31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that the Hon. Daryatmo, Speaker of the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat of the Republic of Indonesia, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honourable members, I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
The Honourable Daryatmo thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
– 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 Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu, Mr Cadman, Mr Dobie, Mr Falconer, Mr Graham, Mr Hunt, Dr Klugman, Mr Ruddock and Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable 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 Birney, Mr Bryant, Mr Dobie, Mr Ellicott, Mr Gillard, Mr Hunt, Mr Hurford and Mr Charles Jones.
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 provision of payments for abortion 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 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 Kevin Cairns, Mr Calder, Dr Everingham, Mr Hodges, Mr Jull, Mr Millar and Mr Thomson.
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 restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978/79 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 Lionel Bowen, Mr Jull, Mr Millar, Mr Morris and Mr Scholes.
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 honored 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 honor any undertakings they gave.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe, Dr Jenkins, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Barry Jones and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Lewin, Nutton & 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 28 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.
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. by Mr Dobie.
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 and films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That access to medical abortion services needs to be available to all women regardless of their economic means, as despite contraceptive services, unwanted pregnancies still occur. To ensure that access to legal medical abortion is not denied to poor and underprivileged women.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that parliament should:
Maintain item 6469 on the medical benefits schedule.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
Broadcasting: Radio Station 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That radio 3CR Melbourne be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community radio 3CR; call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move, and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) will second:
That this House expresses its profound regret at the recent public persecution by the New South Wales Government, the authorities, and rival sections of the electronic and print media of national radio commentator Mr John Laws over what has become known as the ‘St George Building Society incident’, and further expresses its opinion that there is an urgent need for the establishment of a code of procedure to apply uniformly throughout all sections of the media and to prevent the unjustified denigration of particular individuals.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. Does the Government adhere to the procedure outlined by the Minister in his Press statements of 4 July and 29 December 1978 for the calculation of the import parity price for indigenous crude oil? If so, will the 1 April and 1 July 1979 Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increases announced last December at the Abu Dhabi meeting be established by the Government as the official import parity price on 1 July for the purposes of fixing the price of indigenous crude? Will any other pre- 1 July OPEC increases- I emphasise this- also be included in the official Australian price such as any official price increase which may be announced following the OPEC meeting next Monday, 26 March?
– I answer the question in two ways. First of all, the official OPEC price as declared in December will be the basis of the calculation which will be made in July to determine the official selling price of crude oil produced in Australia. The second part of my answer- and I have made this clear on other occasions- is that the Government will not take into account calculations of any spot prices for crude oil or any surcharges which have been imposed by individual OPEC countries. If on 26 March OPEC makes a determination to increase the price over and above that which it made in December, before the calculation is made I will take that to the Government for consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is it a fact that illegal immigrants entering Australia now represent 10 per cent of the total planned annual net immigration rate? Does this not represent a substantial interference with the proper planning and administration of this country’s immigration policies? What action is the Government taking to overcome this problem? In particular, has the Minister considered the recommendations of the joint management review team on temporary entry and control functions? If so, when can action be expected?
– First it is not correct to say that there has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of illegal immigrants entering Australia. I make the point that most illegal migrants in Australia have entered the country perfectly legally.
– Or jumped offa ship.
– Some have deserted ships, for sure, but most of the people who are prohibited migrants entered the country perfectly legally and have broken the conditions of their entry to Australia by overstaying their visas, by taking employment or by attending educational institutions. I point out also that the problem of illegal migrants and of prohibited migrants is not confined solely to Australia and that every country has within its borders at any one time a significant number of people who are there illegally. I would point out also that as visitor entry to Australia increases- and we all hope to see a rise in the tourist inflow to Australiainevitably a proportion of those people who come as visitors will break the conditions of their entry to Australia. This is something to which the Department is obviously paying very close attention. The current impetus towards greater tourism has real ramifications in terms of the potential for building up the number of overstayed visitors and the number of illegal migrants in Australia.
In relation to the joint management review, that report came to me in July of last year. It contained some 96 recommendations. Already,5 1 of those recommendations have been implemented. The remainder are under consideration at present. They involve wide-ranging changes to the structure of the Department and, of course, some implications for the Migration Act are included also. Overall, the problem of illegal migrants in Australia is one which has been with us and will remain with us. The Government has to adopt a policy which is fair to all those seeking to enter Australia. I am pleased to say that there is evidence that many illegal migrants, having seen the Government’s treatment of people coming under this category, are now accepting the opportunity to depart voluntarily. I hope that all the people who are in Australia illegally take the opportunity to depart voluntarily; if they do not then the law must be, and will be, applied.
-I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he is aware of the statement by his colleague the honourable member for Murray that he, the Deputy Prime Minister, had pushed for a resource tax to apply to excessive levels of profit from uranium or Bass Strait oil but that the Minister’s efforts were- I quote the honourable member for Murray:
Thwarted in the joint party room by the overwhelming majority of Liberal Party Opposition.
Will the Minister persist with his efforts, for which we of the Opposition warmly applaud him, as a matter of the highest national interest, to help prevent the further rise of personal taxes in the next Budget?
– I am very happy to reply to the Leader of the Opposition when he raises this sort of question because it gives me a chance to express the Government’s attitude and my own beliefs regarding the need to give incentive and encouragement to private enterprise to develop in this country. One of the matters on which I was very outspoken during the period in which the Leader of the Opposition was in Government was the export levy applied to coal. The export levy was a disincentive to the development of one of the greatest potentials in this country. We made an election pledge that when we came into office that export levy would be removed. The Government has progressively reduced that levy, and will be reducing it this year. That has resulted in the restimulation of the development of the coal industry which had virtually come to a standstill during the period in which the Labor Party was in office. Not one major coal mining project took place during the period it was in office. One would think that a party which is supposed to espouse the interests of the working people, particularly the coal mining unions, would have been acting in a way which would have developed that industry. Of course, we remember only too well the reaction from the coal mining unions to this export levy. I have been strongly opposed to a resource tax, as has the Government. We know the disincentive it is to foreign and Australian investors to risk enormous amounts of capital in developing resources if they believe that there is going to be a heavy resource tax. We know from the statements of the Leader of the Opposition that if the Labor Party comes into office it will impose this resource tax. I only hope that the various unions involved with mining in this country take note of that fact and that when they go to the ballot box in 1980 they will thoroughly reject the Labor Party.
– I wish to raise a point of order. Does all this mean that the honourable member for Murray has been lying, as reported in the Shepparton News?
-There is no point of order.
– I also wish to raise a point of order. There is no basis for the claim that the honourable member for Murray was lying. I think that this is a despicable attitude to take when the honourable member is away, representing the National Country Party in Perth.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The implication is that the Shepparton News was lying because it said -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable member for Prospect used the word ‘lying’ but he did not use it as a direct accusation against the honourable member for Murray. Had he done so I would have required him to withdraw. He did not do so and he used the word in a different fashion. I did not require it to be withdrawn and I do not now wish to have a debate about a matter that was not alleged.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Australian Rugby Union players are participating in a national team playing a series of matches in the Transvaal? In view of the Government’s previous statements on sporting contacts with South Africa, what is its attitude to Australian players participating in that tour?
