cope, and will increase the number of back-yard, high risk abortions.
The situation is that almost 60 per cent of women seeking abortions do so for financial reasons. The available evidence suggests that in times of economic stress the abortion rate increases. By removing the medical benefits for abortion, women on low incomes will suffer most. There are already enough restrictions on these women. They do not have the resources and are denied the information necessary to use the complex health system. They have to put up with pressure and abuse from family, friends, even hospital staff and others. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships stated:
Women seeking abortions fall into two main groups. The first group comprises young, single women, frequently without a stable partner. The second group comprises married women with families which cannot be enlarged. For the first group the task of raising a child is onerous and lonely. The risk of a forced marriage and the fear of an unwanted child is a tragic burden. For the second group, the disruption to personal and financial relations in the family is a major concern.
At the pre-term clime, 1 1 per cent of women having abortions were students. Sixty per cent of the women had attended four or fewer years of high school. Fifty seven per cent were women employed as unskilled factory workers, operative, women with trade skills and clerical workers. Sixty two per cent were below the age of 25 years. These are the women who will be placed most at risk if this motion is passed. These are the women who are disadvantaged by lack of information about contraception and lack of child care. These are the women who are most heavily oppressed by sexism, by fear and by guilt that this society loads on them. This motion, and the people behind it, do nothing to reduce these disadvantages. In fact, these are often the people most vocal in opposition to sex education in schools and extended child care.
Women pay equally with men for medical benefit coverage. Yet a surgical procedure that affects women only, which is prescribed by doctors, and charged for, is to be deleted. There have been no moral or religious criteria applied to the fees charged by doctors nor to the inclusion of various items in the Medibank scheme. The schedule merely reflects medical practice. The fact that abortion is available to women does not force women to have abortions. The only act of force is found in this motion. The restricted availability of abortions forces women to be unable to exercise the choice of avoiding a situation where an unwanted child is brought into being. It forces women into a specific position of oppression in this society in that they are denied their rights to control their own bodies. No women enjoy having an abortion. The Medibank rebate for abortion does not encourage women to have abortions. The person who suffers in the abortion is the woman and only the woman. Few women take the decision to have an abortion lightly. Theirs is a responsible choice, weighed up in the light of circumstances. Their right to make that choice has to be respected. The security to allow them to exercise that choice must be provided. As a comment on the chauvinism of this House there is not a man here who will suffer from the passage of this motion. But outside this House, countless women will suffer, especially working class women and women on low incomes.
Women have a variety of responsible reasons for wanting an abortion such as the inability to manage financially; inability to cope emotionally; completion of a family or a recent child; no wish to be forced into a marriage; avoidance of family strife or parental awareness; ill health; worry about the deformity of a child; and rape or incest. In 40 per cent of cases the reason for becoming pregnant was the failure of contraceptive measures. That in itself reflects a broader set of problems facing women. Women are doubly disadvantaged. They suffer oppression on the basis of sex and exploitation on the basis of class. It is true that in many areas women are excluded. Too often decisions concerning women are made by men and too often these decisions reflect a lack of understanding of the real situation of women. For the most part women are treated unfairly in a domestic role where they are not only responsible for bearing a child but also for rearing the child and caring for the home.
In the area of sexuality, the woman is burdened with almost the entire responsibility for birth control. Existing contraceptive methods are not reliable or are dangerous to the woman’s health. Clearly many women from a variety of backgrounds and for a variety of reasons obtain abortions. There will continue to be many women who believe that they must have the right to have an abortion. It should be their right and only their right. It is our responsibility, as elected representatives, to ensure that those women can have safe abortions. It is our responsibility to ensure financial and psychological security for those women. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are spared the risks and humiliation of back-yard barbarism. It is our responsibility to provide safe and supportive medical services for all women who seek abortions, regardless of their capacity to pay.
What gives this House of men the right to take away from women, and to take away from families under economic pressure, a civilised provision to which they have every right? That is, the right to have an abortion if they so desire. Surely we have passed the stage where men hypocritically think that women should pay a penalty for their promiscuity. Surely we have reached the stage where we see non-coercive sexual intercourse as not only an act of reproduction but also as a normal act of basic human relationship and human affection. If we are not hypocritical and if we are not narrow-minded, surely we can see this motion only as an attack on women in general and an attack on women with low incomes in particular. We can only reject this offensive and this medically and socially irresponsible motion. I ask the House to defeat the motion.
The effect of my amendment is to delete part (2) of the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). Part (2) of the motion is designed to specify the means by which the principle in part ( 1 ) is given effect. I have become aware that members of the medical profession in particular, but also importantly, members of the House are concerned that part (2) may not be practical. To me it would be a tragedy if the motion were to fail merely because of objections to part (2). I have therefore moved the amendment.
Many honourable members oppose the funding of abortion because they believe that such killings are contrary to the will of God and that therefore the government of the people should not abet what is morally wrong. I share at least some of their fears of what a public sanctioning of abortion may do to the society that grants the sanction. The degree of my fears is related to the degree of sanction. I support the thrust of the motion of the honourable member for Hume, even though I have no confidence in a revealed truth. My arguments are entirely secular. They do not, so far as I have been able to think them through- and the question is quite difficult- rely on any general prohibition, divine or secular. However, they do, like all arguments rest ultimately on judgments that are my own, in as much as I accept them.
These are my value judgments. I ask honourable members to consider each of them and see whether they themselves cannot also accept them. My first value judgment is that the purpose of society is to serve the well-being of” its members. The second is that the individual’s own perception of his well-being is of paramount importance. It is not a judgment but a matter of observation that people prize their own lives very highly indeed. The third is that in matters of fundamental importance, such as security of life and limb, all members of society have equal rights and claims upon society. My fourth value judgment is that any government is responsible to its people for the protection of that physical security.
Although many societies which did not or do not offer their members the reasonable certainty that they would not be arbitrarily done away with have survived for a remarkably long time, I suspect this has been possible only because their citizens have been denied the opportunity of leaving. I ask honourable members to consider the Soviet Jews and the Ugandans who cannot leave and the refugees from many societies that have broken down. They left those societies because the societies were no longer able to offer their members reasonable security of their own lives. In short, society itself depends upon the sanctity of human life or on the most damnable repression. I suspect that so far not many would quarrel with me.
If human life is to be valued so highly, is it to be everybody’s life or only some peoples’ lives? What about the old? They have not long to live. Should not they make room for younger and more durable lives? What about the other fellow’s tribe? Are they not inferior? Hitler used that argument to exterminate 6,000,000 Jews. What about the lame, the sick, people with one arm? Should they not make way for more perfect specimens? What about the unwanted? I am sure we would all be very attentive spouses if our better halves had a licence to dispose of us when we were not wanted. What about the very young? They do not yet know what they are missing. Am I not forced to fall back on my third value judgment, namely, that we must all be equally entitled to the protection of our lives by the society within which we live- at least until we do something to forfeit that right? Any cheapening or any qualifying of the right to live becomes a threat, however marginal, to society itself.
I do not argue that all qualifications of the right to live are an equal threat. For instance, legal killing after careful trial in accordance with the rule of law would not seem to pose a very great threat to the value placed on life. Von Stauffenbergs attempt to murder Hitler was, in my view, a noble act against an evil man and the circumstances might reasonably be regarded as exceptional. Assistance given to someone who wished to die might be reasonably regarded as an act of mercy. It is true that acceptance of the right to kill in all these cases also must in some part cheapen human life, but the cases are reasonably quarantinable from a general right to live. I do not think the same can be said of abortion; firstly, because abortion is such a general case. It is not exceptional. Many have abortions. Many more would if they felt that it was not wrong.
Secondly, no adequate dividing line separates the child from the foetus. In a biological sense at least the foetus wants to live. It struggles to do so when deprived of its life support system. It is impossible to sustain the argument that the foetus is not a living creature merely because it requires the support of the mother in order to survive. His condition of dependency will apply for some time after his birth and applies also to any person however temporarily dependent on personal life support apparatus, be he a deep sea diver or a person undergoing major surgery. It is impossible to sustain the argument that the foetus, though living, because it does not reason is not human. An unconscious man or, even for the most part, a sleeping man does not reason.
Let me say in passing that the argument that a woman is entitled to do what she will with her own body begs the question: Is she entitled to do what she likes with another human life? As abortions will be performed in any case as it is beyond the capacity of government to prevent them and as under some circumstances it is legal, it is argued that in order to achieve equity, public moneys should finance the operation. The extension of this argument is that government should finance everything that is not actually illegal. Government has no such obligation.
The ultimate obligation of any government is to protect the lives of its people. Even though mankind may well be assured of a more comfortable future if it were less numerous, once government gets into the business of deciding who is to die, society is at risk because people will not be able to trust that society with their own lives.
When a government pays for abortions, it has taken a short step along the road to determining who is entitled to live. I doubt that that step should be taken. Abortion is sometimes misassociated with libertarian views. The libertarian position is that an individual should be able to do as he likes only unless he affects the freedom of another to do likewise. In this case, the other is the unborn child. I recant from none of my liberal views.
– I rise to oppose the Lusher motion. Honourable members will recall that in 1971-72, when I had the good or the bad fortune to be Prime Minister, I was constantly faced with the problem of abortion and particularly with the argument of the time that abortion on demand should be accepted. One of the main advocates of that policy was the then Leader of the Opposition who stated his position on 24 June 1971. His views on abortion and his intentions towards influencing his party policy on this matter were these:
I believe that if a woman does not want to bear a child, she should not have to. I believe in abortion on request.
To that statement I expressed complete opposition, and I said so. I wish to make two preliminary comments before getting into the body of what I want to say.
Firstly, I still believe that abortion on request is wrong. Secondly, basically the constitutional and legal responsibility for these problems rests with the State governments. Their legislation is critical from our point of view. The passing of this motion would not restrict what is happening. Women would move to the States in order to ensure that they could take advantage of the State laws. The basis of my thinking started way back in 1969. The name of Mr Justice Menhennitt has been mentioned already. He delivered a judgment that I thought was epoch making because it denned what was meant by lawfully’ insofar as abortion was concerned. He made this statement:
For the use of an instrument with intent to procure a miscarriage to be lawful, the accused must have honestly believed on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was -
I emphasise the following words- necessary to preserve a woman from the serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and child birth) which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail; and … in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be averted.
In contemporary life only yesterday Premier Hamer of Victoria confirmed that statement. He has asked Liberal Party members of this House from Victoria to vote against the Lusher motion. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) referred to the necessity for the act of abortion to be performed. The House will see that the first phrase that is used in the definition by Mr Justice Menhennitt is ‘necessary to preserve a woman from serious danger’. I regard those words as so critically important that they have influenced my thinking ever since that definition was given.
A little later, in 1972 in New South Wales Judge Levine, in the case of Reg. v. Wald and Others, took that definition a stage further. I think he did so wisely in the interests of women. He said:
The accused must have an honest belief on reasonable grounds that what they did was necessary to preserve the women involved from serious danger to their life, or physical or mental health, which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail, not merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, and that in the circumstances the danger of the operation was not out of proportion to the danger intended to be averted. The Crown of course bears the onus of establishing that the operations were unlawful.
He went on to add to that statement. I believe that this addition ought to be listened to because no one else has referred to it. I believe that it is of tremendous importance. He said:
Of course in determining that question with regard to mental health, it is proper for you, the jury, to consider whether the danger to the mental health arose from not only mental disease, or disease of the mind, but from the effects of economic or social stresses that may be pertaining at the time.
There we have another judgment. I believe it is a very wise and civilised judgment, sympathetic to the cause of women, and I believe that it is designed to do good rather than harm.
– Different from the Menhennitt j judgment
– I ask the honourable member not to interrupt. I never interrupt him.
– It is different from the Menhennitt j judgment
– I ask the honourable member to keep quiet because I do not like him interrupting. I turn now to the attitude of the New South Wales Premier. Only today he has said he had signed a petition which opposes the motion that has been put to this House by the honourable member for Hume. This means that over time both the Liberal Country Party Government in New South Wales and the present Labor Government support or supported this judgment and so does the Liberal and Country Party opposition. So we have the Governments of the two main States of Australia against the proposal. The law in the two main
States support propositions that I believe are right at law in the interest of women and in the best interests of a tolerant and concerned society. Of that I have no doubt at all.
Let me go on to state where I and the Liberal Party stood in the election campaign of 1972. I have no doubt about this. I will not go through the whole statement of course, because my speech took me about an hour to write. But I did say: . under certain conditions there is justification for therapeutic abortion. The law should and does provide for this. But my Government does not believe in abortion on demand. I confirm the statements I have made before that we will not amend the law relating to abortion.
In other words, I stood firmly on the decisions of Mr Justice Menhennitt and Judge Levine. It was approved by the Liberal Party with the assistance of the then Premier. It has been stated rather foolishly, by a member not very closely attuned to the law- that there has been no appeals. But there could have been an appeal. There was no restriction in either State, Liberal Country Party or Labor government as to appeal. The Attorney-General or the State governments of the day had an unqualified right to appeal. Of course it would have been to a higher court. If honourable members care to look at the final report, No. 3, of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships they will see from page 138 the several attempts that have been made since to have this matter further debated. When last introduced into the Lower House in New South Wales a Bill about abortion lapsed because no one took a great deal of interest in it. I have emphasised where I stand in relation to the law. If there is something wrong it is with the administration. The proper way to go about correcting this is to ensure that the Liberal Government in Victoria and the Labor Government in New South Wales administer the law according to the decisions of either Mr Justice Menhennitt or Judge Levine. That is the position I take.
I move on to the second argument. It relates to the Australian Medical associations attitude to the motion. I do not know how many people in this House have received today a copy of a telegram or a statement that was made by the Australian Medical Association stating its attitude to Mr Lusher ‘s motion. Six reasons are given for their deep opposition to the Lusher motion. The first is that the matter is now under consideration by an Australian Medical AssociationGovernment working party. The second reason, which is much more important, is as follows:
It has long been an accepted principle in the provision of medical services that the doctor’s judgment of what is in the best interests of the patient should be the determinant of the medical need.
Finally, the AMA referred to the very important question of confidentiality. It would be a disgrace to humanity and a disgrace for this Parliament to allow such legislation go through which would mean that women, because they had a simple curette or some other internal operation, must have a certificate signed and have all of the facts associated with the operation made known and recorded day after day. I have no doubts about that. I believe that one of the items in the Medical Benefits Schedule, item 6469, which deals with evacuation by certain methods, ought to be looked at because it can be argued in respect of that particular item that abortion on request is all right so far as the Medical Benefits schedule is concerned although it is contrary to the law.
It is far too wide and lacking in definition. That is the case that I wanted to put here today. I felt this way in 197 1-72. 1 feel the same today.
I come to some of the arguments that have been put in this House. The first is that put by my friend the honourable member for McMillan, Mr Simon, in his amendment. It is exactly the same in substance as the argument I am putting now without the reasons, the legal interpretation of lawful and or the opinion of the AMA. Much the same can be said of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell, Mr Cadman. I will not go through all these arguments because there are too many. But I want to make this clear. If we look at the wording of the motion moved by Mr Lusher we will see that it deals with a physical pathological condition only. It does not relate to all of the factors that were mentioned by Judge Levine. These are the factors that I think are so tremendously important; the danger to the mental health- not the physical health but the mental health:
I believe that it is the women, not the men, who are under stress in these cases. I believe that women must receive special understanding, sympathy and care. I believe that it is the job of this Parliament to ensure that that care is given to them and that strong preference is shown to them. I find it strange and unacceptable that men should make such savage judgments on women. These are the problems as I see them. I have no wish to change my mind. I advise those who have given long, deep and considerable thought to these matters and have reconsidered my conclusions in depth. I have no more to add. I suggest to those who have made amendments that they should withdraw them no matter how good their intentions. Because I think they prolong the debate and do not serve a useful purpose, I ask honourable members to give up their amendments and move straight on to a rejection of the Lusher motion.
– I wish to enter the debate briefly. From the outset, I point out that I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) and oppose the original motion and the other amendments moved to it. We all talk about this issue as an issue that is clouded by emotion. Of course it is. I do not think that any of us can fail to be emotionally involved in this issue. There has been quite a mailing campaign from groups with views on various sides of this issue. One of the things I resent about all such groups is their implication that unless I agree with their points of view I am without conscience. I am very much with conscience. On this soil of issue it is one’s own conscience with which one has to live. It is one’s own easy conscience which allows one to sleep easy at night.
This problem is not terribly new to me. I remember it from my days as a medical student. I graduated in medicine in 1952. Although I have been in politics for a long time, I have kept an interest in medical practice. My medical practice has been in the areas of the low to modest income groups. I have seen the problems that arise there. I entered the Victorian Parliament in the 1 960s. During my time there the law which dealt with this matter was most unclear. It was contained in the Crimes Act, which effectively covered the immediate physical danger of death. But the law with regard to other factors, such as mental health, relied on the 1939 decision in R. v. Bourne. That was the decision of a single judge of the King’s Bench Division. Hence it was only persuasive and very uncertain. At that time I introduced a private member’s Bill into the Victorian Parliament to attempt to elucidate the legal position. I think that that was the proper course to follow and it is to the discredit of that Parliament that it has never debated this issue and taken responsibility for the legislation.
However, as has been mentioned by other speakers, at least in Victoria the situation was cleared somewhat in 1969 by the Menhennitt ruling in R. v. Davidson. Again, this was a ruling that was only persuasive, but one against which there has been no appeal and under which termination of pregnancy has been performed in
Victoria for the last 10 years. It is easy enough for people to say that a doctor who talks on these sorts of issues has some sort of personal and financial involvement. In all my years of medical practice I have given anaesthetics for two terminations of pregnancy, but I have had dozens of cases on which I have had to give advice. I have taken those cases seriously because eventually it is the woman’s decision whether she has the termination. How a doctor advises and counsels is his decision. I have always adopted the attitude that the most expert doctor should be the one to advise and counsel- in this case, it should be the specialist.
This motion, effectively, in the guise of referring to funding, is trying by changing the funding arrangements to alter the law of the States and the Territories. If the law is to be changed, the proper place for this to be done is the legislatures of the States and the Territories. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) raised that matter and that is one point on which we agree on this issue. I accept the proposition of the honourable member for McMillan that if the medical procedure is legal it should attract funding from the insurance societies. I accept that there are some insurance funds which, because of their origins and beliefs, can claim exemption from the payment of such benefits. But their subscribers know that they have claimed such exemptions.
We have to realise that, in considering the effect of the procedure, it is no good talking about just the physical pathological condition. Anyone who has had to deal with the problem can appreciate the tension of broken families, broken homes and broken minds that can occur with unwanted pregnancies. The effect is not suffered only by the woman; it is suffered by the family- the children and the other parent- and society generally. We must take note of some of those effects. There is the matter of the doctorpatient relationship, which is tied up in the second part of the original motion. I feel that there are times when perhaps we take the doctorpatient relationship too far. But in a very personal, moral, judgment situation such as this there should be no suggestion that patient-doctor confidentiality should be breached. The law is there. If the law is to be enforced it is for the law enforcement agencies to do so.
If the original motion is carried we will return to the bad old days. What were those bad old days like? As an argument in favour of the motion we were told that so many terminations of pregnancy are performed a year. How many terminations of pregnancy were performed in
Australia in 1965? No honourable member can tell me that because the vast majority of the terminations of pregnancy then were illegal- either back yard terminations or terminations performed by avaricious doctors in clinics which they set up for themselves.
– Or they were done by themselves.