– I am aware that six Australian international Rugby players were invited by the Northern Transvaal Rugby Union to join an international team to play a series of matches in South Africa in March and April of this year. I understand that three of the players declined the invitation and three accepted. The Australian Rugby Union issued a statement on 22 January stating that the three players concerned had accepted the invitation as private individuals and that the Australian Rugby Union disapproved of their participation in the matches. The Australian Rugby Union further indicated that the players would be advised that they could not represent the Australian Rugby Union and that they may jeopardise their chances of selection to represent Australia in a tour of New Zealand later this year.
The Australian Government welcomes the attitude taken by the Australian Rugby Union. That attitude is consistent with the Government ‘s policy, which was made clear to all major sporting organisations in Australia following the Gleneagles agreement at the 1977 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I add only that apartheid is a policy that the Government has condemned, and that is not a new approach. It was condemned first by an Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in 1960 or 1961. If other countries are to introduce apartheid into sport it is they who do so, not the Australian Government.
-I address a question to the Treasurer and remind him of his Budget prediction last year that inflation would fall to 6 per cent this financial year. I also remind him of the Prime Minister’s prediction that inflation would fall to 5 per cent for the June quarter this year. Is it a fact, as reported, that the Government’s economic advisers are forecasting a rise of over 2 per cent in the consumer price index for the March quarter this year, to follow the December rise of 2.3 per cent? Has the Treasurer seen reports that leading businessmen are predicting a 10 per cent inflation rate by the end of this calendar year? Can the Treasurer assure the House that Australia is not going to suffer a resurgence of inflation?
-The House will be aware of what was said in the Budget Speech. As best I can recall it, the Speech stated that, based on official advice available to the Government at the time, we expected that inflation would be down around an annual rate of 5 per cent by the middle of 1979. I and other Ministers have already indicated that, due to things that have happened since the Budget-
Opposition members interjecting-
– Honourable gentlemen may well interject on that point, but the fact of the matter is that there have been developments which render that target, on the advice available to me at the present time, something that may not be achieved. The House will be aware of the adverse national wage case decision, an adverse result that was aided greatly by the attitude taken by Labor governments before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The target also has been affected by adverse developments so far as food prices are concerned. I do not intend to maintain before this House or before the Australian community anything other than an objective assessment of the state of the Australian economy at the present time. There is abundant evidence of strong and sustained economic recovery in the Australian community. Many of the economic indicators that are available now disprove so much of what was said by the Opposition at the time of the Budget. I can assure the honourable member for Burke and this House that the Government will continue to follow policies designed to exert the maximum downward pressure on inflation. I do not propose to give this House, the honourable member for Burke, or anybody else, quantitative guarantees to the last decimal point on what an inflation rate will be. I have no intention of doing that. I can assure the honourable gentleman that unlike our political opponents this government will follow policies that exert the maximum downward pressure on inflation. If members of the Opposition really want to unleash inflationary forces in this country, they ought to adopt the alternative strategy urged by the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. It is reported that agreement has been reached to establish the Common Fund at recent negotiations in Geneva. Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the latest development and indicate Australia’s attitude to these developments?
-Agreement has been reached in broad principle, and that agreement is very much to be welcomed. A common fund is to be established with substantial resources of between $700m arid $800m designed to stabilise prices and trade in commodities. This agreement, I think, is of particular importance for developing countries. Many of them are very much dependent upon trade in commodities. Some of them are dependent upon trade in virtually one commodity and one alone. Australia knows from her experience of earlier times how the dramatic price changes in commodities can alter the developmental plans not only of producers but also of a whole nation. If, in earlier times, we were very much dependent on wool, wheat, sugar and beef, then the dependence of some developing countries on one commodity is much greater than ours was on those three or four products. Therefore, measures designed to achieve a greater element of stability in commodity trade is something that Australia has argued for and is something that Australia welcomes very greatly.
It might be well worth noting that I believe this agreement would not have occurred if it were not for initiatives that Australia has taken over the last two and a half to three years. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London a technical working group was established as a result of an Australian initiative. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney more recently, Australia announced attitudes that were markedly different from those of other developed countries, in a very real effort to break the deadlock that had at that time occurred between the developed and developing nations. We believed that it was important to break out of fixed positions to make sure that a constructive dialogue took place. Since that time, Australian Ministers and officials have had intensive discussions with many countries in both the developed world, the United States, and countries of Europe in an effort to promote agreement and to see that people were prepared to accept necessary compromises which would enable that to take place. I am very glad to indicate that that has now occurred.
The Common Fund will be established with substantial and significant resources. I believe that this is a victory for commonsense and for reason. It is obviously hoped that the fund will support not only more stable commodity trade, but also will be able to finance some other measures related to trade in commodities, research, and promotion relating to commodities in a way that again will help. I add that Australia’s own experience of commodity agreements in relation to sugar, and more recently in relation to wool, leads us to believe in the strongest possible terms that such commodity arrangements, sensibly and properly established on a viable basis involving both producers and consumers, can work and will work. I think that this is a significant breakthrough in relationships between the developed and the developing world and a significant advance on the northsouth dialogue.
-Has the Treasurer seen the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Press release on the trend in consumer prices? Do these figures indicate that the inflation rate in Australia for the six months to January 1979 was 8.7 per cent and that the OECD average was 7.3 per cent? Does this mean that Australia’s international competitiveness is being further eroded and that the Government is now failing in its claim to have lowered inflation in Australia?
– I have seen the reports of that release from the OECD. I think the figures quoted by the honourable member for Lalor are substantially correct.
– Substantially !
– I always have to have some reservation when figures are quoted to me from the other side. But I will concede that they are substantially correct. I have not seen the actual document. In large measure that less favourable comparison with the average rate than was the case earlier results from the larger than anticipated December quarter figure for the consumer price index in Australia. The honourable member asked whether that means that there has been a decline in international competitiveness. It depends very much on what is the starting point. If the starting point of Australia ‘s international competitiveness is December 1975, any measure at all, even a measure produced by the honourable member for Lalor, would demonstrate that our international competitiveness has massively increased. The best evidence of the increase in our international competitiveness over the last three years is not only the extent to which a number of our significant import competing industries have been able to hold and improve their position but also the growing evidence, even insofar as manufacturing exports are concerned, of the capacity of Australian industry to win and to develop export markets. International competitiveness is crucial to this country’s future. I am glad the honourable member is concerned about it. That is why it is essential that the government of this country continues to follow policies that exert the maximum downward pressure on inflation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the enormous importance of the Uluru National Park, which is in the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga area, to the Australian community at large. Will the Government retain that area as a national park? If so, will the Government oppose the land claim over the whole of the park which was lodged by the Central Land Council on 22 January of this year? What action will the Government take to clarify the status of the Uluru National Park?
-I am aware of the fact that a claim has been made by the Central Land Council to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. Obviously it is a matter of considerable interest and importance to the people of the Northern Territory as well as to the rest of Australia. I can inform the honourable gentleman that the Commonwealth will be making a submission to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in relation to the claim. In accordance with past practice, it will present factual information to the Commissioner, including information relating to the legal status of the park. It ought to be observed that there has been a declaration under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act of Uluru as a national park.
-I refer the Deputy Prime Minister to his statement yesterday that he proposed to visit the United States of America next week to finalise certain trade matters. Is he aware that the Prime Minister announced in January that he had reached finality with the United States on a number of matters including the securing of United States agreement to a minimum level of access for Australian beef to the United States market, although the level was not indicated; the securing of a significant new cheese quota, although he did not state the quid pro quo situation; and, thirdly, the securing of a reduction in the United States wool tariff, although he did not state whether he had conceded access for any United States products, including tobacco? If the claims of the Prime Minister were accurate, what is the need for the Deputy Prime Minister again to discuss these matters?
-When the Prime Minister was in the United States negotiations had been proceeding. As I mentioned yesterday, negotiations have been proceeding for a considerable period. These negotiations involve offers and bids being made by the respective countries. The Prime Minister said in his statement that Australia had every reason to expect a reduction in the duties in the case of wool and that he hoped for access in relation to dairy products and that there would be minimum requirements concerning access for beef to the United States market. Negotiations have been proceeding. As I said, it is only this week that the negotiations have been positioned to enable Ministers to enter and to try to finalise-
– He told us that they were complete and secure.
– It would be quite wrong to interpret anything that the Prime Minister said as meaning that the negotiations were concluded. They were in the process of being concluded. A great deal of progress had been made. The Prime Minister’s involvement and contacts with senior personnel of the American Administration helped enormously in getting Australia ‘s point of view registered.
– My question, which is directed to you, Mr Speaker, concerns the indicative list of speakers for Order of the Day No. 1 - Termination of pregnancy- Medical benefits. It seems that the list of speakers for and against the motion is so extensive that many members will not have an opportunity to speak in the debate. It is on behalf of those members and on my own behalf that I ask whether you, Mr Speaker, will negotiate or use your good offices with the acting Leader of the House and the Acting Manager of Opposition Business to see whether something can be worked out whereby some of us can express our opinion.
-It seems apparent from the program which has been laid down that the debate on the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume is unlikely to resume until, I would estimate, between 3.30 and 4 o’clock this afternoon. That does not leave a great deal of time for debate. I am aware that there is scarcely any member of the House who does not want to speak in the debate. I will therefore take the matter up with the acting Leader of the House, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and the Acting Manager of Opposition Business, the honourable member for Corio, to see whether arrangements can be made in the conduct of the business of the House to allow more speakers to participate. There are two possibilities. One is a rearrangement of the program and the other is that honourable members voluntarily restrict their speaking time. Under the Standing Orders honourable members have 15 minutes to speak. All speakers up to this point have had 15 minutes. It may be possible, by general consensus, to reduce that time. I will take the matter up with the two gentlemen.
– I refer the Treasurer to his answer on 14 March 1978 in which he explained that a major reason for the anticipated blow-out of the 1977-78 deficit was that the Government’s achievement in reducing inflation had run ahead of its expectations at the time it introduced the 1977 Budget. As exactly the opposite has occurred in this financial year, that is, the Government’s achievement with respect to inflation is running well behind its expectations which were outlined when the Budget was introduced, can the Treasurer assure the House, on the basis of his reasoning of last March, that the deficit this financial year will not blow out beyond the Budget estimate?
-I think that the honourable member for Bonython is really asking a bit much to expect any honourable member on this side of the House to draw that sort of conclusion. To start with, the difference between the anticipated inflation rate at the time of the 1977 Budget and the actual inflation rate being experienced in the early part of 1978 was much greater than the difference between the anticipated inflation rate for the year at the time of the 1978 Budget and the current inflation rate. In my statement in 1978 one of the reasons I gave- I cannot recall whether I referred to it as one of the principal reasons, one of the major reasons or one of the most important reasons- was that lower price increases had had an impact on certain tax collections. I do not retreat in any way from that statement. I put it to the honourable gentleman that given the impossibility of comparing those two situations, and given the fact that the differential in inflation rates was quite different- they were of different magnitudes at the time- I do not think that the conclusion he invites me to draw is one that can be drawn. I am not prepared to give the sort of guarantee that the honourable gentleman seeks.
– Will the Minister for Post and Telecommunications assure the House that the manner in which a communications satellite is applied in this country will give protection to existing local services provided by regional television stations against the predatory actions of the large network television operators? Will the Minister also assure the House that the current Broadcasting and Television Act will not be amended to allow monopolistic characteristics?
– I informed the House a couple of weeks ago that it was the Liberal-National Country Party Governments which had developed the system of regional television throughout Australia. I said that the Government regarded local and regional identity in television and, indeed, radio broadcasting, as important- as vital- and that those considerations are uppermost in our minds. I said that those factors would be quite significant and quite crucial when we consider the recommendations made by the Satellite Task Force Report Group. I re-emphasise those remarks. Having said that, I do not think I need to add anything.
-Have representations been made to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs asserting that section 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 has been contravened by certain companies in relation to misleading advertisements by those companies regarding the sale of land at Russell Island in Moreton Bay near Brisbane? In the event that any misleading advertising or deceptive conduct over the sale of land at Russell Island has taken place, will the Minister give an assurance that the terms of the Act will be enforced? Does the Act not apply to those advertisements because of the one year statute of limitations? Will he consider retrospective legislation to amend the statute of limitations in respect of the Trade Practices Act? Will the Minister also consider inquiring into an advertisement placed in the Sunday Telegraph on 5 March this year which suggested that land on Russell Island will be bought back by the Redlands Shire Council, which has in turn denied such a suggestion?
– The matters raised by the honourable member for Griffith are matters for inquiry, firstly by the Trade Practices Commission. I have taken note of the detail of the honourable member’s question. I will seek the advice of the Trade Practices Commission and, as soon as possible, I will let him and the House know the position. I make one substantive comment at this stage: I would be reluctant to give serious consideration to the honourable member’s request for retrospective legislation in relation to the Trade Practices Commission.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The Minister is aware of representations and proposals designed to achieve satisfactory protection for the Australian citrus industry against low cost imports of citrus concentrates. As present assistance will cease at the end of this month, when will the Government be in a position to announce new measures?
– It is a fact that the present temporary assistance of 65 per cent duty will expire on 31 March this year. The Government is extremely concerned about this industry and, in particular, about the representations that have been made by industry leaders. During the past few months the Minister for Primary Industry and I have had a number of discussions with representatives of that industry and we have given serious thought to the recommendations that have been made by the Industries Assistance Commission. The present position is that the Minister for Primary Industry and I have completed a submission for Cabinet and it is currently being considered. I can give the honourable member and the House an assurance that a decision will be taken by the Government before 31 March 1979.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that law suits against the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, Mr B. Gyngell, were discontinued in the New South Wales Supreme Court because the plaintiffs could not afford to proceed and not for any reason associated with the merits of the case? What action does the Government propose to take to ensure the validity of the Tribunal hearings and that justice is not only done but also is seen to be done?