-I will come to that in a moment. The use of figures is irrelevant when we do not have a base line with which to compare them. Then we had the suggestion that there might be inequality between the well-off and the poor but the poor can go to public hospitals. That completely overlooks the fact that today our public hospitals have inadequate facilities to handle the demands that are made of them. Not only are they inadequate to handle the demands that are made of them across the board but also if the suggestion were adopted it would place pressure in a skew way on the facilities. There would be overemphasis on this matter. In the public hospitals there would be problems of adjusting the facilities to cope with increased use for such purposes. There would even be trouble with the staff because a number would want to opt out for conscientious reasons. That has always been accepted. So such a procedure would help to wreck a public hospital system which already has its problems in handling its cases.
As I said before, those people with means would be able to have a termination. There would be two classes of care. Avaricious doctors would be encouraged by the well-off. What would be the alternatives for the poor? They would be, for example, for the poor to return to the old days of the backyarders I saw when I was a medical student. There would be a repetition of cases such as that of the girl who died four hours after admission because a friendly old crone had terminated the pregnancy with a hen’s feather and the girl got a gas gangrene infection which, even today, is pretty impossible to stop; or the case of the girl who died from a perforated uterus because the backyarder used a knitting needle which, with a lack of knowledge of anatomy, will perforate the womb. They are the sorts of incidents that we risk occurring unless we can be certain that the people concerned can obtain proper care, counselling and the facilities which are needed.
The honourable member for MacMillan mentioned the problem of a girl who was the victim of incest. In the course of my practice a 16-year- old female, one of a family of eight, came to me pregnant to her father. Surely in such a case that girl should receive a medical benefit. After counselling takes place and it is determined that the pregnancy should be terminated, it is disgraceful to think that no benefit is payable to her or that she will be told to go to a public hospital. In her circumstance, what is needed is sensitivity, support and consideration so that this 16-year-old girl can enjoy in a reasonable manner the years that are ahead of her. After all, a living death in a state of mental upset and so on can be almost as bad as physical death.
The sort of attitude expressed in the original motion could very well be extended to other matters. Perhaps we could impose our rules on contraceptive advice. Perhaps the pill should be removed from the pharmaceutical benefits list. Perhaps no benefit should be paid in the case of a vasectomy being performed. I understand that there is a moral crime of suicide. What of the alcoholics and the drug takers who know that they are deliberately leading themselves to premature death? Is it proposed to prevent them from obtaining medical benefits? Is it intended to prevent from obtaining medical benefits the alcoholic who drives a motor car and smashes himself up? These are the same sorts of moral judgments as the motion before the House is asking us to make. There should be no back door legislation of this type. If we want to change the legality of the governing legislation, we should do it in the proper manner We should face up to the situation bluntly by debating the matter and passing amending legislation.
I noticed in passing in this morning’s Age an article written by Claude Forell: I liked this paragraph:
If Federal MPs were genuinely concerned to discourage abortion, they would be better advised to press for more generous family allowances and support for single mothers, and to promote sex education and family planning.
Well they might, if they wish to relieve some people of the agony and the emotional distress that they suffer in these circumstances.
-I do not propose to call another honourable member to take part in the debate before 6 p.m.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, and with the indulgence of the House, I wish to point out that unfortunately commitments take me to Melbourne tonight and I will not return to Canberra until lunchtime tomorrow. I would like to use the couple of minutes that are available to put my views on the record.
-I will permit the honourable member for Port Adelaide to do that.
– I am very much opposed to the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), both on ethical grounds- the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) supports it on ethical grounds- and on economic grounds. I put it to the House that the number of terminations of pregnancy that have been cited to this House today will not be altered by any decision of this House. Father Murray Courtnay, a very eminent Catholic of the United States of America, says: Parliament cannot legislate on morality’. We cannot do that. What will occur, as the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) quite brilliantly pointed out, is that the low wage and salary earners of this country will return to using the sorts of facilities that were available to them prior to any decent arrangements being made with the medical profession in this country by way of legislation. The other important factor about this issue is that State parliaments which have made the laws which the Lusher motion now calls on us to condemn are made up a little differently from this House: Most of those parliaments have some women members. By and large the parliamentarians who serve in the State parliaments and who have made those laws are people like the members of this Parliament.
This is not a debate about the miserable amount of money to which the Lusher motion points. This debate is a rearguard action mounted by people who are not happy with the decisions that have already been made by the various legislatures around this country. Those people ought to recognise that parliaments are made up of people like ourselves; they are not made up of criminals or people who introduce laws designed to force people to take certain actions to terminate pregnancies. It is men and women- people like ourselves- who are making these laws. These people expect us to work in harmony and in co-operation with them and to take a decent attitude towards them.
There are many other issues involved in this debate, as Dr Jenkins has pointed out. If we prevent medical benefits from being paid in relation to the termination of pregnancies, how many other areas of medical treatment will we look at in preventing a similar amount of money from being paid out? In conclusion, I suggest that if we carry the Lusher motion, which seeks to remove the medical benefits that are paid by the Commonwealth, the States will have to meet that financial commitment, and I am sure that they will.
-For the information of honourable members I point out that I have been concerned about whether I should draw up a list of speakers. I am not anxious to do so. On the other hand, I would like to give honourable members some indication of the order in which they will be called so that they can prepare themselves. I thought that it might suit the House if I called honourable members in this order: The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick), the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) and the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman).
If I were to go beyond that, I think the list would stretch a little far. I have a list of speakers which I could pursue if that were the wish of the House. It is obvious that some significant names are not on the list I have given- for instance, that of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). The reason I have been reluctant to establish a list of speakers is simply that I do not know the names of all the people who want to speak and I do not know the attitudes of all of the people who want to speak. Unless I have that information I cannot call alternately people with opposing points of view. I think I have gone far enough in the indication I have given of the order in which I may call honourable members. It is open to any honourable member to come to the Chair and ask for his name to be placed on the list in a position higher than that in which it now appears.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (8.0)- I support the motion known as the Lusher motion moved by the honourable member for Hume. I feel that I should read the motion because it is some time since its terms were put to the House. The motion states:
That this House requests the Government to introduce legislation which will provide that-
1 ) medical benefits shall not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancy unless the termination was performed to protect the life of the mother from a physical pathological condition and that the life could be protected in no other way, and
where medical expenses are incurred in respect of a medical service specified in the Medical Benefits Schedule which could include the termination of pregnancy, the doctor who performed the service shall be required to certify to the Department of Health that-
the operation was not performed to terminate a pregnancy, but was for a stated, other purpose, or
if the operation was performed to terminate a pregnancy, it was carried out in order to protect the life of the mother from a specified physical pathological condition and that the life could be protected in no other way.
I support this motion because I am morally opposed to abortion. I believe from the thousands of letters I have received, mostly from women, that the vast majority of people in my electorate also are morally opposed to abortion. But over and above that, we believe that the Australian Parliament as the custodian of civil liberties and human values has a responsibility when dealing with human rights such as the public funding of abortions to consider the effect that decisions reached in this Parliament will have not only on this generation but also on future generations of Australians. No one in this Parliament surely believes that by spending $3.4m plus to encourage 60,000 abortions we are laying down the foundations of a better nation. I believe that great nations are built only by governments that accept the responsibility to reinforce and positively provide the right morality in the community. I do not think this can be achieved by encouraging 60,000 abortions.
I respect the view put forward by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) that he has every consideration for those people who have views different to his own on this problem. I have a genuine respect for the conscientious convictions and viewpoints of other honourable members that differ from those I hold. Many of these honourable member’s regardless of the way they feel, claim that we have no justification to interfere with a woman’s right to do what she wishes with her own body. But I feel that we cannot shunt off our responsibility in this manner because there is a moral aspect in the termination of pregnancy that in our opinion involves the right of an unborn child. This Parliament must ask itself: What are the facts in the biological development of a child; is there life at stake in every abortion; what are the possible long term complications to the mother, the family and the nation; does an abortion terminate the life of a child or is the so-called foetus just a piece of tissue? It seems to me that these fundamental considerations have been glossed over in public discussions on this matter and in the debate in this Parliament. Yet we are repeatedly told by renowned authorities that life begins at conception. Jerome Lejeune, Professor of Fundamental Genetics at the University of Paris, feels so strongly on this very point that he has stated:
If I could not agree that life begins at conception I could not teach genetics.
Betrand Nathason, Director of the Centre for Reproductive and Sexual Health in the United States of America, also states:
There is no longer any doubt in my mind that human life exists in the womb from the very onset of pregnancy.
Other members who have spoken before me have already pointed out the authorities who share this view. It seems to me then that we are not dealing with something that is mere tissue. It seems to be clearly established that the baby in the womb has its own blood group, its own bloodstream and its own individuality.
It must be admitted that in planned or unplanned pregnancy followed by an abortion or even by childbirth the female pays the greater price in human involvement and in human suffering. We agree with many speakers who oppose the motion in this respect. A woman in such a circumstance is entitled to every consideration and assistance. Fortunately we can say that in the vast majority of cases she receives this consideration and assistance. But society cannot escape its responsibility to the unfortunate woman who does not get this assistance by simply saying: ‘You can do what you like with the unborn child and we’- that is society or the government- ‘will pay the medical or surgical bill’. There can be no doubt that 60,000 medical benefit funded abortions indicate how many unfortunate women are reading the present attitude of this Parliament or Government to abortion.
The single girl with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy is often in the same predicament as a married woman whose husband refuses to share the responsibility. The present message to both these unfortunate women is: We have left you an escape; you have an abortion and we will pay the medical or surgical bill’. We cannot escape our responsibility in this manner. We know that social, economical and physiological problems exist, but they do not justify the destruction of human life. We have no right to offer abortion as the only solution to these unfortunate women. We should endeavour to solve the problem in several other ways instead of destroying the life in the mother’s womb.
I am pleased to say from thousands of letters I have received that the vast majority of women do not want the termination of pregnancy to be something they should have to decide on their own. They realise that the termination of pregnancy involves the termination of a life. Scientific evidence clearly indicates that once conception takes place we have the life of an unborn child to consider. This is a moral issue that concerns all the people of the nation who have a right to object to their tax money being used for such a purpose, unless, of course, the life of the mother is involved.
The argument has been put forward that many of us oppose abortion only because of some Christian faith or some Christian belief. If we accept that argument we must also accept the converse argument that pro-abortion support is generated by an anti-Christian attitude to the sacredness of life. I do not like the argument but if it can be applied one way we are justified in applying it the other way.
However, let me state my position on this matter. I believe that the conception and life of a child in a mother’s womb and its birth concern not only co-operation between man and woman to bring new life into the world but are also the very basis of Christian belief in the creator and in the sacredness of human life. I do not mind being counted on that issue. Many people say that the poor will be discriminated against if the motion is carried. I say that with 60,000 abortions in one year the present legislation discriminates against the poor. We know that some people will always take the easy way out, but I do not believe that this is the case in the majority of the 60,000 abortions. Many of these women feel that society is saying to them: ‘If you cannot alford the confinement or if you do not think you can keep the child after birth, we have given you a way out. You can have an abortion and we will pay for it’. Is this not discrimination against the poor? Have they not a right to carry the child and see the birth of the child? I would say that in most cases this is the most callous way out possible. The amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan, in my opinion, displays a Pontius Pilate attitude by saying to the people. ‘We will provide the money but the States have the responsibility for making the law’. Surely this is not standing up to a national obligation. We should be giving the States some clear indication of how this national Parliament thinks about these things.
Let me return to the claim that it is the responsibility of members of this Parliament to spend the nation’s revenue for the welfare of the nation. Surely no one would say that 60,000 abortions a year at a cost of between $4m and $6m are in the best interests of the nation. Is this the way we dispense our responsibility to the nation? The abortion syndrome is gathering momentum. If an honourable member can see no danger now, will he see any danger when the number of abortions reaches 100,000 or 200,000 or when the cost reaches $10m, $20m or more millions of dollars? At what stage will he consider that there is a danger to the welfare of the nation? I claim that with 60,000 abortions a year there is already a danger to the welfare of the nation, and the taxpayer who believes that this is so should not be forced to pay for a practice that is destroying the welfare of our nation.
– I intend to vote for the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan ( Mr Simon ) but not because I support it in total. I do not because I do not believe that there ought to be any restrictions on the use of medical benefit funds for an abortion provided that a doctor believes it is justified. However, because I believe that there is a possibility that the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) may get up if I do not support the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan, I shall vote for the amendment as a safety precaution. I respect the views of those honourable members who have spoken already in this debate. I certainly respect the views of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) who preceded me in the debate. But I do not hold very much brief for some honourable members of this Parliament who for what they believe to be good political reasons and for no other reasons- in this they are sadly mistaken- have pontificated here on a matter which is purely the concern of women. It is not a man’s function to determine what a woman should do with her body. It makes me sick to hear some of the hypocrisy that comes from the mouths of men about the rights of women to control their own bodies.
As an old campaigner, as one who has been around this place longer than anyone else in the chamber excepting one, and as one whose judgment has more often been right than wrong, let me just give a word of warning to those who fool themselves into believing that the organised minority represents the real view of the electorate. They are in for a sad shock when they see the voting at the next election. I can assure them of that because there has been a drastic change in public opinion over the past seven or eight years. Only six years ago a vote was taken on this matter in this Parliament. The vote was 96 against abortion and 23 in favour of it. We will not see that sort of vote tonight. I cannot predict at this stage, and I do not think anybody else can predict, the outcome of the vote on this motion, but it is not going to be 96 to 23.
I think that this is an unusual debate. It is unusual because it is going to produce an opposite effect to that which those who are supporting the motion intended it to have. The debate was intended originally to blackmail members of Parliament into voting against abortion by making them believe that the minority view contained in the letters of which honourable members have spoken and which I also have received represents the viewpoint of the people outside. It does not. The gallup poll represents the viewpoint more so than the vocal opponents of abortion. Instead, this debate has produced, I believe, a catalystic effect which has worked against the anti-abortionists. The probability is that when the vote is taken on this motion tomorrow night, if the debate lasts that long, it will settle the issue once and for all in favour of abortion for those who are able to qualify for an abortion in accordance with the medical laws and the common law of the various States. It will then become a dead issue. Just as on one occasion I was the loser when I took part in a similar debate which spelt the death knell to the vote for or against State aid, I believe that my view will prevail on this occasion.
The Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, has been very quick to divine the true public reaction to this motion. That reaction is now strongly in favour of laws which allow women to regain ownership of their own bodies. Premier Hamer knows very well where the big battalions are on election day. He is no fool and whatever else can be said about him he must go down as one of the shrewdest Premiers this Commonwealth has ever seen. He has very cleverly seized on this issue because he knows, first, that the majority of voters are women and, secondly, that the majority of people, men or women, favour the right of a woman to decide what will happen to her own body. The organised minority is going to fail in this campaign just as it failed in its campaign against divorce reform, just as it failed in its campaign against the laws relating to homosexuality and just as the militant minority failed in its campaign against clean union elections. Always the loudest voices were the voices of the minority. The organised minority has won only one issue and that was its campaign to use the public purse to meet the cost of teaching a particular religion in particular schools. That was a political issue in which the apathetic majority foolishly believed that the Government could pour hundreds of millions of dollars into church schools without affecting the level of everyone’s tax burden. But this is not a political issue.
– Keep politics out of it. You are the only man to raise politics.
-No, I am not. It is a moral issue in which those that are against abortion are united and those that are in favor of it are divided but in the majority. There is no majority support for the anti-abortion position and there is little real support for the position that abortion is to be permitted but that the poor, unmarried girl or the worn out mother of a family that is already too large to be given the normal maternal attention should be forced to face the risk of death at the hands of a back yard abortionist because she cannot afford the cost of proper medical treatment. The only thing that I have seen the pro-abortionists do so far to show their appreciation of what politics is all about- I have not received many letters from those in favour of abortion- is their announced intention this morning to flood the electorate during next year’s general election with the voting list from Hansard to show how each honourable member voted on the Lusher motion. They have done nothing else to indicate where they stand in this matter.
I have been a member of this Parliament for a long time. This is my thirtieth year. I believe I am right in saying that many honourable members will be sadly disillusioned at the next election for the positions which they now hold when they find that the way they voted on this issue has become an issue in the election.
I have no complaint against those who hold the honest conviction that abortion is murder. Nor will any other fair-minded person vote against those practising Catholics who vote according to their conscience. If I held the same views that they do I would vote in favour of the Lusher motion. I applaud the actions of the Catholic hierarchy in pressing the case against abortion in the way they have. It is a duty they owe their faith. After all, it is a moral issue, not a political issue. Sir James Freeman has every right to concern himself with this issue without being accused of poking his nose into politics. If I were a Catholic I would expect him to do no less than that.
I hold nothing against any member of this House who follows the Cardinal’s lead if, deep down in his heart, he believes that abortion is unqualified murder. My wrath is confined to those members of the House who, in their mistaken belief, are voting for the Lusher motion for no better reason than that they believe that the anti-abortionists represent the majority position. I am angry because those honourable members who fall within that category are telling women something they would not allow women to tell men if the positions were reversed. Not one member of the House of Representatives knows what it feels like to be a single girl who is pregnant to a man who cannot and more often than not will not undertake the responsibility of providing food and shelter for the child she is carrying for him. Not one honourable member knows what it is like to be the tired and overworked mother of a poor man’s clutch of children and to be pregnant with another that will place further and unbearable burdens on her shoulders. No honourable members know what it feels like to be in the position of a woman.
-There is not one of you who does.
– Do you?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Hume will remain silent.
-This remark is directed at the honourable member for Hume. There is not one who has not released his passion upon the body of some woman.
– Say that again.
-Do not look so guilty. Many honourable members have committed adultery. Many more have been guilty of fornication. Some have already been parties to an abortion or have been privy to an abortion of a close relative or friend. If we are endowed with an ounce of Christian charity we should not be indifferent to the anxieties that torture the mind of every woman who is pregnant with an unwanted child. If, by our deliberate act as parliamentarians, we become guilty of passing laws that send a poor woman to her death from blood poisoning or some other complication caused by a non-medical abortion, then that is a death that will haunt us to the day we face our maker. It is no joke. The same burden will plague our souls if we pass laws that result in the birth of an unwanted child whose birth destroys the happiness of its mother, the happiness of its father or the happiness of its brothers and sisters.
Let those who oppose abortion do more than they are now doing to lift the living standards of those who constitute the majority of the working families so that married couples can at least afford to welcome every child that is conceived. Let those who sound off loudest against abortion do more than they are now doing to wipe out poverty and unemployment, which are the causes of losing more life years than is caused by abortion.
Abortion is not a satisfactory substitute for contraception but there are some in the community who still oppose even birth control. No woman can get pregnant without the help of a man and most of the honourable members in this House tonight have been responsible for helping some woman get pregnant. If this were a House of 124 women they would have no more right to make laws relating to the bodies of men than we have to make laws concerning medical matters relating to the bodies of women.
-It is not balls. How would men like a parliament of women to make a law calling for the castration of every husband wishing to exercise what husbands are pleased to describe as their right when their wives are tired, have a headache or would rather read the Sunday newspapers. That is a fair analogy for what is now being proposed in the Lusher motion. There is no difference between the number of Catholic and non-Catholic women having abortions today. Psychologically and physiologically the trauma is the same in the case of all pregnant women. The burden of guilt varies little between one woman and another. The anguish and worry could vary considerably between a rich woman and a poor working woman or a wife of a poor working man but a rich woman can at least face her abortion without medical risk and without financial embarrassment.
If life is supposed to begin at conception, that means that at the very split second the sperm enters the ovum there is a life. If that is true then anybody who denies the sperm the nourishment which the ovum produces by using the rhythm method or by using any other form of contraception is also destroying a life. That is something one has to face up to. There must be a cut-off point. Nobody can say that it is a human life in every sense of the word from the split second that conception takes place.
– You have read the wrong book.
-The honourable member for Kalgoorlie knows very well that that is true. I read the same book as he did and nowhere in the book that I read and he read did it say that we have the right to make people so poor that they cannot afford children and then tell them that they have to have one. I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan and I hope that it is carried.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Berowra I draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is debating a serious and sensitive question and every honourable member has the right to address the House in silence. I ask honourable members to refrain from interjecting.
– I begin by reiterating the point which has become very confused in the public mind, namely, that the Lusher motion is not about the law relating to abortion. The law on abortion is a State matter and the right to a termination of pregnancy according to the law of each State and the Territories is not involved. Thus the passage of the motion would not mean that there could not be abortions where there is a serious threat to the physical and mental health of the mother, in accordance with the law in most of the States. I say this, looking towards my colleague the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). What it is about is the payment of medical benefits in relation to abortion which is a Commonwealth matter. But when that has been said, there is a sense in which the law of abortion is involved, namely, the extent to which the law, in fact in practice is enforced.
What clearly has brought the matter on is the large and increasing number of abortions financed in part by public funds, notwithstanding the law which provides that abortion is unlawful, except where the life or the physical and the mental health of the woman is seriously endangered. The thrust of the law, that abortion is unlawful, flows from the view, the conviction of conscience stemming in the ultimate from religious faith, but also reflecting, I believe the wisdom of the ages as to the sanctity and supreme importance of the individual life. Accepting the balance of expert opinion as to when life begins, the sanctity and the supreme importance of the individual life applies to the foetus and the unborn child as well as to any other group such as the aged, the incurably ill or whatever it may be. I also say most sincerely that I am deeply conscious of the anguish and hardship an unwanted pregnancy can sometimes cause- and I have in mind not only the mother but also the subsequent difficulties of what may turn out to be an unwanted or unloved child. I am deeply conscious of that. But while that is so, I do nevertheless support the thrust of the law, upholding the sanctity and infinite worth of the individual life.
To come back to the matter in hand then, the first presumption on which I will base my voteand there are several such presumptions as I will indicate in my speech and which are largely issues of fact on which the evidence available to me is not always complete- is that the thrust of the law is being set aside. It may be retorted that that is entirely a matter for State governments. That is certainly the position in principle. But as a matter of practical fact the Commonwealth is involved to the extent that it cannot be reasonably denied that the availability of public funding has facilitated, has to a significant degree enabled, the considerable increase in abortions in recent years to a situation of virtual abortion on demand.
If then this Parliament is of the view that first the laws of the States relating to abortion are reasonable, but secondly the law is in significant measure being set aside, then it has a means and a duty to use that means, weighing up any significant side or other effects of doing so such as an insupportable adverse impact on low income women, to redress the situation. I say that, fully recognising that the abortion law and its enforcement are matters for the States. We are a national Parliament and we can perhaps take a more detached and more truly national view. If we do uphold the view as to the sanctity and infinite worth of the individual, there is a duty on us as the national Government, embracing.but in a sense transcending the several States, to take action by the means available to us, if not to stop, at least not to facilitate, not to enable this practice.
However, I am bound to say that the terms of the Lusher motion are very narrow. They provide for the payment of benefits only in the circumstances that life is endangered by a ‘physical pathological condition’. That worries me a lot. I am bound to stress that what we are dealing with here is an expression of view, not a Bill for an actual Act of Parliament to change the present situation. That attracts me to the amendment tabled by my colleague the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). Further, for my own part I would say that if and when amending legislation were to be brought before the Parliament I would be hard pressed to support a measure which did not provide, by way of stated exception to the criterion specified in the Lusher motion, for the payment of benefits for termination in the event of rape, incest and other like situations. The course of wisdom and true compassion could surely not be otherwise. Hence the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury), and seconded by me. Indeed, it could well be suggested- I believe the colleagues I have referred to will in fact do so- that as an alternative to the motion of the honourable member for
Hume (Mr Lusher), one could combine the two amendments I have referred to, to form a motion to the effect that the House expresses its deep concern at the high level of abortions and is of the opinion that the Government should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that medical benefits shall not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancies unless the termination is performed on proper medical grounds, and then go on to add the second amendment I referred to, which states:
A moment ago I referred to the unacceptable side, or other, effects of the motion. This links with the view of some that the purpose of this motion is to stop the public funding of other than medically necessary abortions. That must be an incorrect statement. The honourable member for Hume in response to the very important objection that low income women in particular will be disadvantaged by the passage of the motion, in a background paper he circulated to members states:
The motion does not disadvantage lower income women. Any woman, insured or not, can have her pregnancy terminated in a public hospital according to the law operating in her State.
Since the operation and any necessary hospitalisation would then be paid for from public funds under the Commonwealth-State Hospital cost sharing agreement, then the availability of abortions at public hospitals- and probably in the event of the carriage of this motion and subsequent Government legislation, considerably enlarged facilities as compared with nowmeans that public funds would still be financing abortions. If the purpose were to stop the public funding of abortions, the motion does not achieve that object.
Be that as it may, there is here a second key question of fact which is materially significant for my own vote on this issue, and that is: Are facilities for abortion with reasonable access in fact available at public hospitals? A letter which has been circulated to members from the Royal Women’s Hospital of Melbourne casts some doubt on the likely adequacy of facilities to the detriment of low income women. Others assure me that this is not generally the. position with most public hospitals. As an ordinary member I am not in a position definitively to determine that matter. I say only this: A vote for the motion in its original, or the amended form I have referred to, is for my part based on the presumption as to fact that adequate public hospital facilities are available.
Where the motion will undoubtedly impinge most heavily is on the activities of the private abortion clinics. A third major issue of fact is then raised, namely, the adequacy of the medical and other standards of private abortion clinics. In the case of the Australian Capital Territory it was central to the Australian Capital Territory ordinance relating to abortion debated in the Senate in November last, that the standards of the private abortion clinics were not acceptable. The whole purpose of the ordinance was to ban them. My understanding is- and I am bound to say that I am not in the possession of hard evidence, it is another issue of fact- that the situation is not materially different in respect of many of the private abortion clinics in the States. Again that influences my vote.
The final point I would make is this: Mr B. A. Santamaria wrote in the Australian last Friday:
The (Lusher) resolution deals not with the principle of abortion, but with the principle of whether Commonwealth medical benefits, ultimately a charge on the taxpayer, should be spent for non-medical purposes.
Abortion would thus be placed in the same category as the thousands of actions which individuals consider desirable for themselves, may legally choose, but for which public funding is not available.
That gets to the heart of the matter. It raises the whole issue of elective surgery- although abortion is a special case because of the legal and moral issues involved- where under the present arrangements for health insurance the public purse via the Commonwealth Government is responsible for so large a part of the cost.
– For facelifts.
– Yes indeed. It is not just 40 per cent of the cost, of course. The general Commonwealth commitment is 40 per cent of the schedule fee or the schedule fee less $20, whichever is the greater; and it is the latter that applies to the procedures involved in the present matter. If the principles of the medical insurance arrangements of 1976 still applied, it would perhaps be less of an issue since the guiding principle then was that those who could afford to pay- defined as those on an income of $12,000 per annum and upwards- should pay the full cost of their health insurance without Commonwealth subsidy. That principle is not applied in the present arrangements. So the question whether elective operations should attract public funding is a real one. In fact, there are already some limitations in a number of areas.
Emotive appeals such as that made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) to the effect that the health insurance scheme would no longer be comprehensive or universal are not very persuasive. Indeed, the principle that in the health and welfare area those who can afford to pay should do so, and that public funds should be reserved for those in need, and only those in need, I submit is a valid one. It is one to which the government with the increasing demands on public funds, will have to give more and more attention if tax levels are to be contained.
I make this point in respect of breaching the comprehensive and universal character of the health scheme only because it has been given some prominence in the discussion on this matter. I stress that I do not suggest that the economic aspect is critical in this discussion. The issue is much larger than that.
– I rise with a certain feeling of regret to speak on the subject matter before the House. In the 27 years that I have been a member of this House I have endeavoured not to be parsonical. I hope that I have avoided the mistakes that sometimes have been made, but because of that factor there are one or two things I must say this evening in this debate. I confess that in the early stages it was my intention not to vote on any of the amendments or on the motion that has been moved. However, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) is a reasonably persuasive person and we had a discussion about this matter. Perhaps there is an element of capacity in the amendment that has been moved and that could be regarded as a joining together of two other amendments. The obvious difficulty facing the House is the degree of uncertainty, and I believe that the confusion and uncertainty have been indicated by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) on the many occasions on which he has contradicted himself in the various debates and interviews he has had on radio and television and in the newspapers. One of the tragedies of this debate was the demonstration that occurred outside this House today. Heaven knows, this nation is divided enough, and it is a tragedy that it should be divided unnecessarily.
What will the original motion achieve? It will achieve nothing. I know that opinions can be quoted from various speakers, newspapers and leading churchmen to support one argument against another. However, an editorial in the Canberra Times stated:
Mr Lusher’s motion, as it stands, is a device to achieve a goal it does not state. On that ground alone it deserves to be defeated in its present form.
I appreciate that various opinions can be quoted to support one argument against another, and in that respect I accept that the statement made recently by Cardinal Sir James Freeman, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney- I have had a long association with both Sir James and his predecessor, the late Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy- could be used to support the other side. However, the Right Reverend John Hazlewood, the Bishop of Ballarat and a very eminent authority for whom I have a tremendous respect, has said:
I personally abominate the whole concept of abortion.
The motion is setting a very dangerous precedent.
That is something that we have to consider. It is about time we searched our consciences and looked at something that is not negative. It is time we looked at some of the positive things we might be able to do. One thing that perturbs me is that this motion would bring about economic discrimination against a person who in the normal course of events could not afford to have the treatment. I remember that a professor at the Presbyterian theological college that I attended said many years ago that one of the greatest values in the Catholic Church is the confessional, and I think that we should all ponder on those words. When we talk about the number of people who have abortions, perhaps the church should ask itself why those people have abortions rather than discus their problems with the clergy of the many denominations. Have we fallen down on the job of letting people know that we are a group of individuals with whom they can talk over a problem?
One of the dangers of this motion, and perhaps one of the dangers of the discussion in this Parliament, is that we are stressing the negative side of the issue. We are not encouraging people to come and talk over their troubles, difficulties and problems. One has to understand the emotions of a woman in this situation. Only the other day I was told of a case involving a 16- year-old lass who suddenly was faced with this problem. She said to the person to whom she went to discuss it: ‘What do I do?’ Surely we should all be looking at it in that light rather than saying that we should not do this or we should not do that. I do not suppose that anybody in this House opposes abortion more than I do, but after listening to the debate that has taken place today I have a little sympathy for the view put by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). I congratulate him on his speech which contained a tremendous amount of thought, as have some of the other speeches made today. There has been a negative approach to this question. I believe that we should think in terms of more positive solutions, and some have been mentioned by previous speakers. A greater amount of money should be spent on counselling and there should be a greater opportunity for those who find themselves in this predicament to seek a solution other than that of having an abortion. The fact remains that in this country at the moment those who are waiting to adopt children, those who want children, are being told that they will have to wait for a great length of time. It seems to me that in a country which has made such wonderful technological advances, in which we have progress and development, it is rather strange that we cannot find a solution to the problem confronting people in this situation and at the same time provide an opportunity for the children they do not want to have love and care and a normal family life.
I do not discount any of the speeches that have been made today; nor do I discount the sincerity of the thoughts that have been put forward on this subject. I think that not only within this House but also outside it we should think a little of the positive things that we can and must do if we are to progress as a nation, rather than think of the negative things which have been discussed so often in relation to this legislation.
-I start my remarks by accepting some of the comments made by my colleague the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). I support his statement that insufficient attention has been directed during the course of this debate towards positive and special efforts to try to counsel and educate people- as far as it is possible to teach them- so that they will know all the problems that they face, all the difficulties that may lie ahead and all the benefits that are available to them through various church and government organisations. That is a point with which I agree. Indeed, that was a point I made in a speech on a similar subject some years ago.
The motion before the House is one whereby medical benefits for abortion are restricted to those abortions required to protect the life of the mother. A factor which concerns me in relation to this matter is that I am strongly opposed for a number of reasons to what is described as abortion on demand. Firstly, I believe that an unborn child has a right to hie, recognising that under the law as it stands, the life of a mother is given preference over the life of an unborn child. That an unborn child has a right to life is widely recognised. Even in the Medical Practice
Clarification Bill debated here on 10 May 1973, the rights were preserved when pregnancy had reached a period of 23 weeks. As one honourable member asked earlier, where is the start of life? I made the point on that occasion that the fundamental question was whether the rights of an unborn child should be recognised during the whole or only part of a pregnancy. Surely there is logic in recognising that right during the whole of pregnancy. I make that point again tonight. However, the problem of unwanted pregnancies must be faced, and more action must be taken in connection with that matter. Before moving onto that matter, I refer to a statement contained in today’s Age, signed by some 90-odd doctors. I shall not read the full article, but in part it states:
We, the undersigned medical practitioners, wish to express our grave concern that the traditional commitment of our profession to maintaining respect for the sanctity of human life may be obscured in the present public debate on abortion funding.
The provision of medical benefits for abortion is only serving to endorse and encourage the practice of abortion. We believe that abortion has no place in good medical practice and consequently that medical benefits should not be available for abortions.
The law does allow abortion in particular instances. I shall also read from a paper which I have here. The heading states:
The AMA’s position on Mr Lusher ‘s motion regarding termination of pregnancy.
I do not intend to take up more time than is necessary, so I shall again read only in part. I know that there may be some criticism of the part that I am quoting. I shall make my point in connection with the quotation. The paper states:
The Association has repeatedly stated that the views of its members on termination of pregnancy are as varied as those of the rest of the community, and it therefore has no stated policy in relation to abortion as such.
Its concern regarding the motion is related to the wider implications of the proposal to the medical benefits scheme.
In effect, the proposal would require doctors to provide health funds and the Government with a diagnosis of their patient’s condition before benefits for items which might involve termination of pregnancy would be paid. Having provided the diagnosis, the benefits would be paid only if certain narrow criteria were met
That is another angle. The reason I quote from that paper is to show that there is a division of opinion across a very wide section of the community as a whole. In referring specifically to the motion as it stands- I think we have gone wide of it in many instances, and I might be accused of that too- I make the point that it is payment of medical benefits for abortion. The reason I am opposed to the payment of medical benefits for abortion is contained amongst those reasons I have already stated and it is, of course, the right to life of the unborn child. Following on what I said previously, the problem of unwanted pregnancies still arises and I feel it is important that this matter should be taken into consideration when we are debating this particular motion. I wonder- I think perhaps the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) might have mentioned this aspect- whether we encourage abortion by making abortion easier. Only yesterday a friend of mine told me a story of two young women who were talking about this motion which was to be debated in the Parliament. One said to the other: ‘What do you think about it?’ The other replied: ‘There is some information that it could be passed’. The other one said: Well, what do I do now if I become pregnant?’ I think that emphasises the point I want to make and which I think has been forgotten, and that is that the provision of medical benefit payments gives a sense of security to people who may not have that sense of security and who may be prepared to avoid the possibility of becoming pregnant if they have to look after and deal with an unwanted child or face the dangers of an abortion. There are dangers attached to aboriton. It is too often thought that there are not. But let me say that in looking at this problem consideration must be given to the fact that prevention is better than cure. Every assistance should be given to alleviate the difficulties associated with this problem if it occurs. That I believe is something we should recognise. In facing the problem of unwanted pregnancies, more time and effort should be given to creating greater opportunites for young people to learn what is available and allowable in that area.
In many instances I believe the churches have done an excellent job in this regard, as well as in their job of caring for unmarried mothers of babies and I compliment them on it. Mention was made earlier of the shortage of babies for adoption. In all cases that I know of those babies are well cared for. I would hope that an unmarried pregnant woman would be advised as widely as possible of the help that is available to her, not only from churches but also from State and Commonwealth governments as well. Having said that, and made the point that prevention is better than cure, I point out that I believe that greater effort should be made in that direction, and the energy, capacity and finance of the community should be marshalled and directed to that end, so far as it is practicable to do so.
Another matter I want to raise is the effect of the abortion on the woman who has been aborted. This is something that is often overlooked. Too many people feel that a woman can have an abortion and that is the end of the matter, that there are no further worries about it and she is back to where she started. That is not right. That widely held belief is completely wrong. Liberalisation of the opportunity to have an abortion does not solve the problem. Indeed, it can lead to the death of some women although that aspect has been greatly reduced. The Royal College of Gynaecologists in London in evidence to the Lace Commission- some years ago, admittedly- observed that the number of deaths from abortion of all kinds in England and Wales was as high then as it was before the Act to liberalise abortion was introduced. The College stated:
Any decrease in the number of deaths from criminal abortion is matched by a rise in the number of deaths from induced abortion.
The figures certainly have improved since that time. The Royal College continued:
So long as termination of pregnancy involves an operation it must mean a risk to life and health. It is yet impossible to assess the long term physical ill effects, let alone the psychological sequelae of induced abortion.
This is one of the aspects that is so often forgotten in debates on abortion. Action taken by this Parliament might result in encouraging people to be in a position where an abortion might be required. There are many examples of people suffering disabilities following abortion, including the inability to have children when they are wanted later on.
I contend- this has been the theme of my speech tonight- that this Parliament should do all in its power to discourage unwanted pregnancies. I also contend that while abortions are easily obtainable and the costs are being met a contribution probably is being made to the number of abortions being performed. I believe that is something we should consider before voting on the motion and the amendments. I agree and acknowledge that the amount of criticism with regard to the certification aspects of the motion will have a bearing on the vote that might be taken in this Parliament. I draw attention to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) which deletes from the original motion that part which requires certification. The amendment provides an angle for those who feel that the motion could be lost. I believe that the public will view the defeat of the motion as an indication that the national Parliament favours abortion. That view may not be quite correct. But that is the view that will be adopted if the House does not pass the motion. I hope that that is not the result.
I will make a couple of points in reply to some of the matters that have been raised. The matter of whether the majority or minority favour abortions was raised. Some politicians have taken a shrewd guess on how the public might react. I hope that does not influence honourable members who are debating this matter tonight. I hope that this Parliament will look at the matter from a moral point of view and from the point of view of the welfare of the Australian community and the moral standing and future of this nation.
– As the previous speaker, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), said, the motion will be decided in the Parliament, but it will be misinterpreted by the people of Australia that the Parliament is for or against abortion. This will be the sad part of this debate. The motion has been on the Notice Paper since August of last year- some considerable time. Looking at the politics of the matter and not trying in any way to detract from the merits of the motion, one cannot help but wonder that if the Government had a view about this matter it would have expressed it and would not have allowed a member of the Government to have had a notice pending since August. The motion has been amended twice since then. A number of amendments have now been moved to the motion, all of which deal with public funds. That is the point.
– Why didn’t you people do it in 1973?
-I would be grateful if no interjections were made as I am genuine in what I say. Let us have a look at the motion. It has nothing to do with abortion; it has everything to do with money. The Government does not want to make a decision on the matter. Because public funds are involved the Government feels that it might get caught up in the debate. I give credit to the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). He felt, as a member, that apparently he had to do something because the Government did not want to make a decision.