– I am aware of the fact that proceedings did not continue yesterday in the law courts. I have to say that matters relating to legal challenges should not be directed to me but, I would imagine, should properly be directed to the Attorney-General.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House of the outcome of talks which have taken place in Jakarta regarding air fares?
– I spoke with both the Minister for Transport and the Minister for
Foreign Affairs yesterday evening at the conclusion of those discussions with their counterparts in the Association of South East Asian Nations. As they described the meeting to me, it was held in a very cordial atmosphere. The meeting was a useful one. Some matters that had not been understood have now been clearly explained. Whilst all outstanding matters were not resolved at that meeting of Ministers, that could hardly be expected because many of the matters involved are of a technical nature. Working parties will need to report back urgently to Ministers in relation to that. The areas on which reports are to be made have been determined. A joint communique was issued at the end of the meeting yesterday. I would like to read part of it to the House because I think it is very important. It states:
Ministers agreed in principle on ranges of cheap fares proposed by the ASEAN Ministers for travel between Australia and ASEAN countries. They further agreed that these could form the basis for bilateral negotiations between Australia and each of the ASEAN countries. Ministers confirmed that such bilateral discussions would take place without in any way affecting the ASEAN collective approach to this subject.
In other words, discussions will take place- this is what Australia has wanted- between Australia and the ASEAN countries to determine the nature and the extent of a cheap air fare between Australia and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Those discussions will take place on a bilateral basis in accordance with principles agreed upon at the meeting which concluded yesterday. In addition, it has been agreed that the ASEAN countries will develop proposals that they will put to Australia on intra-ASEAN stop-over fares which will be used in conjunction with low cost fares between Australia and the ASEAN region. We look forward to receiving those proposals from ASEAN Ministers. The communique concludes:
The meeting was held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, . . .
That was certainly the very strong view put to me yesterday by both Ministers. Bearing in mind the publicity that preceded the meeting, the result was certainly a good one and a constructive one and indicates very firmly that both the members of ASEAN and Australia recognise the importance of their relationship, one with the other. All Ministers were determined that that relationship should be enhanced.
On another matter, I would like to read a statement made by the Prime Minister of Malaysia because it is very much related to the matter with which I have just dealt and to the relationship between the two countries. In a brief statement in relation to air matters and the matter of the Malaysian aircraft that was, in a sense, hijacked by an Australian union, the Prime Minister said in the Malaysian Parliament a day or two ago:
By the will of God and due to the intervention of the Australian Government, the DC10 aircraft was released and it safely arrived at Subang in the early hours of Sunday. I would like to take this opportunity to put on record in this August House, the sincerest appreciation and gratitude of the Government of Malaysia to the Government of Australia on its assistance in this matter. The effort of the Australian Government to extend the services of its airforces is indeed a courageous act which the Government and people of Malaysia will hold in high esteem.
In spite of what happened, the Australian Government had successfully discharged its responsibility. On the other hand, the ITF, in its arrogance, has failed to influence its affiliate. The role of the Australian Government will further enhance the already existing good relations between our two governments. This will also further strengthen the bonds of friendship between the peoples of Malaysia and Australia.
From every communication which I have had with Malaysia, whether it be with the Prime Minister or other Ministers, I believe that that brief statement by Prime Minister Hussein Onn reflects the nature of the relationship between Australia and Malaysia.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister, under Standing Orders, whether he will table the documents from which he has been quoting in (he interests of providing full information to the Parliament and of preserving the godly record.
-Under the Standing Orders I inquire of the Prime Minister whether he was reading from a document. If so, was it a confidential document?
- Mr Speaker, I am not prepared to table the documents but I am prepared to have them incorporated in Hansard. I would be delighted if they were incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to do so.
The documents read as follows-
Following is text of statement released at joint ASEANAustralia Ministerial Conference 1600 hours Jakarta time 2 1 March 1979:
The ASEAN-Australia Ministerial Meeting on the Australian International Civil Aviation Policy (ICAP) was held on 20-21 March 1 979 in Jakarta.
The meeting was officially opened by H.E. Prob. Dr Mochtar Kusumaatmadja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and Chairman of the ASEAN Standing Committee.
The meeting was attended by the ASEAN ministers, namely: H.E. Mr Roesmin Nurjadin, Minister of Communications of Indonesia, H.E. Dato Sen Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister/Minister for Trade and Industry of Malaysia, H.E. Gerardo P. Sicat, Minister of Economic Planning of the Philippines, H.E. Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Minister for Communications of Singapore, H.E. Goh Chok Tong, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore and H.E. General Surakit Mayalarp, Minister of Communications of Thailand, and on the Australian side, by H.E. Mr P. J. Nixon, Minister of Transport of Australia and H.E. Mr A. S. Peacock, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, and their respective delegations.
The meeting was chaired by H.E. Dato Sen Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Leader of the ASEAN delegation.
H.E. Datuk Ali Bin Abdullah, Secretary-General of the ASEAN Secretariat was also present.
The ASEAN Ministers reiterated the ASEAN common stand adopted at the Seventh ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting on 12-13 December 1978 and the special ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting on 22 February 1 979.
The Australian ministers outlined the philosophy and objectives of the new Australian International Civil Aviation Policy. They explained particularly its objective of providing the lowest possible fares for international travellers. They emphasised that it was the policy and intention of the Australian Government that the ASEAN countries should share equitably in the benefits of the new scheme.
The Ministers addressed the principles set out in the ASEAN joint statement of 22 February and agreed courses of action that would be taken on these.
With regard to participation by ASEAN carriers in the Australia-UK/Europe low fare scheme, Ministers agreed that further studies were needed on this subject.
Concerning the level of a stopover fare on the AustraliaUK/Europe route, Ministers agreed that further work was also required on this matter with a view to proposals being developed on an appropriate fare level.
Ministers directed officials to proceed quickly with further work on these two matters and to report back to their respective Ministers within a month.
Ministers agreed in principle on ranges of cheap fares proposed by the ASEAN Ministers for travel between Australia and ASEAN countries. They further agreed that these could form the basis for bilateral negotiations between Australia and each of the ASEAN countries. Ministers confirmed that such bilateral discussions would take place without any way affecting the ASEAN collective approach to this subject.
Ministers agreed that the ASEAN countries would develop proposals which they would put to Australia in intraASEAN stopover fares to be used in conjunction with the low cost fares between Australia and the ASEAN region.
The meeting was held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, in keeping with the long established tradition of close and co-operative links between the ASEAN countries and Australia.
Department of Foreign Affairs
O.KL27807 JJMC TOR 2005 20.3.79
O.KL27807 173020.3.79 UNC TO II CANBERRA/3 1 26 JAKARTA/ 1 473 FM. KUALA LUMPUR/ UNCLASSIFIED MAS SERVICES
The following is an extract from a speech by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Hussein Onn on moving the motion on the MAS-AEU industrial dispute in Parliament on 20 March.
By the will of God and due to the intervention of the Australian Government, the DC 10 aircraft was released and it safely arrived at Subang in the early hours of Sunday. I would like to take this opportunity to put on record in this August house, the sincerest appreciation and gratitude of the Government of Malaysia to the Government of Australia on its assistance in this matter. The effort of the Australian Government to extend the services of its airforces is indeed a courageous act which the Government and people of Malaysia will hold in high esteem.