We are approaching a ridiculous situation. As the honourable member for Maranoa has said, irrespective of what may be said in this debate, a head count will be made on the basis that members were for or against abortion. That is not the issue here; the issue is whether in certain cases medical benefits for the termination of pregnancies will be paid to doctors. That is the one matter at issue. We can have all sorts of different views about that. Are we going to deny people medical benefits in some cases or indicate that they can go ahead and undertake treatment at their own cost? That seems to be the alternative. Medical benefits have been paid for this sort of medical service since 1953. Provisions for these sorts of services were introduced in 1953 and enlarged in 1974 and 1976. The Parliament never discussed any of those matters. I understand that the Australian Medical Association had a keen interest in ensuring that this item was brought into a schedule. The AMA had a money interest. It was successful. I do not know what the medical profession thinks of the morality of the situation but its members were very keen to have the item included in the schedule from a money point of view.
I come now to the issue of what the Parliament regards as lawful and unlawful. The honourable member for Hume said, quite strongly, that the law was wrong. Let us look at the law. How else can the law operate other than considering the human aspects of what is lawful or unlawful? In most cases abortion is a criminal act. Abortion is a crime. Nobody should approve of a crime. But in certain circumstances the involvement of a medical practitioner in a termination of pregnancy leads us to judge whether the act was lawful or unlawful, depending on the circumstances. It is not good enough to say that the law is wrong because Menhennitt said something about necessity. Obviously necessity does not enter into the criminal element. Let me make it very clear. When Menhennitt was talking about necessity he was talking about the proportion of the crime itself and relating it to the prevention of felony, the arrest of a felon and self-defence. The issue obviously is whether the matter is lawful or unlawful. It is not one of necessity.
Let us look at what is called the Levine case. The question was whether or not a woman’s life was in any way in danger, physically or mentally. As Levine said:
In my view it would be for the jury to decide whether there existed in the case of each woman any economic, social or medical ground or reason which in their view could constitute reasonable grounds upon which an accused could honestly and reasonably believe there would result a serious danger to her physical or mental health.
Are we to say that we are convinced that all abortions are unlawful and that the best way to sustain the situation is to go off in the criminal context and prove a case before a jury? No jury will convict in these cases. The jury did not convict in the case I have mentioned. No convictions have been recorded in this area in any State for over 20 years.
Let us have a look at the challenge that is before us. We are an all male jury. Which one of us will send a woman to gaol? Not one of us. The honourable member for Maranoa was perfectly right. What about adopting a positive resolution on what we can do for women in order to guarantee that they can retain a child and not be subjected to the physical and mental disturbances that obviously occur? What about offering a living wage to the woman who is pregnant and has no other source of income? When I write back to those who have written to me they say that that is not very practical. Let us look at the facts as to what is practical in relation to how we can help women in need. If one looks at the situation since the introduction of the supporting mother’s benefit with regard to the adoption of children one will see how we have improved the situation on the very simple basis of enabling a mother to retain her child, which is a normal, strong maternal instinct and is very good for the child
There has always been the stigma in our society of illegitimacy. It has been considered that if your parents have not been married or if you do not have a father there is something wrong with you. In brutal terms one can be excluded from society. It is a stigma and it has always affected the issue of adoption and everything else. In New South Wales in 1972, 3,3 10 children were adopted. One might say that that is very fine. In other words the child was separated from its mother by the set of circumstances then prevailing. But in 1978- last year- that figure dropped from 3,310 to 500. Why? Because we offered a supporting mother’s benefit, that is why. We gave some money to the mother who had no alternative. Is that not worthwhile? I cannot understand any government not offering help to a woman in need in those circumstances.
– Hasn’t it something to do with the increased number of abortions?
-It has nothing to do with the increased number of abortions. It is on the basis of what our society has been going through. The tragedy of what is happening in our society is that if we have a low socio-economic base we are going to get more abortions. Of course we are. Let us look at the statistics. The honourable member for Perth should not shake his head because he did not put forward any statistics. Let us look at the social indicators in Australia insofar as they apply to South Australia. Who are the ones who had to go through the ordeal of an abortion in South Australia? According to the statistics I have, 27 per cent of those people were under the age of 19 years. I repeat that 27 per cent of them were under the age of 1 9 years. There is obviously a social factor there. One can readily pick it. Some of them were under the age of 16 years. Do honourable members really think that in those circumstances the question of physical and mental disturbance would not arise? Would not one think that that is the basic factor that caused this situation to come about? Was there not a male partner somewhere who obviously was not going to abide by any responsibility? Is the woman the only one that is to be penalised in all these circumstances? None of us favours abortion. Childbirth is the real secret of life. But when a woman says: ‘In the circumstances, I cannot see my way clear to live because of all the factors surrounding me ‘, we get this sort of result.
Let us look at the marital status of these people. Forty-nine per cent of them were single. Let us look at the facts of life as we know them as members of parliament. Let us take the case of a girl of 18 years of age who is living in a flat, having to pay rent, certainly involved with some man and obviously not married. The next thing that happens is that she falls pregnant and the man leaves, as usually happens. What is her economic base from then on? Where does she go? What does society ever offer her from the point of view of a life or a future? This is what it is all about.
– What about the options?
-There is no option. That is the point I want to make. All the motion provides is that she will not be able to go and get any medical benefit. What a dreadful situation. She can go into a standard ward for treatment and get it done anyway. The Lusher motion does not cover that. I do not understand why the motion is about morality on such a basis. It is very weak from my point of view. Let us look at the issue of morality and what it can cost the taxpayer. It costs the taxpayers $ 1,000m to treat alcoholic abuse, which obviously means chronic alcoholic abuse. By the way, many of those being treated could be the fathers of the children about whom we are talking. Some 25 per cent of the people in mental institutions are there because of their excessive use of alcohol. Plenty of people are getting the taxpayers funds on the basis of having destroyed themselves. That is the argument on morality that the supporters of the motion might have used. But all that they have done is argue that in certain limited cases, because of a wrong assessment in law as to what is right and what is wrong, medical benefits will not be paid. The honourable member for Maranoa is right. This debate is about abortion. But the supporters of the motion did not make it that way. They made it an issue of whether we should be paying the 30 pieces of silver or otherwise. That is the argument they put and that is the weakness of their motion. I would like to have thought that they had enough gumption to move a motion about the payment of a living wage to any pregnant woman who needed support. That would certainly guarantee a lot more children being brought into the world. I cannot understand why any of those honourable members did not get up and talk in this way. Instead they talked about law and the cases that have been. decided. Every one of them has been decided on the basis of what is lawful or unlawful. Every jury has had to decide whether it would send the mother to gaol. That has never been done. The issue has always been on the basis -
– Not the mother, the doctor.
-The issue always has been whether she is guilty, too. The honourable member for Hume should not try to run away from that. The doctor is not the only one involved. The honourable member is running away from the point. I cannot understand him. In a case in England in 1958 accused by the names of Stungo and Newton the test was whether the action taken was lawful or unlawful. The question would be whether one is preserving the life or health of the woman. The health aspect refers not only to the physical health but also to the mental health. If one looks at the Bourne case one sees that one does not just determine the issue as at the time that the termination of pregnancy takes place. One is obliged, according to the decision in that case, to work out whether one should determine it then. Can a woman undergo the stress and strain of a pregnancy with seven months yet to expire? Can she do it? What is the judgment? The judgment has to be made by a professional doctor. Anybody else involved in the abortion is guilty of a crime. A member of the medical profession has to be present. This is the same profession that has included in this respect the right to get its money. Every government has agreed with it. All of a sudden, for some reason best known to the honourable member for Hume, he has said: ‘In these very limited cases I am not going to allow any benefit to the person concerned’. For the reasons that I have mentioned, I cannot understand that attitude. Let us look at the matter of hospitalisation. In this respect I refer to the costs of the North Shore Hospital since 1977-78 on a bed day basis. Of each dollar that goes to that hospital we as a government contribute 82c. The honourable member does not say anything about that.
– It is State concern.
-No, it gets Commonwealth funds as well. Commonwealth funds go into it. The honourable member does not mind all the taxpayers moneys going into such hospitals and he does not mind them providing all those services. A woman can have an abortion or a termination of pregnancy in a standard ward and he will say nothing about it. He will agree to the Government paying the lot. But all of a sudden he gets onto this small segment of the community and says: ‘You certainly will not get any medical benefits’. He is dealing with about 10c out of the dollar that the Government is now paying for abortions. That is the issue. How stupid is his motion when one looks at it from the point of view of what we are about. As I said at the outset, this motion has nothing to do with abortion. I am against it and always have been but I understand other people’s views. I have to accept them. I cannot legislate for morality. Example is the way to do it. There is no other way. I do not intend to penalise anybody on the basis that they believe that they are not doing anything wrong. Why should a penalty be imposed on them if they believe that they are not doing anything wrong? As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) said, State laws contain all the provisions that these services are deemed to be lawful. They are being carried out by State hospitals that are financed by the Federal Government and we are not affecting the balancing of their budgets by refusing to give them finance for that purpose. The Government cannot do that. Honourable members know that.
-That is right.
-In that case why did the honourable member not take a positive step in regard to this issue? Why did he not do so in the first place? Why has the Government not done something about giving something to the person who needs economic help on the basis that if she is pregnant and can prove her situation she ought to get some money?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I regret the adversary position which I think has been adopted in this debate by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). The issue facing the national Parliament is in fact one of the most sensitive and controversial issues facing the Australian community. Many members of this House have very strong views on the subject of abortion. My own views are certainly matters of public record. I include myself in the number of members of this House who are concerned about the question of abortion. My views stem from deep personal convictions on the morality of abortion. For this reason, the extremely large number of abortions which have taken place in recent times causes me, and I think many other honourable members from both sides of the House, very great concern.
In 1977-78 some 50,900 abortions were performed under Commonwealth benefit item 6469. This was far from being the total number of terminations performed. A number of the procedures carried out under items 6460 and 6464 would also have had the effect of aborting pregnancies. This may be partly demonstrated by the fact that the incidence of procedures carried out under those items increased from 63,900 in 1970-71, when abortion was less common, to 1 17,600 in 1977-78. Let us be conservative and say that only 10 per cent of those 1 17,600 procedures were actually abortions. We would need to add to that figure the thousands of abortions carried out in public wards of hospitals which were not included in the figures I have given to this House. It must be clear that the number of abortions performed in Australia in 1 977-78 was in excess of 60,000. This must be compared with some 226,000 live births. More than one abortion is performed for every four live births in Australia at the present time.
I want to make a matter of public record my view that these figures are alarming, to say the least. Every abortion represents the loss of a potential citizen. This has very significant implications for the future of this country, in addition to the consideration of the morality of abortion. I recall hearing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) referring to statistics from South Australia. Statistics which are available from South Australia show that in that State in 1977 one abortion was performed for every 5.3 live births. Of course, these terminations are not confined to a single age group. It seems to me that all of the evidence points to abortion having become a matter of convenience in the Australian community. The laws in Australian States do not provide for abortion on demand, yet a staggering number of terminations are being performed. According to the law we would have to believe that pregnancy presents such a serious problem that 40 per cent of South Australian girls between 15 and 19 years of age who become pregnant must be aborted to protect their physical or mental health. That represents one abortion for every 1.5 births.
I do not believe that there has been any major change in the mental or physical health of Australian girls in the past few years. Why then has pregnancy suddenly become so hazardous that more than one third of pregnant girls aged between 15 and 19 years require abortion for their own protection? It is clear that a gap has developed between what the law prescribes and what is being practised. In this country legally we do not have abortion on demand, but I believe that to a large extent we have it by default. This Parliament has debated the issue of abortion on demand before. In 1 973 the House rejected such a proposal by 98 votes to 23 votes. Yet now abortion on demand seems to have been implemented by stealth instead of by law. I believe that tacit acceptance of this state of affairs by this Parliament represents a dereliction of duty.
The motion now under consideration is not aimed at prohibiting abortion, or even at legally restricting it. That is a matter for the States. What the motion aims to do is to restrict Commonwealth funding of abortion through the medical benefits table to those cases where termination is physically medically necessary. This would remove the appearance of Commonwealth approval for abortions which are not required for physical medical reasons. It is impossible to support in this House the claim that the Commonwealth is not approving these abortions. The Commonwealth in fact is paying for them. What gesture could indicate stronger approval than that? After debating in this House the matter of abortion on demand and refusing to countenance it, the national Parliament is allowing that practice to proceed under the auspices of Federal funding. This seems to me to be either hypocrisy or apathy. I think it is the latter. As far as I am concerned, the time has come for this national Parliament to face the issue of abortion. As I recall, the will of the House was clearly expressed in 1973, but since then an entirely contrary practice has developed throughout the country. We now have the responsibility and the opportunity to close the gap between what we have said is our intent and what we as a national parliament are prepared to tolerate in reality.
Opponents of the motion before us have said that it would deny abortions to the poor, whilst allowing them to the rich. I do not believe this to be the case. Terminations would continue to be carried out free of charge in public wards of hospitals. Only in the case of private patients would additional costs be incurred by the consumer of the service. In other words, only those people who could afford to pay would have to do so. Yet it seems to me that, in the process a very important principle would be established. I do not believe that many honourable members present would consider the decision to undergo an abortion to be a minor one. It is a matter deserving the deepest and most searching consideration, even for those who eventually decide to proceed. But by subsidising abortion this Government is interfering in the decision by reducing the burden associated with choosing abortion. In my judgment, this form of intervention is not an indication of neutrality; in essence, it is active support for abortion.
I advance a final argument in favour of the motion because it is for that purpose that I speak in this debate. Although it is the last argument on this subject that I propose to advance, it may also be the most significant to a large number of Australians. Whilst obviously the existing situation does not force every female to undergo an abortion, it does force every Australian taxpayer to pay for abortions. For those people who have deeply held moral objections to abortion- I happen to be one of those people- it is almost intolerable to be placed in this position. We are here to consider the views of all Australians and to look for ways to accommodate those views where possible.
This motion seeks to relieve the burden on those people who disapprove of abortion. It does not seek to disassociate those people from all terminations, but only from the least justified cases. Surely, allowing for differences of opinion in this House, this motion offers a reasonable compromise between the needs of those people who desire abortion and the needs of those people who find abortion unconscionable. This motion represents an attempt to reduce the incidence of abuse of State laws and Federal benefits. It avoids extremes in both directions. It does not seek to remove all forms of Federal funding from all abortions, nor does it seek to subsidise all abortions regardless of need. It represents an intelligent compromise. I make my position clear. I support the motion and I commend it to the House.
During this parliamentary debate certain amendments have been moved by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), the honourable member for. Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). I am prepared to accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Moore if no valid alternative exists. With less enthusiasm, I would accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell rather than see the motion lost, as that amendment does endorse a very significant principle. The situation foreshadowed in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro would be an improvement on the current position and I could accept it in that light if there were no other way to express the disapproval of the House of the existing abortion rate. But I would have the greatest reluctance in accepting the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan which, in my judgment, is merely a cosmetic operation which seeks to legitimise the status quo.
I commend the motion to the House.
– A letter has been received from the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) in the following terms:
I wish to withdraw the amendment in my name to Mr Lusher ‘s motion relating to the termination of pregnancy.
The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) also has written in the following terms:
I wish to withdraw the amendment in my name to Mr Lusher ‘s motion relating to the termination of pregnancy.
The following amendment has been received from the honourable member for Mitchell:
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted, with a view to substituting the following words: this House expresses its deep concern that for every three live births in Australia there is one abortion, and therefore is of the opinion that the Government should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that medical benefits shall not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancy unless the termination is performed to protect the mother when her life is endangered by a physical pathological condition or where either (a) the pregnancy was as a result of incest or rape, or ( b ) the mother has been subject to disease or physical conditions which could reasonably be expected to result in serious deformity to or retardation of the child ‘.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this House of 124 males is being asked to deny medical benefits to females who have had an abortion in accordance with the law. The law is established by State parliaments and interpreted primarily by State courts. This Parliament has jurisdiction only in respect of Commonwealth Territories. Why then do we have this motion before us? Why is this House being asked to deny medical benefits to women having an operation in accordance with the law of the State in which the operation is performed?
Several reasons have been advanced and I will try to deal with them all in the limited time available. Perhaps the main reason lies in the statement of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Sir James Freeman. Cardinal Freeman’s remarks were widely reported yesterday. The Age quoted Cardinal Freeman as saying: ‘The Australian Government has a heavy responsibility before God and man to reinforce and positively promote right morality in the community and to undertake the protection of the unborn’. Cardinal Freeman is then reported to have added that he and his bishops wished again to raise their voices in protest against ‘the ready availability of abortions in this country and the steady growth in the abortion mentality among its citizens’.
Other comments made yesterday support this view and show clearly that this Parliament’s jurisdiction over health matters is being used in order to try to limit the number of abortions carried out under State law. The comments to which I refer were made last night by the National President of the Right to Life Association, Mrs Judge, on the radio program PM and by the sponsors of this motion, the honourable members for Hume (Mr Lusher) and Perth (Mr McLean), on the television program Nationwide. Their comments could leave one in no doubt that this motion is an endeavour to narrow the effect of State laws and reduce the number of abortions performed in Australia.
All of us would favour measures which would reduce the number of abortions- especially education regarding sex, contraception and human relationships generally. But this motion is ill founded and it will not be the means whereby abortions are reduced in number. I respect the sincere views of the mover and seconder of this motion, but I do not respect the device which they have chosen to try to achieve a change in the law and practice relating to abortion. These are matters primarily within the responsibility of the State parliaments.
Australia’s present abortion rate is conservatively estimated at 60,000 a year, a fact known to the Government when formulating its current policy for the funding of abortions under the health scheme. The abortion rate has always been of that order and there is no reason to suppose that it would lessen simply because the funding was altered. On the contrary, the abortions would continue but under less satisfactory conditions. Some women would be tempted to go to cheap ‘backyard’ abortionists, with a consequent risk of physical injury or even death.
I have no doubt that there will be fewer abortions when there is a greater understanding of contraception and I do not believe that the problems associated with abortions will be solved by denying people the right to recover some of their medical expenses for this operation as they would for any other lawful operation. It would be unconscionable for the Commonwealth Government to deny people the right to recover medical costs incurred when having an abortion in accordance with the law of a State or the Commonwealth. Medical expenses for illegal abortions are not recoverable. The medical funds are not obliged to insure people in respect of abortions but most funds do provide such insurance. Many arguments are raised by people of goodwill against the practice of abortion itself, but it is simply not practicable to oblige women to have children they do not wish to have, and it is not realistic or fair to argue that if a woman did not want a child she should not have become pregnant in the first place.
It is the essence of democracy and liberalism that governments create a climate in which individuals decide for themselves how they will live their lives. The funding of abortions is available to those who satisfy doctors that they ought to have an abortion. In this respect, therefore, an abortion is in precisely the same situation as any other operation. When abortions occur they ought to be treated like any other operation. Individuals considering having an abortion have access to counselling services and must answer to their own conscience about the issue; it is not for parliaments to impose a particular code of conduct upon individuals in such matters.
The honourable member for Hume claims that the aim of the motion is to ensure the proper use of Federal funds. But what is a ‘proper’ use? What constitutes ‘endangered life’? The implementation of the motion is fraught with risks of grave inequities, discrimination and massive administrative problems. A reading of pages 134 to 144 of Volume 3 of the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships illustrates the magnitude of these problems when related to the abortion laws of the various States. As this debate is ostensibly dealing with medical benefits I will refrain as much as possible from entering the wider debate on abortion laws and policies but will give one illustration in order to show the effect of this motion. Although the New South Wales law is the most liberal on abortion and is, therefore, the one regarding which most problems will arise, I am answerable to a Victorian electorate and should, perhaps, draw my example from that State.