In spite of what happened, the Australian Government had successfully discharged its responsibility. On the other hand, the ITF, in its arrogance, has failed to influence its affiliate. The role of the Australian Government will further enhance the already existing good relations between our two governments. This will also further strengthen the bonds of friendship between the peoples of Malaysia and Australia.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development who will recall yesterday at Question Time justifying his inflationary method of accelerating the introduction of world parity oil pricing in the last Budget on the grounds that it would provide an incentive for an enhanced level of domestic oil exploration. I ask: Is it a fact that the import parity oil pricing system will mean that $450m of government revenue will be directed to domestic oil producers next year? What requirements does the Minister impose on domestic oil producers to ensure that this generous diversion of government revenue, conscripted from Australian motorists, is used on oil exploration in Australia where it is used for exploration purposes? Further, is the Minister aware that one multinational corporation involved in domestic oil production spent $26m of its Australian-derived revenue on oil exploration in a foreign country in the last year or two? Is the Minister aware that that represents two-thirds of that corporation’s expenditure in this area in the relevant period? Was this the sort of incentive that the Minister had in mind when he made the decision to make
Australian motorists pay a lot more and to accelerate inflationary problems with this import parity oil pricing system, acceleratedly introduced in the last Budget?
– It is true that additional revenues are falling to the producers of oil in this country because of our pricing decision. It is equally true that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, through company tax, through the exercise of a levy and through royalties, take back about 80 per cent of that revenue for the people of Australia and the people of the States. I am also aware that if exploration for oil and the development of oil wells and fields in this country are to go ahead it will be up to governments such as this one to provide the incentives for this to occur. This country has several problems in regard to exploration. We have the problem of low prospectivity. We have the problem that when a well is sunk in the areas that offer the most chance of being a decent field- for example, the Exmouth plateau- it costs an awful amount of money. It costs about $ 10m every time an exploration company takes a shot. In other words, if we are to provide the incentives for people to take the investment risks that are associated with exploration and development, this Government- and I would hope governments such as a Labor government, although I do not give the Opposition much hope of reaching that position- should allow those companies to make a quid to give them the incentive to go ahead and to do the exploration and development that is required.
– My question to the Prime Minister is based on his message to the Confederation of Australian Sport on 22 February last. Is death from ischaemic heart disease in Australia almost the highest in the world and is lack of adequate exercise a vital factor in the cause of this type of heart disease? Is the Prime Minister aware that research undertaken at the University of Melbourne suggests that up to 95 per cent of the population would be benefited more from the introduction of regular aerobic activity into their lives than they would be benefited from attention to other risk factors such as cigarette smoking? Does he agree that the habit of regular physical activity should be introduced early in a child ‘s school life but that many Australian schools lack specialist physical education teachers, while teachers generally and parents underestimate the significance for health and mental alertness of regular physical exercise? Did a 1970 survey show that 75 per cent of post-primary children in government schools are denied a planned continuous program of physical education because their schools are without a gymnasium? Does he agree that it is imperative and urgent that a program be adopted to make physical education a daily requirement at all levels in government schools and to provide gymnasia to all schools and a physical education specialist teacher on the basis of one physical education teacher to every 200 children? Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Prime Minister’s message dated 22 February 1979 to the Confederation of Australian Sport.
The document read as follows-
Prime Minister Canberra 22 February 1979
MESSAGE TO THE CONFEDERATION OF AUSTRALIAN SPORT
I am pleased that the Confederation of Australian Sport has launched a national campaign to ensure that sport and planned physical activity programs are included in the core curricula of all schools.
The Confederation is being supported in its campaign by the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
Approaches have been made by the Confederation to Premiers and Ministers responsible for Sport, Health and Education in each State on the proposed campaign. Replies to date have been most encouraging, and the Confederation will be seeking meetings in each State to discuss the proposition further.
In addition, at the Commonwealth level the Curriculum Development Centre is presently conducting a program of work on developing core curriculum guidelines in Australian schools. It is likely that, when that program is concluded, a discussion paper will be circulated to all interested bodies, including the Confederation, seeking their views.
With my recent announcement of Commonwealth assistance to the Australian Olympic Federation, the Government is keen to see the performances of our athletes upgraded. To do this, we need to develop a program that will at least give young Australians this opportunity. The obvious place to start such a program is in the schools. Although most schools have some kind of arranged sporting and physical education activities there is a need to stimulate the interest of children in sport and physical education. The Confederation’s program will go a long way towards achieving that goal.
Another aspect of renewed interest in sport and exercise in schools is that it can play an important part in improving the general standards of health and fitness, and, continued into adult life, can make an enjoyable contribution to preventative medicine.
As 1979 is the International Year of the Child, it is a most opportune time to get children interested and involved in sporting and recreational activities. I am sure that all Australian parents realise what the Confederation is trying to achieve, and they will give it their full support.
I commend the Confederation for what it is trying to achieve.
– I have no reason to dispute any of the facts contained in the honourable gentleman’s question. Indeed, the implications of the question are, I think, valid. Physical activity is important. It is important to begin the habit of physical activity at a young age. I also believe that in recent years there have been some disturbing signs that schools and education systems are paying less attention to that requirement than they used to pay on earlier occasions. I have had reports in recent times of school sporting fixtures not being undertaken or being abandoned because of the incapacity or unwillingness of staff to supervise. I think it once used to be regarded as an obligation on teachers not only to look after the mental education of students but also to make time available so that a school could develop the fullest possible range of sporting activities.
I would not look to the solution of the problem that is implied in the honourable gentleman’s question, merely by the provision of gymnasia or physical education teachers, although they can make a contribution. The total sporting activities of a school are obviously important and relevant. I think the obligation is not just on one teacher- a physical education teacher. I believe there is an obligation on school staff as a whole and on school councils to make sure that these matters are properly attended to. I agree with the honourable gentleman that more attention could be paid to these matters. I believe that could be done within the ambit of present funds rather than by providing additional funds as also might have been implicit in the honourable gentleman’s question.
– I ask for the indulgence of the House to provide some information in answer to part of a question asked of me by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on Tuesday, 20 March.
-The honourable gentleman would be better to ask for my indulgence. The House may not give it. I will. The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– As part of a question on Tuesday last the honourable gentleman asked me:
Has the number of unfilled vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service declined by 1 , 100 over the last year?
I understand the question to relate to the actual number of unfilled vacancies at the end of February 1979 compared with those at the end of February 1978. In that event the answer is no. In fact the number of unfilled vacancies at the end of February 1979 was 2,677 or 12 per cent higher than the number at the end of February 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Research Grants Committee for 1978 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) concerning the report.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964 and section 53 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1976, I present the annual reports on the administration and operation of those Acts for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– I wonder whether the Acting Leader of the House would move to take note of the Homes Savings Grant Acts reports?
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
-During Question Time today the National Country Party Whip implied that I was not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth et cetera. I feel that I have been misrepresented.
– I am not willing to give the honourable gentleman indulgence to pursue the matter. I have already ruled that I am not going to permit a debate on an accusation that he did not make.