The Victorian legislation was interpreted by Mr Justice Menhennitt in 1969. Under that ruling a doctor must honestly believe, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary to perform an abortion because the woman’s life or mental or physical health would otherwise be in danger. If he is so satisfied, an abortion is lawful. The State Parliament, recognising that that ruling reflects widely held social values, has not sought to change that interpretation of the law. This House, however, is now being asked to dispute the judgment of the responsible State Parliament and only allow medical benefits to cover abortions ‘performed to protect the life of the mother from a physical pathological condition’ and where ‘the life could be protected in no other way’. Doctors are also asked to certify to that effect, thereby breaching the highly valued confidential relationship between doctor and patient. Furthermore, doctors performing other gynaecological operations, such as curettes or hysterectomies, will have to certify that, in doing so, they did not procure an abortion unless it was to save the woman ‘s life.
A curious aspect of the cost-saving approach of this motion is highlighted in this morning’s Age in an article written by Claude Forell who points out that, on the logic of this motion, medical benefits ought not to be paid to women for prenatal treatment or for childbirth unless such treatment is to save the woman’s life, as such treatment is not prescribed for the ‘physical, pathological condition’ described in this motion. Mr Forell also points out the ways in which the taxpayer will pay more to support unwanted children than is paid for abortions and that, if cost saving is really the purpose of this motion, there are other items in the medical benefits schedule which should be scrutinised ahead of the relatively low expenditure on abortions.
An editorial in yesterday’s Age recorded views which I endorse strongly. In referring to the legal, moral and social complexities of the abortion issues, the Age was correct. This motion does lack insight. It also lacks compassion for the women who are concerned. It makes no effort to stress the need for advice on family planning and for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies by contraception. It discriminates against the less well off and would not necessarily reduce the number of abortions.
Those who oppose contraception in Australia are in a very small minority and yet it is that small minority which is sponsoring this motion in an effort to impose its own values on the majority of the community under the guise of cost-saving. The reasons for individual abortions are matters for the patient-doctor relationship. If, in having the abortion, a woman has transgressed a teaching of her church, that is between her and her church. It is not a matter for this Parliament. The separation of Church and State occurred a long time ago.
Abortion is a serious social problem which poses grave moral problems and great dilemmas for the community as well as for the persons who are directly involved. This motion is not, however, the means whereby such problems can be fairly examined. A debate on the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships would be the most appropriate avenue for an exploration of the issues and possible action by each of the Parliaments concerned. The report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships observed that there was no unified religious view and that social attitudes are also divided. One of the three commissioners was an anglican Bishop, Dr Felix Arnott, and the other two were equally distinguished in terms of human experience and intellect. In volume 1, page 54, paragraphs 81 to 84, the report records:
There is no clear majority favouring prohibition of abortion. We consider that the life of the foetus is different in quality from the life of a human being after binh and that it is valid to take into account the social circumstances of the mother in deciding whether abortion is justified. Although abortion is not seen as desirable, its consequences must be weighed in the balance against the consequences of proceeding with the pregnancy. We do not consider that easier access to abortion should be seen as a substitute for effective contraception or that it would have this result. Improvements in contraceptive services are needed, although they would not necessarily eliminate the need for abortion. In our view the persons best placed to assess the need for abortion are the woman herself and her doctor. The doctor’s role is to weigh up the circumstances, to advise of the risks and to ensure proper medical practice. The woman should have counselling to enable her to consider the options free of pressure.
I hold those views personally and I believe that those findings of the royal commissioners reflect accurately the views of the majority of the community and that it is those views which this Parliament should also reflect. I hope that Parliament will soon be given time to debate that excellent report in depth. The quality of debate on this motion could only have been improved if members had been enabled to consider carefully the sane, principled and practical recommendations contained in that report. One does not have to accept all of its findings to recognise its great worth as a document from which to begin informed analysis rather than reflex rhetoric.
The nub of the problem is that the community does not agree on precisely what so-called rights’ should be accorded to a woman and the foetus she might be carrying. The Right To Life Association expresses with great militancy its conviction that the alleged ‘rights’ of the foetus prevail over those of the woman carrying it. That Association has waged a campaign of intimidation on members of this House in support of this motion. It has labelled those who do not share its convictions as being ‘pro-abortion’, but such a label is most unfair. The problems are far more complex than that Association acknowledges and the foetal rights it claims have never been recognised by law in that simple manner.
I do not know anyone who is pro-abortion. In an ideal world we would not have abortions apart from those induced by nature itself. But we are not now, and are never likely to be, in an ideal world. Certainly the passage of the motion now before the House will not make it so. On the contrary it is likely to aggravate human suffering without reducing the numbers of abortions. I am convinced that the majority of people- perhaps the silent majority- recognise the complexities of the problems relating to the abortion debate. I believe that the preponderant public view in our community is that abortion is most undesirable, the very last resort but sometimes a necessary evil. I do not believe that the majority of people adopt a holier-than-thou approach to a woman who decides, after appropriate counselling and medical advice, that she wants an abortion. The public testimony of women who have had abortions is that it is painful and traumatic. No woman would undertake it lightly and the period of decision-making would be one of great mental anguish for any woman.
The effect of the motion now before the House would be to place major obstacles in the way of a woman seeking an abortion. For, if she could not satisfy a doctor that her life was in danger from a physical pathological condition’, she could not obtain medical benefits for an abortion performed even though her doctor believed that her mental health was endangered. Presumably, even in the event of a mental breakdown a woman is to be denied medical benefits for an abortion unless her life as well as her sanity is endangered. I think that position is quite clear from notes which have been circulated by the honourable member for Hume. I ask: Is he qualified to say whether an operation is medically necessary? Surely it is for the doctors to say whether an operation is medically necessary.
In short, this motion I believe is punitive in character, it is devious in design and it is utterly impractical. Perhaps, above all, it ill becomes a group of men to tell the women of Australia what their responsibilities are and that they should save their housekeeping money to pay for abortions which are deemed by doctors under State laws to be legally necessary in the interests of the woman ‘s health.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-I am speaking in support of the Lusher motion. The debate this afternoon and tonight on this most important issue of the right to terminate pregnancy has again opened a Pandora’s box. All of the speakers who have taken part in the debate have had one thing in common- namely, the protection of the woman and the child. In their own way they have their own personal feelings about the funding of pregnancy termination, or abortion, under the medical benefits schedule. I think that this entitlement, which was invoked by the Labor Government under the Medibank arrangements in 1973-74, has been a help to women over the years. The entitlement was inserted in the medical benefits schedule by the Medical Schedule Revision Committee on which the Australian Medical Association and the Government are represented. I wonder why the AMA has come out so strongly against the Lusher motion. Is it worried that the confidence between patient and doctor will be broken or is it worried about financial gains?
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a copy of a letter from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), dealing with medical benefits for abortion, which has been sent to all honourable members, together with a copy of a letter to the Minister from Mr G. D. Repin, the Secretary General of the Australian Medical Association.
The documents read as follows-
Minister for Health
Canberra, A.C.T.2600 6 March 1979
My dear Member,
Medical Benefits for Abortion
I attach a copy of a telex from the Australian Medical Association.
I have been authorised by the AMA to circulate the text to Honourable Members for their information so that they have the benefit of the Association ‘s views.
Subject: Position of AMA on notice of motion to be moved by Mr S. A. Lusher in House of Representatives.
On February 21 1979, notice was given that Mr S. A. Lusher (NCP, NSW) would move in the House of Representatives as follows:
That this house requests the government to introduce legislation which will provide that-
Where medical expenses are incurred in respect of a medical service specified in the medical benefits schedule which could include the termination of pregnancy, the doctor who performed the service shall be required to certify to the health insurance commission that-
There are serious grounds for concern on the wider implications of any such legislation.
It would require doctors to stipulate whether or not the medical service rendered was in accordance with medical need, and such medical need would be defined in law in extremely narrow terms.
Further, the legislation would require the medical practitioner to disclose to the health insurance commission details of the patient’s medical condition in order that Commonwealth benefits might be provided. This could be regarded as a breach of medical confidentiality and contrary to the accepted principle that the doctor’s judgment on what is in the best interests of the patient is accepted in the determination of medical need.
The above observations relate to general principles, irrespective of the particular medical service.
In relation to the relevant item in the medical benefits schedule, the position of the AMA is as follows:
The service covered by item 6469 in the medical benefits schedule- ‘evacuation of the contents of the gravid uterus by curettage or suction curettage not covered by item 6460/6464’ was first listed in the Australian Medical Association’s list of medical services and fees in 1973, and was incorporated in the medical benefits schedule following the determination of the 1973 medical fees tribunal. The decision to include the item in the AMA list of medical services and fees was made following representations received from medical organisations, and approval was given by the federal council of the association.
In 1977 the medical benefits schedule revision committee, on which the AMA is represented together with the government, reviewed this item in the schedule. The committee took the view that termination of pregnancy, when legally performed, is a medical procedure and as such open to the payment of benefit.
The committee also considered that the legal and ethical responsibility for determining the medical need for a medical service rests with the individual medical practitioner operating within the framework of the relevant State law.
– I would like to refer to a few articles in volume 3 of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. At paragraph 99 on page 153 of the report under the heading Abortion and contraception’, the following comment is made:
There is an agreed need to reduce the number of abortions by encouraging better contraceptive facilities and practices. There is a strong fear in some that if abortion were more readily available it would be seen as an alternative to proper contraceptive practices. Some of our submissions put the view that liberal abortion laws would lead to disregard of family planning services … a disturbing number of abortions are carried out where liberal laws exist; in fact there is evidence from all over the world that where liberal laws regarding abortion exist, there is disregard of family planning services.
Again there is an inference that one can do everything to help a person but if cognizance is not taken of services we will be back to square one once more. Paragraph 118 on page 157, under the heading ‘Counselling’, states:
The Lane Committee concluded that some women would find the burden of making their own decision unsupported a heavy one, and might be vulnerable to pressure from parents, husbands or boyfriends. Some of our submissions stressed the need for skilled counselling for a woman seeking abortion. It is important for her to discuss the situation fully with an impartial person to avoid the influence of family and other pressure. The woman often needs help in considering the options which are available to her in her situation and in exploring her own feelings. She may need advice on contraception and, if the abortion proceeds, an opportunity for further counselling.
Paragraph 1 1 9 on the same page states:
It is important that proper counselling services be established and supported to provide helpful, non-directive counselling for women seeking an abortion, should they require it. We do not consider that counselling should be a compulsory legal requirement; it is more important to ensure that the facilities are provided. Some suggest that such services should be independent of abortion services. While it would be ideal to provide independent counselling services, it would not be practicable or desirable that these should replace existing counselling services at abortion clinics. Many women might not get any counselling at all unless the services were attached to the clinic. The important thing is to ensure high standards and adequate facilities.
I am just going through the main parts of the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. On page 168, under the heading Unsafe procedures; lack of facilities and expertise’, paragraph 188 states:
A typical complaint was about dirty, unhygienic premises. Others concerned the use of dangerous methods of abortion, such as inserting something into the uterus and sending the patient away to miscarry elsewhere.
Paragraph 1 89 on the same page states in part:
A respondent to the Commission’s ‘unwanted pregnancy phone-in ‘said:
At the abortionist’s rooms I felt I was treated terribly. It was a gruesome, dirty room in a dirty street. I had it done at the abortionist’s (brought on) and the actual miscarriage occurred in a hotel room . . . I felt very sick for a long time, and emotionally upset. The whole thing was so sordid and horrid.
On page 202, under the heading ‘Consequences of abortion- Introduction ‘, paragraph 384 states:
The Commission’s terms of reference require us to report on:
the social, economic, psychological and medical pressures on women in determining whether to proceed with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, having regard to:
. . . the social, psychological and medical results of termination of, or and failure to terminate such pregnancies.
Paragraph 385 on the same page states:
We received a great deal of conflicting evidence on the subject of abortion and its effects, both in written submissions and in oral evidence. Dr Hilgers, Assistant Professor of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, St Louis University, School of Medicine, gave lengthy evidence to the Commission in which he stressed the medical hazards of legally induced abortion. He quoted statistics on abortionrelated maternal mortality and morbidity, complications in later pregnancies and psychological complications. He referred to a 1970 report by the RCOG which called for a study of the long-term hazards of abortion. A WHO report on long-term consequences is due for publication in 1 977.
I hope that has been finalised. I would like to quote some correspondence I received as the member for Sydney. I will read first the reply I sent to the letters I have received from approximately 300 to 400 constituents in the area. I have received 100 to 120 letters and telegrams in the last two days. The letter I sent to my constituents read:
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter regarding abortion.
You may not be aware that any legislation concerning abortion is a conscience vote by the individual Members in the House of Representatives and Senate.
My personal feeling is that in protection of Mother and Child, there should be a continuing responsibility by Governments in regard to family allowance, medical services, child care, education and housing, etc.
I am appalled that in a country like Australia, that is experiencing zero population there is no encouragement of family life. I think family life is essential for the stability of our nation.
When debating this legislation I am sure that my Parliamentary colleagues will consider all the factors and vote accordingly, however, as I have stated above, abortion is a conscience vote.
As the Member for the Electorate of Sydney, I will certainly always vote against abortion, I have in the past and will continue to strongly oppose any move to legalise abortion in Australia.
I think I should read out some telegrams I have received which express an opposite point of view. They read:
Oppose Lusher motion encourages backyard abortion and unwanted children. Medibank a basic right. 64 concerned Swinburne staff
Lusher motion discriminatory against women and the poor creates dangerous precedent. Vote no.
Lusher motion discriminatory against women and the poor, creates dangerous precedent. Vote no.
Lusher motion discriminatory against women and the poor, creates dangerous precedent. Vote no.
Lusher motion discriminatory against women and the poor, creates dangers precedent. Vote no.
– They are telegrams. These are the ones I was looking for. They read:
If you vote for the Lusher amendment you will lose our votes.
Randerson and W. Oliver, Glebe
If you vote for Lusher amendment you lose my vote.
Voted for you last election but will organize campaign against you if you support Lusher bill.
I have another 20 here. The point is that anything we do could upset some people in the electorate. One letter I received will appeal to many honourable members. It reads:
Dear Mr McMahon: re Item 6469 and associated items.
We appeal to you to support the Stephen Lusher motion which will come before Parliament shortly.
Stephen Lusher has had the moral courage to speak up on behalf of the thousands of Australians who are sickened by the alarming abortion rate.
It makes us very sad that some elected M.P.s are in favour of murdering so many thousands of Australian babies. Anyone who favours such criminal acts should not be in a job where decisions are made that effect his fellow man.
Let every year be ‘The Year of the Child ‘, so please help to bring in a law that will protect the most innocent- our little unborn babes.
Please make Australia strong- Morally; Spiritually and Physically. NSW is a disgraceful State to live in because of the thousands of murders that are carried out yearly. Please we appeal to you to help bring in a law that will punish these abortionists who commit murder so ruthlessly.
My husband and I have ten beautiful children (7 girls, 3 boys ) aged between 2 1 months and 1 6 years of whom we are very proud. We want our children to grow up in a ‘humane society ‘ with love for their fellow man.
May God Bless you and all those near and dear to you.
Yours sincerely, (Mrs) Patricia Holz.
I have read those out in fairness to all the people who write to me. Another letter written to me reads:
Dear Mr McMahon,
I refer to the motion to restrain payment of Medical Benefits for the termination of pregnancy moved by Mr Stephen Lusher M.P.
Enclosed for your information is a copy of a Press release which I have made on this subject.
May I encourage you as a community leader to do whatever is personally within your power on this occasion to promote the entitlement of unborn children to be born, to grow and to develop freely in a dignified way, and to reject the public funding of abortion.
With every good wish,
The Sydney Morning Herald stated this morning:
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend Sir Marcus Loane, and the Social Issues Committee of the Sydney Diocese issued a joint statement yesterday urging support of the Lusher motion. The statement expressed alarm at ‘the rapid and large increase of abortions which destroy life’.
– That is right. The main thing I am trying to convey to honourable members is that both those gentlemen are from the electorate of Sydney and both their cathedrals are in Sydney.
The reason I have come out so seriously on an issue that is going to affect so many people in the electorate of Sydney is that for many years to come I will have to stand up and be counted because of the way I will vote. A stand has to be taken. I am worried like any other parent is worried about 60,000 unborn children being aborted. In a country of zero population growth and a population of 14 million people we are worried about our family life. There is also the other side. I have a secretary and an assistant secretary in my office and they are divided in opinion like many people in Australia. I am pleased to say that my wife is sympathetic with me and I suppose that is the main thing. We have 8 children and sometimes I wonder how we found the money to be married. After we were married we had 8 beautiful children and we are grandparents. I have survived.
What is wrong with our country? What is wrong with us as legislators? Why have these women and men thrown in the towel? Why are we not helping them to rear a family and build a good life and to have a happy home together? Naturally, the States will be involved. Some of my friends and comrades on this side of the House have had differences of opinion on this issue. One has to think when one is one out on an issue. I know it could be a ten year fight. I think to myself that now I am involved I will see that the family will be looked after. I think all honourable members will agree with that. I am disgusted that in a country like Australia there are 60,000 known abortions a year.
– I wish to start by reassuring the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) that no matter how large the pressure groups on either side are, I think he has a very good chance of holding his seat. This is mainly a symbolic debate. I am one of those who do not really believe that passing or not passing this motion- if it were passed, the Government’s legislation would be drafted according to the lines of the motion- would make the slightest difference to the number of terminations carried out in this country or even to the method of terminations. I do not accept the proposition that people will be rushing to back yard abortionists if the average subsidy towards payment of $67 is taken away. Having said that, I also do not believe that there is any point to this amendment. If the people who moved this motion- the so-called Lusher motion- feel strongly about it then let them test the feeling of this House on a specific resolution, that the Crimes Act for the Australian Capital Territory be altered in a certain way. Those honourable members can then say that at least they have tried to prevent terminations of pregnancy in the Australian Capital Territory, which is the only place where they have any say. They should not try to get around it by this sort of proposal. This is important.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean)- for whom I have much more respect than I have for the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher)- at least put the factual proposition as he saw it. I do not know his religious beliefs in that I do not know to which religion he belongs. He said quite plainly that one ‘s attitude to this motion or to the general attitude on termination of pregnancy depends completely on one’s assumption or otherwise that a foetus becomes a human being at the time of conception; that is an important point. It is important that he stated his own philosophical point of view, that he believed that point. That is why I state my belief. I do not believe that this happens but, at the same time, I do believe that there is a continuum from the time of conception to the time of birth and that the foetus is closer to a human being than, say, the whales about which people are becoming very excited at the present time. I do believe that there is something more to a human foetus, even at one month or two months’ gestation, than there is to whales about which we are supposed to get very excited because they have brains approaching those of intelligent dogs, or something like that.