-The implication was that I was not telling the truth. What I would like to do is read three sentences—
– I am not going to permit the debate to continue.
-It is not a debate. I just wish to make a personal explanation.
– The honourable gentleman is attempting to make a personal explanation out of a matter which he commenced. It was his comment which raised the matter.
– But there were other comments on my comments.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Can I not draw the attention of the House to page 2 of the Shepparton News for 16 March 1979?
– In doing that the honourable gentleman is pursuing a matter which I am not willing to be allowed to be pursued.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– The following nominations of members to the Legislation Committee to consider the Prices Justification Amendment Bill have been received: Government members are Mr Fife, member in charge of the Bill, Mr Kevin Cairns, Dr Edwards, Mr Fisher, Mr Goodluck, Mr Hyde, Mr Lusher, Mr McLean, Sir William McMahon, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Short. Opposition members are Mr Armitage, Mr Hurford, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Kerin and Mr West.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m., or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
Care for the Aged- Victorian Elections: Political Parties- International Civil Aviation Policies -Uganda -Country Telephone Services- Post Offices- Asbestos
That grievances be noted.
-The matters I want to deal with in the Grievance Debate may not be matters of great national policy but I believe that they are matters of national concern and compassion. One of the problems in raising them is that I have to raise them in the qualitative sense because I am not able to raise them in a quantitative sense as there are no figures on them. This Government instituted the Community Youth Support Scheme- CYSS- and in my electorate we set up the Preston employment action group as part of this scheme. It has operated in the way intended by the Government when it was set up. My electorate assistant, Mr Kevin Hardiman, was appointed by me as chairman of that group. One of the matters about which I am concerned is the feedback one gets from these CYSS programs. That group recently expressed concern at the high level of homeless, unemployed youth visiting the centre for assistance in gaining shelter.
I have found not only that that group is expressing concern but also that some local churchmen are having the same experience with homeless, unemployed youth finding themselves looking for refuge at night because they have been rejected by their families as a result of their unemployed state and so on. This view was reinforced by a recent radio program on a Sunday morning on 3UZ in Melbourne. One of the announcers who reports on the events of the night came across in his rounds a number of these unemployed, homeless youth in a variety of situations, such as shopping centre car parks, where they were endeavouring to find some shelter and rest. One of the things that concern me is that most of our efforts are directed towards providing emergency housing for underprivileged groups, but here we have more of a refuge situation. As I have said, it is qualitative matter; I cannot put a quantitative figure on it.
Having raised that matter, I want to raise an associated matter I could mention and then to suggest some action that perhaps should be taken. I have been concerned with another organisation that is conducting a fairly low-key drug awareness program with community groups. I have also recently been concerned with the setting up of Odyssey House-type community therapy treatment for people on drugs in Melbourne. So I am reasonably sensitive to this sort of issue. It would appear that there has been a marked increase in dabbling in abusive drugs amongst this group in the community. This is not surprising because there is a profile for drug abusers and amongst the factors that lead to that profile are economic and social disadvantage. Because of that disadvantage there is a failure to be able to accept and respect the standards and views of parental and associated groups. Conversely, one of the problems is parental failure to accept the variation in standards of young people. Of course, this often leads to the eviction of the young people from their homes and accentuates the problem of refuge about which I talked earlier. In poverty there is also the tendency to experiment with drugs for some relief from that problem.
In the suburban, high youth unemployment, areas of Melbourne, at any rate, there appears to have been a marked increase in drug abuse. I was speaking to my colleague, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), about the matter this morning. He reported to me that he is getting the same sort of feedback on the drug problem in his area, which has a similar residential set-up to that in my own electorate. Obviously the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has some points for reference on this matter in the CYSS scheme and other organisations which deal with these matters. Two of them have been highlighted. The homeless, unemployed youths are looking for shelter for a night and somewhere to rest. I suppose one could say if they are not able to get refuge of this nature it is no wonder that when they go for jobs the employers comment on their untidy appearance. These young people just do not have a hope of preparing themselves properly when they have no appropriate refuge.
I suggest that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs should consider the points of reference he already has. He should consider appointing a small mobile task force to look into these types of problems, to find the extent of the problems in different areas and to suggest solutions. Those solutions may reside at both the State and federal levels. It is a matter for urgent action. It is not a matter where great expenditure is involved but it is a matter where, with the policies of the Government leading to an increase in the number of unemployed youth, there is a responsibility to try to assay it in a quantitative manner.
Having mentioned the unemployed youth, I now want to go to the other end of the time scale and deal with some of the problems of the aged in geriatric institutions. We have had a number of reports on what should be done about the aged. We had the Social Welfare Commission’s report of about 1975 and a year or so later this Government appointed a task force to comment on that. But there are many areas that are not being dealt with. One of these areas is that of chair-fast geriatric patients. There are patients who have some degree of mobility and who are in a geriatric institution and have the facilities to get outside that institution to visit families and their old homes and have some experience of what life is like outside. However, in the geriatric institutions, there is a larger percentage of old people who are chair-fast, who either have to remain in bed or in a wheelchair because they cannot be transferred to normal vehicles. I have found that there is little provision of a special type of ambulance- the chair-fast ambulancewhich has a hydraulic lift that can lift wheelchairs into the ambulance and allows these people to go outside the institutional walls and have some contact with the outside world. Although under the new federalism policy we seem to be saying all the time in this Parliament that this is a job for States, the fact of the matter is that the States are not doing it. Through our social security services we should look at this problem and help an underprivileged group of people.
-The people of Victoria are looking forward to Saturday, 5 May. On that day Victorians will be given the opportunity to thwart the Australian Labor Party’s attempt to grab power. It will be the chance to end the Labor Party’s ambition of subjecting the garden State to its special brand of radical communist-inspired left wing socialism. The Victorian election provides voters with the clearest choice for many years: Forward to a prosperous and stable future under the Hamer Government or backwards to a negative, socialist jungle. Victorians will obviously reject the socialist party. We have seen how the less militant British Labour Party has wrecked Britain’s economy and has failed to moderate the irresponsible extremes of trade union responsibility. Such a record of failure is nothing to the havoc the Victorian Labor Party would cause if given the chance. The Victorian Australian Labor Party is leaderless and confused.
– Who is their leader?
– Frank What’s-his-name. In a last desperate bid for respectability it first changed its leadership. This was achieved by offering its former leader, Mr Clyde Holding, a safe seat in Canberra and a golden parliamentary hand shake of several hundred thousand dollars. The Victorian ALP is now leaderless and confused, with spokesmen running everywhere, making contradictory policy statements at every turn. Why is the Victorian ALP unfit to govern? Firstly, it has turned the clock back to 1921. Under its former leader, Mr Clyde Holding, now the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, the Victorian ALP watered down its socialist policies. Since Mr Holding’s departure from the Victorian scene the socialist Left has again dominated ALP politics. It is now perfectly clear that Mr Holding was removed by the militant Left because his moderation was a hurdle the Victorian ALP could not overcome. Late last year the Victorian Conference of the ALP adopted this resolution:
The wording of the socialist objective should be the . . . 1 92 1 wording, namely, socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange- and this objective . . . should precede any other contemporary analysis of Labor’s philosophy.