I believe that the honourable member for Hume could be described in Australia as the poor man’s Ayatollah Khomeini in the sense that he wants to introduce a religious form of law rather than a secular law to which we have become used. I think the honourable member for Hume and others are perfectly entitled to try to impose their views on others. There are honourable members in the debate who have stated that just because Catholics and others believe that a foetus at the moment of conception becomes a human being, it does not mean that they should be able to impose that view on other people in the community. I believe that would be true if, for example, they had strong views on pornography or similar matters. They have no right to try to impose on me their views on what book I can read or what pictures I can see. I believe there is a complete difference in kind, quantity and quality when one believes that there is murder involved. If the life of a human being is ended by the termination of pregnancy one is entitled not only to stop the termination of pregnancy amongst his own supporters but also amongst non-believers. It is obviously true that if one believes that murder is being committed one is entitled to stop that murder whether those people are fellow believers or not.
I accept the proposition that people with those views are entitled to try to impose them on the community. I do not hold it against them. If I held that view I would consider myself a hypocrite if I did not try to impose it on the community. If one believes murder is being committed surely one should try to take every possible step to prevent that murder. The hypocrisy comes in with this. The honourable member for Hume has waxed very loud in the last four months, since he has become prominent and well loved by certain people in the community. He certainly receives plenty of publicity. Good luck to him. But he has been completely inconsistent. I now wish to deal with the matter from the point of view of a medical practitioner who is interested in the sorts of things with which I deal in this House; in other words, as the shadow Minister for Health, although obviously I am not speaking to the matter as the shadow Minister for Health because this debate is not on party lines. Let us take the very first point, where the honourable member for Hume says that standard ward termination will still be wholly paid for by taxpayers. This is obviously true. He will encourage people to have their terminations as standard ward patients. I completely agree with him. He and other members of this House know very well that I think that fee for service private medical practice is wrong. It leads to all kinds of bad aspects, especially in surgery.
However, for a person to argue that it is wrong to contribute $67 towards the payment of a termination under certain conditions or unless certain conditions are fulfilled, as the honourable member for Hume argues, and then to say that he will still subsidise this at the rate of approximately $ 1 50 a day in New South Wales, $200 in the Australian Capital Territory and so on in other States cannot be justified. Even private terminations in public hospitals will still be highly subsidised because the patient will be paying only $40 towards the bed/day cost. The real cost is $ 1 50 a day so the taxpayer, in the case of New South Wales, will be subsidising the cost by amounts of somewhere between $100 and $1 10 a day and, in the Australian Capital Territory, by $150 a day. Speaking as a medical practitioner, hopefully this debate will stop in the very near future when the use of prostaglandins will become possible, where people who want to terminate their pregnancy will insert a tampon or use some other method. That will bring on a contraction of the uterus and an expulsion of the contents of that uterus. One assumes that from then on this argument on the question of termination of pregnancy, because it does not involve a surgical interference, will disappear. I think it has stopped to a large extent with the introduction of the pill. I remember the days when I was in medical practice and the Catholic Church objected to all kinds of contraceptives. When I started in practice in Guildford, because there were Catholic pharmacists in the area, you could obtain your condoms only from the local garage because it handled the rubber goods. You could not go into a pharmacy and get contraceptives. Once oral contraceptives came on to the market, they soon changed their attitude and were happy to sell those particular tablets.
The second part of the so-called Lusher motion could include not only curettes and so on, which are normally talked about, but also any prescription. If you really enforced the second part and if a doctor prescribed any sort of tablet that is likely to bring about a termination of pregnancy- there are tablets which at least attempt to bring that about, though often unsuccessfully- he or she would have to certify that, according to the proposition moved by the honourable member for Hume and the honourable member for Perth, it is not intended for the termination of a pregnancy. I know that this is taking a long bow, but in fact it would be true.
I make one other point on the question of the 50,000 or 60,000 abortions that are alleged to be carried out each year in Australia at the present time. I do not know the real number. I have a fair amount of contempt for the people who run the private abortion clinics. I believe that many of them are crooks. I believe that a fair proportion of the people who allegedly have had pregnancies terminated in those particular private clinics have never been pregnant. I believe that if a women only walks past those places she is encouraged to go in and have a termination of pregnancy. In other countries we have newspapers and magazines that are more inquisitive to see what goes on. We have seen accounts by female newspaper reporters who presented themselves at those clinics, asked if they were pregnant, knowing full well that they were not, handed over urine specimens from males, been told that the specimens showed that they were pregnant, then been admitted for a termination of pregnancy. I am sure that exactly the same sort of thing is going on in Australia. If it makes any honourable members happy, I am sure that at least this means that less terminations are being performed than the figures suggest.
I now attack some of the hypocrisy of the socalled Right to Life Association. A publication was sent to me called the N.S. W. Right to Life Newsletter of February 1979. On page 4 this heading appears: ‘Items of the Medical Benefits schedule under which it is possible for an induced abortion procedure.’ That does not make any sense to me but I am sure it was selected by one of its medical advisers. Beneath that heading there are references to things that the Association says should be eliminated from the medical benefits schedule. One is item 6536, hysterectomy and dissection of pelvic glands’. A radical hysterectomy and dissection of pelvic glands is carried out on women with cancer of the uterus or the cervix. Is the Right to Life Association arguing that pregnant women who have cancer of the cervix or cancer of the uterus should carry on with that particular pregnancy? Further on this article refers to ‘removal of Ectopic gestation’. Is it argued by the Right to Life Association that a woman should carry on with an ectopic gestation even though there is for practical purposes no possibility of having a live birth? But that is what the Right to Life Association is putting up. The reason that it is publishing this is to persuade people that some people are making huge amounts of money. Those particular items carry benefits of $350 and $156 respectively. This is the sort of lying propaganda that is being published by the Right to Life Association; it is the sort of propaganda that I strongly object to.
In most of the propositions that have been put to this House there is no reference to the possibility of allowing a termination of pregnancy because of genetic illness, because of rape or because of incest. Many of the people who are associated with the moving of this motion were associated with Congressman Hyde. I do not mean the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) but the man who came to Australia last year or the year before. I think that the honourable member for Hume and the honourable member for Perth probably would argue that they are following in his footsteps. In some way certainly he has been successful in the United States. In the Congressional Record page H 12489 of 29 November 1977, Mr Hyde said:
Under the present law- and, remember, the present law is what I support- there is treatment for rape . . .
By treatment of rape he means termination of pregnancy- . . or incest victims, at least during the first month following the occurrence.
I cannot see the philosophical argument in the statement ‘the first month following the occurrence’. Is there a difference between the life potential, the life in the foetus, before the end of the first month or at the end of the first month? I would just like to emphasise that he said:
Under the present law- and, remember, the present law is what I support- there is treatment for rape or incest victims, at least during the first month following the occurrence.
-Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the motion proposed by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and strongly oppose the amendment proposed by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). I compliment the honourable member for Hume on bringing this matter forward for debate. We have in this country a de facto situation of abortion on demand through the lax administration or blatant non-enforcement of State laws and the use of the medical benefits schedule. In a sense this situation is in defiance of a vote by this House in 1973 on a Bill relating to abortion. The creation of item 6469 in the medical benefits schedule in 1974 was intended to provide for those abortions which were permitted according to State law. Whether by accident or by design, this item has been used as the gateway to public funding of abortion on demand, thus giving abortion on demand the stamp of public approval and respectability. This has occurred by default without a decision of this Parliament. It is therefore appropriate for this House to debate the matter.
Several arguments have been put that this House should not debate the matter. I refer to the argument put by the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) that this is an all male House and that we are purporting to make a decision on a women’s issue. I submit that it is a community issue, a matter of public concern. It involves public funding. As members of Parliament we have a responsibility to debate matters of public concern. We are elected by both men and women. We have to make many decisions indeed on matters which are not within our direct area of experience. We have to make decisions about the aged in the community. None of us is elderly, except perhaps the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon).
Speaking for myself, my views on the matter have been on the public record before both the 1975 and 1977 elections. Far from it being improper for me to express a view in this Parliament on this matter, I believe I would be failing in my duty if I did not maintain the view I expressed on both those occasions, and chose instead to ignore the views of many men and women who supported me on the basis of my expressed views. It is further argued that the Parliament should not consider this matter because it is a woman’s right to choose if she wants an abortion. Normally I would agree with the classic liberal proposition that the law should not intervene in matters of private morality; but I believe that the classic liberal proposition I have just stated does not apply in this matter because another life is at stake, the life of the unborn child. It is therefore not strictly a matter of private morality. No discussion on abortion should ignore the status and rights of the unborn child. The honourable member for McMillan and other speakers against the motion have not canvassed that issue. Indeed, some of the discussion on the subject has proceeded as though an abortion involves no more than the removal of some unwanted wart or tumour. When I consider all the evidence of the development of the foetus at various stages I can conclude only that it is a developing person. We are therefore dealing with a separate human life.
Other speakers in the debate have outlined the evidence in support of this proposition. I will not repeat it, because I believe that it is well documented. However, I do want to give some examples of how we commonly accept in our own thinking and terminology that there is a mother and a child involved in an abortion. I refer to the wording used by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) when he replied to a question I addressed to him on this subject on 15 September 1977. I believe that the Minister was speaking off the cuff because the question certainly was not a Dorothy Dixer. He said:
I have had many representations, in fact I have had thousands of representations, from people throughout the community, objecting to being party to paying benefits for such procedures unless the mother has had an abortion because of the state of her health.
Later on he said:
However, I have asked my Depanment to examine the whole area to ascertain whether there are ways and means of ensuring that benefits are payable to mothers who have had an abortion on proper medical grounds.
I suggest the very use of the word ‘mother’ indicates that in the Minister’s mind an abortion involves a mother and a child. There cannot be a mother without a child being involved as well. Even today, the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) refers to the termination being performed to protect the mother when her life is endangered by a physical pathological condition. The amendment that was to be moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury)- an amendment that has now been withdrawn- used similar terminology. I suggest that in our normal thinking we do think of an abortion involving both a mother and a child.
All of the States have laws on abortion and we all know that they are not enforced. This is justified by some who say that people will seek abortions anyway, that laws do not influence human behaviour, and that therefore the administration of those laws ought to conform with people’s actual behaviour. I do not quite agree with that. I believe that there is a role of the law to declare what is in society’s interest. There is a role of the law to influence opinion on matters of right and wrong, matters that affect the welfare of the community. I suggest that all laws are in some way based on a moral judgment. All laws- certainly the criminal law concerning violence, robbery and so on- contain in them some moral judgment. If people refer to law and private sexual morality, I agree that the law should not intrude, but opposition to abortion is not based on some prudish attitude to sexual morality. In my view, it does not have anything at all to do with sexual morality. It does have everything to do with the protection of human life. If we look further at the proposition that abortions are going to occur and therefore the law should not prohibit them, we know that many offences are going to occur anyway. Is it suggested as a corollary to that that those actions that are going to occur anyway should be made legal simply because they are going to occur? If that is the proposition we would follow we would have to repeal a large part of the criminal law that is on the statute books.
I want to deal with some of the arguments that have been put forward by representatives of the Australian Medical Association. I believe that the argument the AMA has put forward against the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume on the basis that it would breach the confidentiality between doctor and patient is a quite fraudulent argument. It must be described as fraudulent, and I do not know how a bunch of phoney physicians could have come up with that sort of argument. Already a doctor must cite on a document an item number for a medical procedure if there is to be a claim on medical benefits in respect of that procedure. The item number clearly identifies the nature of the medical procedure. Indeed, a number of pharmaceutical benefits are available only on specification of the medical condition for which they are prescribed. I therefore suggest that the AMA is putting forward a quite spurious argument. Further, I understand that in South Australia a form is required under section 82A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act whenever an abortion is performed. That form requires all sorts of highly confidential details far in excess of the details that would be required under the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume. Where was the AMA with its arguments on confidentiality when the South Australian form was designed? It was not to be heard because the South Australian legislation had the effect of liberalising abortion law. Whilst the AMA General Secretary protests that the Australian Medical Association is not stating a view on abortion as such, I am sure he is aware that the effect of its objection to the motion before us is to support abortion on demand.
I put forward the view that even the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume can be somewhat misleading if people believe from its wording that large numbers of abortions are required on medical grounds. I think that that view was put very forcibly by Professor Sir William Liley of the University of Auckland when he visited Australia. He said:
I can say with complete confidence and I’m sure I would have no contradiction from any Obstetrician here tonight or any Obstetrician at all, that no matter how crook mother’s heart disease, no matter how rotten the kidneys, no matter how horrible the diabetes, no matter how bonkers she was, that, if in fact, she wanted the baby, nobody would be standing around saying ‘but my dear, you must have an abortion to save your life’. I have never come across this situation, nor have any of my professional colleagues in Auckland.
The fundamental fact is that she does not want the baby. The real indication for an abortion in the vast majority of cases is that the mother does not want the baby. Whilst it is legitimate that the motion of the honourable member for Hume should provide the exception of medical grounds that cannot be satisfied by any other medical procedure, I believe we have to realise that justifiable medical grounds would be very limited indeed.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to oppose very strongly the amendment put forward by the honourable member for McMillan. Let us be under no misapprehension as to what that amendment really means. It proposes that the motion should read:
That this House is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should not pay any medical benefits for or in relation to the termination of pregnancy unless the procedure is performed in accordance with the law of a State or Territory.
It is worth noting what a leading member of the Press Gallery has said about that amendment. In the Age on 16 March Michelle Grattan said:
Mr Simon proposes an amendment declaring that the Commonwealth should not pay a benefit for an abortion unless it is performed in accordance with the law of the relevant State or Territory, and by a qualified doctor.
This, of course, simply restates the present position. But it would give members the psychological comfort of making a declaration which sounds significant without being so.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr FALCONER All members who might be inclined to support the proposition put forward by the honourable member for McMillan should, I believe, realise that in voting for that motion they are clearly voting for the present de facto position of abortion on demand, because the States do not enforce the laws which are on the statute books in the various States. We do know that the Menhennitt rule in Victoria, as administered, means abortion on demand. Therefore I support very strongly the motion put forward by the honourable member for Hume and oppose in particular the amendment put forward by the honourable member for McMillan.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Motor Vehicle Emission Controls- ‘HMAS Attack’- Health Insurance- PensionsExpenditure on Sport
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-A number of Government members have recently protested about proposals by State governments to reduce the amount of lead in petrol, under Australian Design Rule 27A. It is unfortunate that the same people did not speak out when the fifth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum was released two and a half years ago. The Commission was highly critical of the lead phasedown proposals but it did provide alternatives to meet the health objectives of the States. If the recommendation of the Commission had been accepted and immediately put into effect, the present lead pollution problems might well have been less serious. Instead, the Government has done absolutely nothing about the recommendations and we are now faced with two very unsatisfactory choices. We either can accept a serious health problem in our major cities- a problem which is steadily worsening and which Government members would have us accept- or we can adopt lead phase-down measures which will cost the consumer dearly and result in extra petroleum consumption.
The point made by the Royal Commission was that neither of these unsatisfactory choices need have been taken had the Government acted promptly. The Commission concluded that the public health objectives set under Rule 27a could be achieved at negligible cost by the deployment of other methods of phasing down lead. The most important alternative was to increase the octane rating of regular grade gasoline from 89 to 92 so that the majority of Australian vehicles could use standard grade petrol. At present an unusually high proportion of vehicles in Australia use supergrade petrol, mainly because the octane rating of standard petrol is too low for most vehicles. It is the lead added to petrol which gives it a high octane rating.
The Commission concluded that if, over the next decade, the percentage of premium grade motor spirit could be reduced gradually from the current level of 85 per cent to 35 per cent, then lead emissions from automobiles could be maintained at 1972-73 levels without extensive refining investment. The use of lead free liquefied petroleum gas by buses, taxis, and other fleet vehicles which frequently operate in city centres where lead levels are unacceptably high would also reduce the problem. The Commission proposed to conduct a study to determine the probable and alternate cost of lead phase-down proposals, but had to rest upon preliminary assessments when its funding and terms were contracted by the Government three years ago. Those members of the Government who have now discovered the problem of lead phasedown measures might well reflect on the wisdom of that decision. They might also reflect on conclusion 1 7 of the Commission, which states:
The poverty of the industry response to the need to evolve a minimum cost route to lead phase-down shows how dangerous it can be for government in general to be without the necessary expertise to examine proposals and independently, assess options.
The Commission has made a deliberate study of systems of administration in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, France, Singapore and New Zealand.
All these governments believe that they need national energy policies and that petroleum, its refining, distribution, marketing and pricing, are essential elements of that policy.
Why Australia thinks it does not need such policies or at least acts as if it so thinks, no one has ever explained to the Commission.
I am amazed that Government members, at long last, have found out that we have a lead phasedown problem. I am still amazed at the lack of understanding of the Royal Commission reports Nos 1, 5, and 6. The Government has closed down, if I may say so, the most important one, which is report No. 7 on transfer pricing. It is high time that the Government got the expertise necessary to manage the energy industries effectively and developed a national policy. The fiasco over lead phase-down will be repeated time and time again until that expertise is found and used effectively.
-Mr Speaker, since the Parliament resumed this year I had intended to endeavour to prove to the House that good things do come in small packages. I refer specifically to one of the smallest ships in the Royal Australian Navy which recently visited Tasmania. I am referring to the patrol vessel HMAS Attack, which is the number one patrol vessel in Australia. It takes its name from the Attack class patrol vessels, of which we had a number in this country some years ago until most of them were given away by the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, to countries to the far north of Australia. HMAS Attack was in Hobart in January and February of this year and since then it has carried out extensive surveillance in Tasmanian waters. The reason I mention this matter is that the vessel has already demonstrated that it is the ideal type of ship to undertake the surveillance of Tasmanian waters which are far more extensive than perhaps many members of this chamber would realise.
If one accepts the argument that constitutionally Tasmania has responsibility not merely for an area of water extending from her shores but, by virtue of a nineteenth century proclamation a much larger area and if we take into account the fact that Macquarie Island is part of Tasmania as well as being one of Australia’s Antarctic bases, and then if we take into account also the 200 mile limit from the Antarctic, it is quite obvious to all of us that there is a very substantial area of water which must be the subject of surveillance from Tasmania. The impact of the presence of HMAS Attack in Tasmanian waters has been such that I believe it would be the overwhelming wish of the majority of people in Tasmania that HMAS Attack or a similar vessel should be based permanently in our State. I pay tribute not only to the vessel but also to the crew and with the consent of the Opposition I seek to incorporate in Hansard a list setting out the current crew of HMAS Attack on its recent visit to Tasmania.
The document read as follows-
CREW OF H.M.A.S. ATTACK
Christopher Le Marshall- Captain
Keith Johnson- Executive Officer
Doug Thompson- Midshipman Under Training
David Oates- Charge Engineer
Brian Mills- Second Engineer
Fred Auty- Coxswain
Phil Tovey- Chief Bosuns Mate
Shane Logan- Leading Seaman Marine Engineer
William Bennett- Leading Seaman Marine Electrician
Greg Webb- Leading Seaman Weapon Mechanic
Keith Simmonds- Leading Seaman Quarter Master Gunner
Tom Albrecht- Able Seaman Electrician Communications
Colin Burke- Able Seaman Radio Operator
Peter Emery- Able Seaman Quarter Master Gunner
Lance McDermott-Able Seaman Quarter Master Gunner
Peter Fehlanot- Able Seaman Chef
Gavin Jewell- Able Seaman Marine Engineer
Nic Stancic- Able Seaman Marine Engineer
Geoff Peart- Able Seaman Fire Control
-Talking of the Attack class patrol ships brings to mind the fact that tenders have been let by the Government for the construction of an additional 12 patrol vessels. When I raised with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) as to whether HMAS Attack or one of her sister ships could be based permanently in Tasmania, I gained the impression that Tasmania might be regarded as a suitable base for several more patrol ships.
There has been a great tendency in recent times to consider maritime surveillance in the north of Australia. I believe that surveillance of the south is equally as important. Material available indicates that strategically the five mainland States could be in very great trouble defending themselves if somebody was able to attack and capture Tasmania. Bearing in mind the fact that Tasmania would stoutly resist any invasion, I must say that Dr Robert O’Neill has gone on record as saying that the capture of Tasmania would provide the largest floating aircraft carrier in the world and would be potentially a magnificent base from which to launch attacks on the Australian mainland and New Zealand. I know that the Minister for Defence is receptive to the suggestion that Tasmania should have Royal Australian Navy vessels based permanently in its waters. Whilst I would like to ask for a destroyer, I would content myself at this point with the submission that at least there should be patrol vessles there.
In the remaining seconds of my remarks I draw attention to the fact that I believe it is the overwhelming wish of honourable members on both sides of the House that the reserve decoration be restored. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred) and others who have taken up this matter. Anzac Day is fast approaching. Many people in this country believe that the reserve decoration should be restored. I hope that it will be restored. I go further and say that I hope it will be restored before Anzac Day so that those reserve decorations may be worn on that occasion by the people who have worked so hard and who are justifiably entitled to that award.
– A couple of weeks ago we debated at length the Life. Be in it.’ campaign. The statistics that emerged in the debate were quite enlightening in one way but frightening in another. One statistic indicated that federal expenditure on sport this year is in the vicinity of $1.3m or, as was pointed out at the time, 9c per person per year. Government members have been jumping up and down and getting all hysterical about the $3. 8m that the Government is spending, in their terms, to destroy life.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to refer to an earlier debate.
-I apologise, Mr Speaker. I will approach the matter in another way. We have a sports budget of $ 1.3m but we have a health bill of thousands of millions of dollars. I have heard all sorts of figures quotedfrom $3,000m to $7,000m. Let us strike the figure in the middle- $5,000m. It seems that there is a great disparity between the amount of money the Federal Government spends on health care compared with the amount of money it is prepared to spend on sport. I think that an argument exists for a greater provision of money within the Budget context for sport. I am not necessarily talking about promoting the Olympic Games or international competition. I think that in the ultimate this would reflect national health. I am concerned more with providing community sports facilities. In the long run I am sure that such facilities have a great effect upon our national health bill. I am thinking of the provision of jogging tracks, tennis courts and bush walking facilities which the average Australian can use. I think that we would all agree that as a nation our health is deteriorating. I look around the chamber and see that all of us are fairly flabby because of our sedentary existence. I guess that we reflect the average Australian.
– Speak for yourself.
-The Minister for Health, with his ruddy complexion, might be an obvious exception to that rule. I think that all of us would agree that we could be fitter, not fatter. I do not think that any of us would disagree that because of our national unfitness we are promulgating a larger health bill through heart attacks, vascular disease, obesity and general debility.
Let me add to the confusion. I am also an alderman of the Parramatta City Council. Parramatta, in relative terms, is a miniscule of the Australian experience- a rather important miniscule. I would like to illustrate to the House the problems we have even in our city. We would like to provide there the facilities such as jogging tracks about which I spoke earlier with a view to promoting some family exercise, but we just do not have the money. We had a sad case a fortnight ago concerning a Greek soccer club with 1 4 junior teams- 11 boys teams and 3 girls teams. We did not have a ground to give them. We gave them a garbage tip that had been filled in and we provided them with some soil and grass. They made their own oval. Whilst that is good in terms of participation, it is not good in terms of the facilities that we would like to be able to provide but are unable to provide.
I have talked about a health bill of $5,000m. Perhaps the Minister for Health would think about devoting one half of one per cent of the bill, which would be about $2 5 m, to sport. That would equal the amount of money that was provided in one year by the Labor Government when the honourable member for Grayndler, (Mr Stewart), was the Minister responsible for sport. If that money was made available to local government to provide family facilities and community exercise facilities I think we would see a rapid decrease in the national health bill. That is my theory and I will stick to it. I defy anybody on the Government side to deny that that would be the case.
I would like to see more money provided for a federal sports medicine centre so that sports injuries could be looked at. I am not talking necessarily of broken cheek bones of first grade footballers or broken jaws of cricketers but of the sorts of things that happen because people want to involve themselves in sport. A number of people become paraplegics every year because they dive into creeks or pools which are not deep enough. I would like to think that the Government is responsible enough to believe that the provision of $ 1.3m for sport in Australia is inadequate. Australia has a wonderful reputation as a nation not only of sports participants but also of sports lovers. The amount provided should be increased dramatically in view of our already overloaded health bill. I am sure that the Minister, being the responsible man that he is, will take this notion on board and respond to it.
-A considerable amount of confusion exists at present about the exhaust emission controls for motor vehicles. Part of that confusion has been brought about because two different bodies with different barrows to push are concerned about the issue. On the one hand, on the technical side, we have a committee of the Australian Transport Advisory Council- the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions. That Committee has made an assessment of the effect of Australian Design Rule 27A of 1976 on consumption figures and costs for motor vehicles. As distinct from that we have a committee of the Australian Environment Council- Vehicle Emissions and Noise Standards Advisory Committee- which places far more emphasis on the environmental aspects of exhaust emissions and which in turn tries to make sure that some of the figures and some of the information produced by the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions are perhaps wrong or deficient.
In a short adjournment debate there is no point in trying to work out who is right and who is wrong. I believe that the technical committee probably has the better of the argument. But let us forget that for a moment. Let me make a few points along the lines that in fact it is really too soon to worry about the argument between those two. ADR 27A has been in existence since 1976 but we do not know how well it is working. Until we know how well it is working, why should we push on even further at this point? Why should we impose further cost on the motoring community? Let us look at what is happening at present. New South Wales is the one State above all others that seems to be pushing for the introduction of the next stage of the exhaust emission control rules. The next stage is due to take effect at the beginning of 1980 subject to a meeting of Ministers to take place in a few weeks time. New South Wales of course is currently heavily under the influence of the environmentalists. The New South Wales Government seems to be intent on debunking the work of the committee on motor vehicle emissions, quite wrongly in my view. So we have the problem that New South Wales is intent on pushing forward whilst we still have a dichotomy between the two bodies and while as I have already mentioned we still do not really know the total effect of ADR 27a as introduced in 1976.
The reason why we do not know is very simple. It is that up to this point of time probably less than 40 per cent of motor vehicles on Australian roads are fitted with the 1976 controls. That is because the other 60 per cent are heavy duty vehicles and older vehicles which were built of course before those rules became effective. If we look further into the situation- New South Wales research proves this point- we find that out of the 40 per cent of vehicles fitted with ADR 27a controls, the great proportion are not working properly. It does not matter whether this is because people have tampered with them, have taken them off in order to improve their fuel economy, whether they are ineffectively or incorrectly fitted in the first place or whether they have not been adequately maintained. The fact is that out of that 40 per cent of vehicles that follow ADR 27a rules the great proportion are not functioning properly. How can we say that there is a need for the next step in the ADR 27a rules without first knowing what on earth is the effect of the present rules.
My contention is that it is sheer madness to impose on the motoring public of this vast land the additional cost, the additional fuel consumption which will result from the next stage of the implementation of ADR 27a without knowing how effective the current rule will be? It follows that we have to give the current rule time to work and at the same time we have to encourage the motor vehicle industry to continue its research and its development to try to contribute to a growing efficiency and a growing awareness of the need for a cost efficient basis to continue the fight against unnecessary air pollution.
– I do not want to take even the full five minutes available to me. As the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) is at the table I would like to make one or two comments and ask him two questions. I am not referring to the debate which is still continuing on the termination of pregnancy. The other day he published figures which came I think from the cause of death statistics ascertained by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is interesting to note that in the years 1975 to 1977 there were two deaths from abortion and 69 deaths from child birth in Australia. If it is correct that there is approximately one abortion per four live births in Australia or, as one particular amendment puts it, three live births. I will take the situation to be one abortion for four live births. That means that the maternal risk is six and a half times greater in the case of pregnancy than in the case of a termination of pregnancy.
-I think the honourable member is traversing matters that relate to the existing debate.
-I was just reminded of this matter because I saw the Minister sitting at the table. There are two other points that I would like to put to him. Firstly, can he obtain the figures reasonably soon so that we can look at them, digest them and make some comments as to what ought to happen in the next financial year so far as medical and hospital insuranceparticularly medical insurance- is concerned? I refer to the amounts of money paid out by the Department of Health on two levels, one on the basis of the 40 per cent refund of the common fee of $20 which has been the case since 1 November 1978, and secondly, in relation to disadvantaged patients. Just how many payments are made there? I know that it is difficult to come to a final conclusion on this matter because people do not claim immediately and there may be three, four and up to six months delay. I hope that the Minister will provide the House with figures as soon as possible so as to give us some basis for intelligent comment on what is happening at present concerning the health insurance scheme.
Finally, I address the Minister in his capacity representing the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in this chamber. I noted in passing that the New Zealand Government, I think in February 1977, reduced the minimum age for the age pension from 65 years to 60 years. Because the matter of how to deal with unemployment, is one of the topics which is now under general discussion, I would be interested to know how many people take advantage of that reduced age limit. Also, could the Minister for Social Security provide the House with information as to the sorts of tests that are in force in New Zealand- means test, income tests et cetera- in regard to the eligibility of age pensioners? That would give the House some idea, if we are to compare Australia with New Zealand, as to what would happen if we reduced the age requirement for an age pension from 65 years to 60 years or 62 years or whatever it may be.
– In response to the three questions asked by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) we do not yet have sufficient statistical data on the working of the new health insurance arrangements which have applied from 1 November. However, it is probable that by 3 1 March we will have some preliminary raw statistics that I will be pleased to make available as soon as possible to the Parliament. I can report that in regard to bulk billing, for instance, it does appear that more doctors are bulk billing since 1 November but that fewer people are being bulk billed. That probably indicates that there has been a greater acceptance by the medical profession of bulk billing, probably based on an attitude to try to extend the advantage to the disadvantaged people.
In relation to the other statistics mentioned by the honourable member it is a little early to produce them but I have asked my Department as soon as possible to ascertain figures for the House and for public consumption. The scheme itself is working extremely well. I have not had a great deal of complaint about the machinery or the operation of the scheme as such. Indeed, it seems to be going pretty well as an innovation. In regard to the other question relating to statistics applying to reducing the age pension entitlement from 65 years to 60 years, as has happened in New Zealand, I will refer that question to my colleague the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I will provide an answer to the honourable member as soon as it comes to hand.
I wish briefly to respond to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), who made a very useful and constructive contribution I thought, by trying to encourage people to engage in more healthy pursuits. He made a very strong case for the encouragement of sport and for more funds being made available to sport generally. I think it is very important to direct a lot of effort to encouraging State governments to do much more than they are doing for sport. They have complete control over recreational areas. I think all of us are attempting to encourage State governments to continue to do more than they are doing. Too often the community stands by hoping that the Federal Government is going to do everything- provide all the funds and all the resources. Clearly, there is a role for the Federal Government to set a national standard to try to give a lead but obviously there is great need for State governments to give a higher priority to providing proper facilities for people to engage not just in competitive sport but also in sport for recreation. I hope later in the year to launch a program in association with the ‘Life. Be in it’ campaign to try to encourage people into better and healthier lifestyles. We are working on a proposal at present. I hope that we will have the co-operation of both sides of the House and of the community as a whole to encourage each other to lead a better life.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Sinclair to present a Bill for an Act to amend section 21 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929.
Mr Sinclair to present a Bill for an Act to amend section 28A of the Wool Industry Act 1972.
Mr Sinclair to move
That so much of the standing orders to suspended as would prevent5 Wool Tax Amendment Bills-
Mr Sinclair to move
That legislation committees have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Thursday, 22 March 1979.
That the amendment to By-law 139 of the Telecommunications (General) By-laws, as contained in Amendment No. 20 made by the Australian Telecommunications Commission under the Telecommunications Act 1 975, be disallowed. (Notice given 7 March 1979)
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following Government Departments have procedures concerned with monitoring or controlling the importation into Australia of equipment, technology, chemical or pharmaceutical preparations or formulations which may be hazardous from the points of view of safety, health and environmental impact.
The Departments of Administrative Services, Business and Consumer Affairs, Defence, Health, Housing and Construction, National Development, Post and Telecommunications, Primary Industry, Science and the Environment, Transport and Veterans ‘ Affairs.
Some of these Departments also have arrangements for liaison and consultation with overseas organisations, appropriate overseas authorities and State authorities on these matters.
Each of these Departments has provided information in response to the honourable member’s question and these replies are listed under each Department. In so far as my Department is concerned the answers are as follows:
Question 1- Section 62 and 63 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations made under the Customs Act provide a means by which controls are exercised by this Department over the supply and importation of goods which may be hazardous from the points of view of safety, health and environmental impact.
Under the Trade Practices Act the Minister is empowered to declare a ban on goods which are considered to be unsafe and, in addition, to declare mandatory consumer product safety and information standards. The Minister is also empowered to declare as prohibited imports goods which are, in his opinion, of a dangerous character and a menace to the community. Advice is provided to the Minister by the Commonwealth/State Consumer Product Advisory Committee (CSCPAC) which in turn, consults with the Bureau of Customs, other Commonwealth and State Departments and Instrumentalities and representatives from industry and consumer organisations.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs also administers, under the Customs (Prohibited Imports)
Regulations, specific regulations covering other potentially hazardous goods which are required to meet certain standards or to be used only for certain purposes.
There are also other regulations under the Customs Act which require importers to obtain permission to import from other Ministers and Departments as a guard against the introduction of hazardous substances. One of the most important restrictions in the Regulations are the Department of Health’s controls over the importation of therapeutic goods and appliances.
Question 2- The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs obtains information from a number of sources in order to be aware as far as possible of regulations or prohibited imports by foreign Governments on the use of this equipment, technology, preparations or formulations. Australian representatives overseas including Bureau of Customs officers regularly report on such matters and, in addition, information is obtained directly from several foreign Government organisations which are concerned with safety such as the US Product Safety Commission, the Canadian Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and the British Department of Trade and Industry. Information is also obtained from international organisations such as the OECD.
Question 3- Consultations between Commonwealth and State authorities take place under arrangements instituted by the Commonwealth /State Consumer Affairs Ministers meetings, the Commonwealth/State Consumer Products Advisory Committee and between officers of the Bureau of Customs and the Trade Practices Commission in the State Offices who liaise with officials of the various Consumer Affairs authorities in the States.
Information supplied by other Departments is as follows:
Department of Administrative Services
The only known relevant equipment imported by this department would appear to be Electronic Distance Measuring equipment used by the Australian Survey Office. The equipment uses laser beams as the measuring source. Laser beams of certain wavelengths can cause damage to the retina of the eye and damage to the skin.
At the time of purchase (1970) certain technical information on laser effects were known. There were publications available from the manufacturers, the medical profession and the Ministry of Aviation, London. Further information was sought from the Department of Physiology, Australian National University.
Safety precautions include the use of goggles with filter lens prescribed by the Industrial Safety Division of Frazer Edmiston Pty Ltd, Brisbane.
The Standards Association of Australia is the only organisation known to the Survey Office to whom reference could be made for safety aspects of equipment such as laser beams.
With regard to consultation between Commonwealth and State Authorities the forum for exchange of survey and mapping information is the Technical Sub Committee of the National Mapping Council. The sub committee comprises members from Commonwealth and State Survey and Mapping organisations.
Department of Defence
Question 1- There are no specific procedures laid down, in so far as the Department of Defence is concerned, to control the importation of items for military use into
Australia. Normally officers responsible for offering or acquiring an item are aware of its characteristics. All major Establishments have Safety Officers and Safety Instructions which provide the necessary information on the procedures to be followed.
In the case of transport, handling and storage; reliance is placed on information provided by the supplier; alternatively adequate knowledge is available from standard references, e.g., the Model Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road (prepared by the Advisory Committee on the Transport of Dangerous Goods).
Question 2- We are unaware of any formal legal arrangements which would ensure that we are aware of regulations, prohibitions et cetera imposed by foreign governments but knowledge of such prohibitions et cetera, in our experience, is derived from contractual and related negotiations between commercial or government vendors/purchasers.
Question 3- Where consultation is considered necessary or desirable with State authorities, it is usually undertaken under the aegis of the Attorney-General’s Department. Nevertheless, there is routine liaison between Defence Science and Technology Establishments and other responsible agencies by nominated professional officers specialising in various topics and by Establishments’ Safety Officers.
Department of Health
The procedures followed by this Department fall under three main headings:
Question 1- (i) Importation of Pharmaceutical Preparations including Radiopharmaceuticals.
The importation of all pharmaceutical preparations (including vaccines) into Australia is controlled by the Department of Health under the provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.
Under these regulations all pharmaceutical preparations imported into Australia are required to meet certain standards of quality (including sterility) and must be shown to be safe and efficacious for the claimed indications for use.
To this end companies seeking to import and market new products into Australia are required to submit detailed scientific data to the Department for evaluation. Departmental requirements in this regard are set out in a document entitled ‘Guidelines for Preparing Applications for the General Marketing or Clinical Investigational Use of a Therapeutic Substance’.
Following evaluation of the submitted data reports are prepared and considered by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. This Committee was established under the Therapeutic Goods Act and is an independent body of experts in the various fields of medicine whose main function is to make medical and scientific evaluations of goods for therapeutic use and furnish advice to the Minister for Health relating to the importation into, and the distribution within, Australia of goods that have been the subject of such evaluations.
Importation of radioactive materials is restricted under Item 23 of the Third Schedule of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. Approval for importation is given by the Director-General of Health, who has delegated his authority to the Director of the Australian Radiation Laboratory for the importation of radioactive materials required for medical purposes or by the Executive Member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the importation of radioactive materials required for nonmedical purposes.
Through the Australian Radiation Laboratory the Department of Health is kept informed by the AAEC of all orders accepted by that Commission. Those orders are accepted by the Commission subject to no objection to the supply of the stated material for the stated purpose being raised by that Laboratory on behalf of the Department of Health. The grounds of objection would be inadequate safety precautions or any other assessment of a potential risk to public health.
Importation is controlled under the provisions of Regulation 5 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations and the drugs concerned are listed in the Fourth Schedule to these Regulations.
Importers are licensed by the Director-General of Health. A prerequisite to licensing is that a company is also licensed by a State Government as a wholesaler or is otherwise authorised by those authorities to be in possession of the drug concerned (i.e. for scientific research, et cetera).
Each import must be covered by a Permit to Import issued by the Director-General. This Permit may be conditioned as to mode of import, use, disposal, et cetera. Narcotics may only be imported within the limits of the annual quota allotted to a company by the Director-General.
Drugs may be disposed of only for bonafide medical and/or scientific purposes. They are required to be kept in a secure place and appropriate records of receipts and disposals are to be maintained, preserved and made available for examination by officers of the Department of Health.
Companies handling narcotics, amphetamines and methaqualone are listed as ‘Reporting Authorities’ and are required to enter details of each transaction on a ‘Report on Movement of Drugs of Dependence ‘ for incorporation in the national monitoring system conducted by the Department of Health. Monitoring reports covering all movements down to the retail level are forwarded to State and Territory Health Authorities monthly. These highlight any excessive receipt of drugs by a chemist, hospital et cetera.
The importation of goods that purport to produce a therapeutic effect by electric, ultrasonic or magnetic influences or by the presence of radio-active elements is also subject to approval of the Director-General of Health.