The Conference also carried a separate resolution in these terms:
This Victorian branch of the ALP rejects proposals which in any way delete the socialist objective of the ALP.
So there it is. No ifs, buts or maybes. Flying at the masthead of the Labor Party in Victoria is the unequivocal objective of total socialisation, and that means homes, it means industry, it means factories, it means shops, it means banks, it means farms. The re-stating of that socialist pledge, to which all ALP members of parliament are committed, shows the degree to which the Labor Party of Victoria is dominated by the militant socialist left wing. It has pushed out some of its more moderate members of parliament from safe seats for this election and is putting up some of the most extreme left wingers. Let nobody doubt which faction will be in charge of the ALP in the future or which objectives it will pursue. Under Labor, the State Insurance Office would become the largest in the country, amid the ruins of the free enterprise offices. The same thing would apply with banks. Under Labor, the State Bank would destroy the free enterprise banking system. We should not be surprised. Control of banking and finance is basic for any scheme for nationalisation. Labor tried it in 1947 and the electorate threw it out. Effectively, it tried that again in 1975, but at that time it wanted not only ownership of the banks but also use of people ‘s savings as well.
What would this socialist purge mean for the citizens of Victoria? Competition would disappear. If you do not like the terms of an insurance policy or if the premium is too high you would be stuck with it. There would be no choice- like it or lump it. When the insurance company is stateowned, state-run and state-managed, a person must conform to the program offered by that institution or miss out altogether. The more people employed by government the less choice they have of employer. The more business owned by government the less choice people have of what they buy, the less competitive business becomes and the less it responds to people’s needs. Think of the post office. Think of the railways. One choice is no choice. It completely revokes the Liberal principle of freedom of choice under which this country has prospered. Imagine what would happen under the Victorian ALP’s housing policy. It is not serious about home ownership. The socialist ambition is for everyone to live in state-owned rental housing. As evidence of that, we have to look only at the statements of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), who claimed that Australians were brainwashed into believing that owning one’s own home is the Australian thing to do. What a pretentious statement! How strange it is that socialists are always so eloquent in telling other people how they should live. Their attitude is: Do as I say, not as I do ‘.
This is a vital election for Victoria- backward with Labor or forward with the Hamer Liberal Government. The Hamer Government is set to take Victoria into the 1980s with plans and policies for growth and development. The Australian economy is now beginning to emerge from the stagnation and recession of the past few years. The signs of renewed confidence and activity are breaking out all over in Victoria in record retail turnover, recovery for local business, increased production and better order books throughout the length and breadth of industry. What a contrast to the record inflation and soaring wage costs from 1973 to 1976. High inflation and its evil companion, high interest rates, are the worst enemies of industry and employment alike. It has been the Hamer Government’s first objective to fight inflation with all the means at its disposal, to get it under control and keep it under control. Before Frank What’s-his-name can make decisions on these matters he has to clear it with Gallagher and Halfpenny. Three-quarters of the jobs in Victoria are provided by free enterprise, and the Hamer Government’s aim has been to support and stimulate free enterprise by all possible means.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for La Trobe is telling lies to the Parliament and that should not be tolerated. He ought to be called on to substantiate his statements.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! There is no point of order in the point raised by the honourable member for Melbourne. In the process of putting his point of order he charged the honourable member for La Trobe with telling lies. That is unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw it.
– If honourable members opposite will give me an extension of time I will prove that what I am saying is true. Look at the position of apprentices in Victoria. By June, Victoria will have 38,000 apprentices in training, evidence that the Victorian Government is concerned about employment opportunities. Last year the increase in apprenticeships in Victoria was greater than in all the other States put together. The Victorian Liberal Government is taking up another 2,000 young people into special jobs under the Federal programs offered by the Fraser Government. The Victorian
Government has tackled the road toll. It is educating many handicapped and retarded people who were previously neglected. It has the highest expenditure on education of any State in the Commonwealth. The Hamer Government has set a stable and balanced development plan for the State. It is on the basis of these fine achievements and upon the State platform and policies now being circulated in Victoria that the Hamer Government faces this election. The Liberal Government in Victoria offers the prospect of further prosperous achievement and development. The Labor Opposition portrays itself as a moderate socialist democratic party. In fact it is rife with factions and feuds. So the message for Victoria on 5 May is this: ‘Dick for Vic and Frank for the plank’. The Victorian ALP can look forward to another term in opposition because the electors of Victoria will have none of its socialist nonsense. What better could describe the situation than the following rhyme taken last week from a factory notice board in the La Trobe electorate:
I love the Opposition.
They know how to oppose.
They all oppose each other: so
We know they’re on their toes.
-We need no other indication of the parlous and bankrupt state of the Hamer Government if the only apologist it can find in this place is the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu). It was not so much the inaccuracies of his speech that concerned me but the rank stupidity of most of the assertions he made. However, I am indebted to him for acknowledging a remark I made in this Parliament when I first came here in 1974. One of the more accurate things he said was when he quoted a remark I made about home ownership. How much more true now are those observations in view of the accelerated decline in the proportion of people who are able to own their own homes as a result of the policies of the Fraser Government. However, I do not intend to dwell on that issue.
I want to talk about something that is of concern to Western Australians. The recent statement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on international civil aviation policy was a matter of great disappointment for Western Australians. The statement was very long on claims of success for the new low air fare policy in relation to international travel but very short on the solutions to the continuing problems faced by Western Australians. In the absence of solutions to those serious problems, Western Australians continue to be imprisoned by distance, an imprisonment imposed by the high cost of air travel. This problem has basically three facets. The first facet relates to the anomalies in the new international air fare arrangements. Let me take a couple of examples. If one lives in Sydney and wants to travel to the west coast of the United States of America, one can do so for as low as $450. But if one lives in Perth, one first has to pay about $400 in order to get to Sydney to take advantage of these new air fares.
Again, in relation to the cost of travel to European centres other than London, a person from Perth has to pay nearly twice as much as a person from Melbourne or Sydney. For instance, Jugoslovenski Aerotransport has a service from Sydney to Belgrade. The lowest cost of that flight is $564. If one is travelling from Perth to Belgrade, one first has either to travel from Perth to Sydney to join the JAT flight, or one has to travel from Perth to London and then on to Belgrade. Either way, one has to pay an extra $400 when compared with the traveller from Sydney or Melbourne. There is a large Yugoslav community in Western Australia and its members are anxious to travel to their homeland. They are disadvantaged to the extent of $400 when compared with people in other parts of Australia. There is a need for the Minister to immediately arrange to remove these exclusions which Western Australians suffer in relation to the new international air fare regime.
We all welcome the new air fares, but I think we are entitled to demand that they should be available to Australians wherever they live. This problem is further exacerbated for nonmetropolitan residents. For instance, let us take as an example residents of Port Hedland. They are faced with an extra $250 just to get to Perth before being confronted with, say, an extra $400 to travel to Sydney in order to have access to fares to the west coast of America or to European centres other than London. This is a serious problem. I realise it is faced by people in other parts of Australia, particularly in Adelaide. But this is one area which the Government seems to have failed to recognise. In relation to these problems the Minister only said that negotiations were continuing in relation to add-on fares. I am afraid that we can find little solace in that and it seems to me that very much more action is needed from the Minister for Transport before Western Australians can take full advantage of the new cheap international air travel.