Up to ISO applications or more are processed each week. In general, decisions as to the safety of importation may be made on the basis of information contained in manufacturers’ catalogues or protocols, or from pharmacopoeias. Sometimes matters may require considerations between professional officers in the Department of Health, consultations with State Quarantine Officers (Animals) or by discussions with experts in specific fields.
Liaison with the Therapeutic Goods Branch of the Department is close, as many proposed importations require screening as to whether they are therapeutic substances, and whether they are capable of introducing animal/plant/human disease agents. The Quarantine Division also comments on quarantine aspects of up to 100 therapeutic substance applications each week.
The intending importer is required to apply to the Director-General of Health for a permit to import the particular product, using an application form designed to provide information of quarantine importance. Factors such as the nature of the product, the transport medium in which it may be contained, relevant animal diseases present in the country of origin and the way in which the product will be used, are all taken into account when assessing the degree of risk which will be associated with the proposed importation.
Where a quarantine risk is judged to exist, the Permit to Import may be issued subject to certain conditions specified on the permit. These conditions are tailored to the particular circumstances and are designed to render the quarantine risk negligible, but yet allow importation of the produce.
Question 2- (i) and (iii) The Department of Health cooperates with the World Health Organisation, the British Pharmacopoeial Commission and the European Pharmacopoeia and maintains liaison with the appropriate authorities in other countries, particularly the United States, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom in respect of therapeutic goods (including radioactive materials).
Companies are required to provide details of the status of pharmaceutical preparations in other countries as part of their submission for the marketing of products in Australia. Independent advice is sought by the Department where it is considered necessary.
Question 3- (i) In 1971 the National Therapeutic Goods Committee was established by Order in Council to make recommendations to the Commonwealth and the States on action necessary to bring about co-ordination of legislation and administration of controls on therapeutic goods. The Committee comprises senior officers of each of the Commonwealth and State Health authorities and meets on an average three times a year.
In respect of radioactive materials, the Australian Radiation Laboratory of the Department of Health has consultations with the State authorities when considered desirable by parties concerned.
Department of Housing and Construction
Question 1 -The Department of Housing and Construction has no specific procedures to control or monitor the importation of equipment, technology, chemical or pharmaceutical preparations or formulations which may be hazardous, relying on such procedures developed by other Departments directly involved in controlling or monitoring imports. However equipment liable to have an environmental impact is subject to an environmental impact study.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which is under the control of the Minister for Construction imports soil and rock samples for testing purposes. The Corporation has written procedures approved by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the New South Wales Department of Agriculture covering packaging advice of importations, consignment details, packing, handling, testing and disposal. These procedures are followed and a recording system maintained.
When seeking quotations/tenders for goods required it is the Department’s policy to prescribe a standard or specify the quality of performance to which the goods must comply for acceptance. If the Department accepts an offer for items supplied from or manufactured overseas, it is the responsibility of the local supplier/importer on whom the Departmental order is placed, to import the goods and satisfy other Departments’ requirements relating to the importation of hazardous items as in a normal commercial transaction.
The Department’s Central Investigation and Research Laboratory operate a Nuclear Density Machine and an X-ray Diffractometer which must be licensed through the Division of Industrial Hygiene of the Victorian Department of Health. The Nuclear Density Machine is taken interstate on which occasions it is also required to be licensed by the particular State Government Department. Operators of these machines are required to wear film badges which are evaluated by the Australian Radiation Laboratories. The ARL also regularly checks the X-ray Diffractometer. The Nuclear Density Machine is subject to a regular ‘wipe test’ which is evaluated by the manufacturer in the USA.
Question 2- The Department of Housing and Construction has no specific arrangements which would enable Departments to be aware of regulations or prohibitions imposed by foreign Governments on the use of equipment, technology, preparation or formulations, which may be hazardous, again relying on the requirements of other Departments.
Question 3- Generally ad hoc arrangements exist for consultation between the Department of Housing and Construction and State Authorities.
Although the Australian Government is not legally bound to conform to State and Local Government regulations and by-laws, the Department of Housing and Construction consults these Authorities and wherever practicable designs accordingly. For example, all electrical power generation and consumer equipment must comply with Australian and State Authorities’ regulation and requirements, and the Department of Housing and Construction consults with State Authorities concerning the installation of equipment to be connected to State power supply systems. Such consultation takes into consideration safety, health and environmental aspects.
The Department of Housing and Construction is a member or is represented on many international and national organisations which permit consultation with kindred authorities on appropriate matters. Examples of these bodies are:
International Association on Water Pollution Research
National Safety Council of Australia
Standards Association of Australia
Australian Fire Protection Association
National Association of Australian State Road Authorities.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation cooperates with the Commonwealth Department of Health and the NSW Department of Agriculture over the importation of soil and rock samples for testing purposes.
Department of National Development
The only area in which this Department or its associated authorities have a particular interest is in the field of importation of nuclear material. The procedures for importation of nuclear material are laid down in International Atomic Energy Agency Document INFCIRC 217 under Article 96, transfers into Australia. The Australian safeguards office is responsible for ensuring that Australia’s obligations, as laid down by this article, are met.
The Third Schedule to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations requires that an importer of radioactive material produce to the Collector of Customs the permission in writing of the Director-General of Health or the Executive member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) to import the goods. In practice importation of medical radioisotopes and radiopharmaceuticals is approved by Delegated Officers of the Australian Radiation Laboratory for the Director General of Health and Delegated Officers of the AAEC grant permission for importing non-medical radioactive materials.
As far as the AAEC is concerned, each prospective importer is required to complete an application form for the release of the prohibited import from Customs. Each importer is required to hold a licence issued by the relevant State Health Authority giving permission to use and handle such substances. Each importer must make a Declaration of the intended use of the substance and intended safety procedures including waste disposal procedures. The applicant is required to undertake not to resell, or lease, or hire, or part with possession or custody of the substance without the written approval of the AAEC.
All application forms for release of the prohibited import from Customs are passed to the Australian Safeguards Office in accordance with the obligations referred to above.
In the case of other imports, no special procedures are followed. But, in general terms, tender specifications for particular items take into account factors of safety, health and environmental impact. As appropriate, the Department or the Statutory Body concerned would consult with bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and Commonwealth and State authorities on these matters.
Postal and Telecommunications Department
This Department is currently developing procedures to monitor the importation of non-approved transmitters and receivers of special types, which are considered hazardous to the general public if in the wrong hands. All other equipment imported by this Department is not considered hazardous in any way.
These matters were also referred to the following statutory authorities responsible to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications for Comment.
The Overseas Telecommunications CommissionOTC’s specifications require that telecommunications equipment imported by it comply with the Standards Association of Australia wiring rules which cover a number of aspects including protection against hazardous electrical situations.
Australian Broadcasting Commission- As a statutory authority the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s own technical specifications include safety requirements for protection of personnel against contact with engineering equipment and dangerous voltages or hazardous radiations. The Commission does not import technology, chemical or pharmaceutical preparations or formulations.
Australia Post- Imports of equipment et cetera that may be hazardous from the points of view of safety, health and the environment and which are handled by Australia Post may be divided into two categories, namely those which Australia Post imports on its own initiative for its own use and those which are received in Australia through overseas mails for delivery to other parties.
Imports For Australia Post’s Own Use- Australia Post imports, from time to time, equipment for sorting mail, engineering items such as motorised drums, stamp vending machines, spare parts for existing machines, et cetera. Whenever such material is purchased from overseas, it must conform with the requirements of a specification prepared by Australia Post and the relevant specification would always contain stipulations as to the maximum acceptable noise level, insulation resistance of wiring, and the need for the colour coding of the wiring to be in accordance with standards laid down by the Standards Association of Australia or by the Electricity Supply Authority of the State concerned. Belt and chain guards, emergency stop buttons for conveyors, et cetera are required to be in conformity with the rules established by the relevant local authorities such as the State Departments of Labour and Industry.
In the past, the services of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (Department of Health) have been used in the safety checking of imported chemical materials with which the public or staff could come in contact, such as the phosphorescent materials used in tagging postage stamps and in indexing letters for mechanised sorting.
Imports Entering Australia via Overseas Mails- Items entering Australia in shipments of overseas mail may possess dangerous or undesirable properties of various kinds. Those items which constitute a health risk to humans or livestock are covered by prohibitions under the Quarantine Act, against which they would be checked by customs inspection. Sections 7.20 to 7.38 of the Postal guide clearly set out the types of materials whose importation through the mail is prohibited.
Australia Post takes precautions to identify and deal with mail items containing explosives and the means to detonate them.
The relevant provisions of the Universal Postal Union Convention and the Postal Parcels Agreement prohibit the sending of dangerous items through the post The UPU publishes a list of Prohibited Articles and Australia ‘s entry in the list is based on information obtained from the relevant Australian Government Departments and Authorities.
As regards items which are not covered by the Quarantine Act, which do not contain explosives, and which are not banned under the terms of the Customs Act, Australia Post is not in a position to consider the potential risks associated with their use in this country. These are a matter for the person or organisation which intends to use the items to clarify in consultation with the controlling Government or Statutory Authority in the particular field of application.
Telecom Australia- Telecom has no established procedures which are directed specifically to monitoring and controlling safety, health or environmental impacts of new technology prior to its importation. However, in major projects, Telecom would consider these aspects in the course of its wider planning studies and specifications for the procurement of equipment would require necessary standards to be met in equipment purchased.
In less significant day-to-day activities, Telecom has established specifications which must be met by equipment to be connected to its telecommunications network. These especially refer to the protection of staff and the public against potential electrical hazards which might cause electric shock. The specifications are evidenced in those laid down for attachments for which ‘ permits- to-connect’ are sought by private suppliers.
In other day-to-day activities. Telecom maintains an awareness and caution in using materials or adopting practices which may be hazardous to staff or the public. It maintains an Occupational Safety and Health Committee to monitor health and safety and recommend protective or preventative measures for the protection of staff. This Committee has access to experts in physical sciences and engineering fields as well as medical and can draw on these experts from within and without Telecom (local and where necessary, overseas).
In its day-to-day operations, Telecom also complies with State and Federal Regulations regarding safe working practices (e.g. use of cranes and hoists, etc). It also complies, where standards have been established, with Australian Standards Specifications regarding safety aspects of materials and equipment.
However, most of Telecom’s procedures are concerned with its own operations and have little to do with importation prescriptions.
No routine arrangements are known to exist for consultation between Telecom and State/Commonwealth Agencies on safety, health and environmental aspects of Telecom operations/importations of new technology. Consultations of this nature are on an ‘as required ‘ basis.
Department of Primary Industry
The use and distribution of agricultural chemicals and veterinary drugs imported into Australia is generally governed by regulatory control on their sale rather than through import measures. All States administer strict provisions which require such products to be registered before sale and that their labels carry comprehensive usage and safety information. These requirements apply equally to imported and locally produced formulations.
Close contacts are maintained with overseas authorities and international agencies by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry on matters relating to agricultural chemicals and veterinary drug usage and associated controls and restrictions.
The Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry is closely involved with State authorities in procedures associated with the evaluation and clearance of agricultural chemicals and veterinary drugs prior to registration for sale. Co-ordinating bodies exist under the Australian Agricultural Council for this purpose, and close liaison is also maintained with health authorities on such matters. The Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry also provides a centralised information service to Commonwealth and State instrumentalities and agencies on a range of matters related to agricultural chemical and veterinary drug usage.
Department of Science and the Environment
The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories (AGAL) within the Department of Science have chemists outposted to the Bureau of Customs in each state. Among other duties, these officers advise the Bureau of Customs on the application of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to a variety of goods including chemical or pharmaceutical preparation or formulations.
Where imported goods which are possibly hazardous are not specifically mentioned in the above regulations, the chemist is able to recommend investigation or analysis by AGAL or immediate prohibition under item 18 of the Second Schedule to the regulations viz- ‘Goods which in the opinion of the Minister are of a dangerous character and a menace to the community. ‘
The former Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development also submitted input on procedures to monitor or control the importation into Australia of chemicals or chemical products that may be hazardous. This Department’s arrangements with overseas bodies and local authorities have now been taken up virtually unchanged, by the Department of Science and the Environment who replied that:
The banning or prohibition of import of a hazardous chemical or a product containing a hazardous chemical can be achieved using existing procedures. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs can make a ruling under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulation to ban a product or allow its import subject to certain conditions. Polychlorinated biphenyls are an example of environmentally hazardous chemicals that are regulated in this way. The importation of PCBs has been restricted to use in specific types of electrical equipment for which no alternative products exist at present. The use of PCBs in this case is required for safety reasons.
A difficulty in controlling the importation of hazardous chemicals in this way is the present commodity classification based on the revised Standard International Trade Classification. In this scheme individual chemicals are not identified but are grouped together with related chemicals under one commodity number for the purposes of tariff protection or the levying of duty. In order to control the importation of specific hazardous chemicals, e.g. PCBs, it is necessary to give the chemical an individual commodity classification number. This has been done with PCBs.
The activities on the control of chemicals in other countries is monitored mainly through the work of the OECD Chemicals Group, with the support of the Australian delegation to the OECD. As an aid to improving international contact in the control of chemicals, the OECD Chemicals Group has established a system of National Contact Points in the member countries. This allows questions on topics relating to chemicals to be sent to the nominated contact point who then arranges for the query to be directed to the most suitable government or industry body for reply. This system appears to be working well. Internationally, in addition to EHCD involvement in the work of the OECD, the department is also the focal point for the activities of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO). Both organisations have substantial programs relating to the control of hazardous chemicals. On an individual country basis, EHCD monitors the activities in the US through direct contact with the US EPA, through the work of the CSIRO Science Counsellor in Washington and by monitoring the US Federal Register, and Toxic Material News and other related journals. Similar contacts are also maintained with the United Kingdom.
The Australian Environment Council (AEC), a consultative body of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with responsibilities for environmental matters, has recently established a National Advisory Committee on Chemicals (NACC) consisting of representatives from the Commonwealth, State, Territories, National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Australian Agricultural Council.
This Committee has met several times and has established a work program for the identification, assessment and control of environmentally hazardous chemicals. The Commonwealth Government agreed to fund a secretariat to support the Committee’s activities. This secretariat is located in EHCD. As an aid to the identification of environmentally hazardous chemicals the Committee recommended the establishment of a national register of chemicals. Part of the work of the National Advisory Committee on Chemicals will be the establishment of a notification and assessment scheme for all new chemicals entering the Australian Market. In this way the environmental properties of new chemicals will be assessed from information provided by the manufacturer or importer. It is hoped that this procedure will control the sale and use of chemicals found to be environmentally deleterious.
To aid its work the NACC has established an Industry Liaison Sub-Committee with representatives from the major chemical industry bodies. In addition, NACC has maintained contacts with the Standards Association of Australia (SAA) and the Australian Transport Advisory Committee (ATAC) on topics relating to the transport, labelling and storage of dangerous goods.
Department of Transport
Question 1- The Department of Transport does not administer any legislation for controlling or monitoring the importation of material or equipment of the type mentioned. However, the Department does specify conditions for carriage by sea and air of certain types of hazardous cargo, including materials imported to Australia. The Navigation (Cargo-Hazards Prevention) Regulations relate to safety of operations rather than monitoring the importation of materials. Regulation S requires ship-owners or agents associated with the carriage of such materials to notify details prior to the ships arrival in Australian ports. Air Navigation Order Part 33 regulates and controls the carriage of dangerous goods by air. Its provisions apply to carriage both within Australia and to or from Australia by aircraft registered here or overseas. Blanket approval is given in the order for the carriage of certain specific types of hazardous cargo provided all conditions are met. For carriage of hazardous materials not specified in the order, the operator of the aircraft is required to seek a concession from the Department. Under the provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations the Minister for Transport must give his permission for the importation of any ships or aircraft
Question 2- The Department of Transport has permanent representations at three overseas locations; London, Washington and Montreal. Duties of officers at these posts include maintaining close liaison with our counterpart authorities in North America, the United Kingdom and Europe and regular transmittal of information of particular interest to the Department. In addition the officers in London and Montreal are the representatives of Australia on the Councils of the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Both organisations are concerned among other things with safety in sea and air transport including matters associated with carriage of hazardous cargoes and formulation of international standards and recommended practices. Australian based officers regularly attend meetings of specialised committees and panels established by IMCO and ICAO to consider such matters.
Question 3- Specialist officers in the Department have built up over the years fruitful contacts with colleagues in similar positions in overseas government transport administrations which permits regular, but less formal, avenues of exchanges of information.
The Australian Transport Advisory Council and the Marine and Ports Council of Australia provide the appropriate machinery at ministerial level for consultation between Commonwealth and State Governments on these matters. Both bodies also have official’s committees to provide advice as necessary.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
This Department does not differentiate between Australian manufactured supplies and those of overseas origin in ensuring that items purchased are not hazardous from the point of view of safety, health and environmental impact. Control over supplies purchased is achieved by the setting of form standards in tender specifications. These are based on standards of recognised authorities and on information provided by the Department’s medical consultants and technical experts. In the case of chemical or pharmaceutical preparations or formulations control over importation is vested with the Commonwealth Department of Health through regulations to various Acts.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Processing of salary and wage returns is mainly confined to the period from July to November. Lower grade assessing staff are primarily concerned with this work. As the workload begins to wind down these assessors are progressively transferred to other activities such as processing returns of other classes of taxpayer e.g. investors and business people. Data entry staff are fully occupied processing other (often more complex) transactions during the balance of the year. The extra assistance required to handle the influx of mail during the peak lodgement period is provided by seasonal staff.
On completion of preliminary checks in the mail room, returns which do not reveal any irregularities (for example a missing group certificate) are referred to clerks who identify those that do not require reference to assessing staff and can be sent directly to the data preparation area. During computer processing returns are subjected to various tests, tax is calculated and notices of assessment and, where necessary, refund cheques are produced. These documents are referred to another section to be posted to taxpayers.
Mail opening- Clerical Assistant, Grade 1.
Sorting, bundling, transport of returns- Clerical Assistant, Grade 1.
Initial scrutiny- Clerk, Class 1.
Assessing- Assessor, Class 2/3.
Data Entry- Data Processing Operator, Grade 2.
Clearance for despatch- Clerical Assistant, Grade 3.
Group certificate and tax stamps irregularities- Clerks, Class land 2/3.
Identification of taxpayers where file number is not quoted- Clerical Assistant, Grade 2.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 27 February, 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed by my Department that:
1 ) Information relating to the voyage has been traced in the records of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Defence, Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian War Memorial. A substantial proportion of this material is available for public inspection in the Australian Archives. Restrictions are chiefly directed towards the names of individuals in order to ensure an adequate protection of privacy.
Advice has been received from the appropriate British authorities that in the United Kingdom the list of passengers is to remain closed for fifty years.
This matter was raised some years ago. As the information exists in both British and Australian records, agreement on policy was desirable and after consultation with the British authorities it was agreed that the names of individuals should be withheld. This was done out of regard for the privacy of those who hitherto had not made public their association with this episode. It seems appropriate that the
Australian Government should continue to respect the privacy of these persons, the majority of whom are presumably still living in this country.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Note: Reference in the Gazette to Fitzroy Street is an error; the service is provided to Fitzroy Island lighthouse.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Foreign Vessels Intruding in Australian Waters (Question No. 3331)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The honourable member will appreciate that his question requires considerable research involving input from several departments and authorities apart from the Department of Primary Industry. I will reply further when the relevant information has been received and compiled.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790321_reps_31_hor113/>.