The second facet to which I refer is that the new international air fare regime has revealed the very high cost of interstate air travel. This is felt more in Western Australia than in any other capital city in Australia. Perth is the most isolated capital in the world and there we know all about the high cost of travel to other places. It is now much more enticing for people to leave Australia than it is for them to holiday within Australia. For instance, people living in Sydney have to pay about the same amount to visit Perth as they have to visit Honolulu or the west coast of the United States. As a result of this sort of anomaly having crept in, we find that the tourist industry in Western Australia is already depressed to the extent of about 20 per cent when compared with the situation last year. This will have a great effect on the accommodation industry and on all kinds of related industries which rely on tourism. I think this is only the beginning. As more people realise that it is cheaper to travel overseas than it is to travel within Australia, then Perth in particular will suffer.
Let us take as an illustration people who are visiting Australia from overseas and who come from the west coast of the United States. They have already paid $450 to get to Sydney. It is unlikely that they will pay another $400 just to get to Perth. Clearly there is a need to overhaul the whole basis of the domestic air fare policy in order to overcome some of these anomalies.
One of the other anomalies which is experienced by people living in Perth is that of parallel scheduling of flights. Nowhere is the problem more acute than it is in Perth. As a result of parallel services, we find that all flights in and out of Perth are concentrated on just two parts of the day. Both the problem in relation to extending access to international travel and the problem of improving interstate travel can be overcome, to some extent at least, by embracing one of the recommendations of the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review report. This report indicates that a large number of empty seats are being carried by international carriers across Australia. The number could be up to 70,000 empty seats going in each direction across Australia, that is, between Perth and either Sydney or Melbourne. The cost of the trans-Australian sector of those international flights is about $150. I fail to see why those 70,000-odd seats could not be made available for people travelling to and from Perth for a price of about $150. That $150 compares with the current cost of travel across Australia from Perth to Sydney of around $400. 1 cannot see why we should continue to maintain a separation between seats which just happen to be available in aeroplanes operated by international operators and aeroplanes operated by domestic operators. The point is that those seats are meant to be filled with people and when they are not they represent an extravagant waste. Qantas Airways Ltd has already put a proposal concerning this matter and the only obstacle which seems to be in the way of its acceptance is the attitude of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. No doubt it has something to do with the embarrassment that Ansett now faces as a result of the crash of Associated Securities Ltd. But for how much longer do Western Australian travellers have to pay for the faulty business acumen of Sir Reginald Ansett? For how much longer is this Government going to protect and shield this man? This pampered Perseus has lost his magic sandals, and I do not see why Western Australians should have to foot the bill.
This brings me to the third facet which relates to intrastate travel and which is dominated by the attitude of Sir Reginald Ansett. We find that fares in Western Australia for intrastate flights when compared with comparable intrastate flights in other States, using comparable routes and aircraft, are 20 per cent to 25 per cent higher. This is despite the fact that there is only a 20 per cent cost recovery by the Federal Government in relation to air navigation charges as compared with, say, 75 per cent in relation to interstate flights. Again we are finding that Ansett in Western Australia is being protected by this Government. The cost recovery is such that intrastate travel in Western Australia is being subsidised more lavishly than interstate flights. MacRobertson Miller Airline Services is reputed to be the most profitable operator in the Ansett stable and still we find that no government is prepared to move to ensure that Western Australians travelling within their own State or to other States can get a fair deal with air travel.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today I wish to examine some serious aspects of the Australian Labor Party policy towards industrial relations in Victoria. That policy will lead to industrial chaos in that State if Labor were to be elected and it would lead to an enormous cost to the taxpayer by way of increased taxes, because the Australian Labor Party in Victoria wishes to abolish the Office of Industrial Relations Coordination (Public Employing Authorities). Before I examine that matter in detail, I remind the House of the basic form of the Australian Labor Party. Always one has to look at the Labor Party and at who controls it. One goes to the history of the matter. The history of the Australian Labor Party is that it was formed as the parliamentary wing of the union movement. That situation is as true today as it was when the party was formed. Whoever controls the State conference of the Labor Party in Victoria controls the Victorian parliamentarians. The people who control the State conference of the Labor Party are the union movement. Those facts are irrefutable.
So, having that in mind, we see this policy of abolition of the Office of Industrial Relations Coordination in Victoria. This Office is important. It was established in 1947 and has been expanded and improved by the Hamer Liberal Government to deal with industrial problems between various government departments and government authorities and employees. There are an enormous number of government departments and authorities, such as the Country Roads Board, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, the Grain Elevators Board, the Housing Commission of Victoria, Portland Harbour Trust Commissioners and others. There needs to be coordination. The experience over the years is that once a union made a claim against one department or one authority and that was met by that department or authority, there would be a flow-on to other departments or authorities. There would be an inevitable expenditure of large amounts of taxpayers’ money to meet the claims of unions for increased wages.
Each public employer is inexorably linked with every other public employer. The Office of Industrial Relations Co-ordination in Victoria co-ordinates these matters for the Government of Victoria, to see that there is a minimum cost to the taxpayer whilst fairness to the unionist is maintained. But what does the Australian Labor Party in Victoria want to do with the Office?
– You do not know what you are talking about.
-It is good to hear the real leader of the Victorian Labor Party in this House today interjecting. He is the real leader. He is the State President of the Victorian Labor Party. He is Frank Wilkes ‘s boss. The man who pulls the strings of the puppet Frank Wilkes is here today- the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). He is the shadow over the Labor Party in Victoria. He gave up his leadership of that party to come to this House, but he really controls Frank Wilkes. You cannot dress Frank Wilkes up. He cannot even dress as smartly as the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes).
I would like to point out to the honourable member for Melbourne what his State colleagues in Victoria are doing- Mr Amos and Mr
Simmonds. One is the Opposition spokesman for industrial relations and the other is the Opposition spokesman for minerals and energy. They went to the La Trobe Valley to a stop work meeting. They said they would dismantle the Office of Industrial Relations Co-ordination in Victoria. Those two men are controlled by the union movement. They were victims of pressure by Sammy Armstrong and his gang and said they would abolish this Office. Last night at a meeting of the Industrial Relations Society in Melbourne Mr Simmonds again stated that the Labor Party policy was to dismantle the total function of the Office of Industrial Relations Co-ordination. So, as late as last night that was the Labor Party policy in Victoria. Even worse, the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria- I should say the de facto leader, because I have established that the real leader, the State President, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, is in this Federal House- Mr Frank Wilkes, according to the Melbourne Herald of 2 1 February, wrote a letter to Mr Sammy Armstrong of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council saying that the Labor Party would dismantle the present State co-ordination committee and give Cabinet responsibility for handling disputes with government departments and authorities.
– It is about time too.
-‘It is about time too ‘-let us write that into Hansard. That is what the honourable member for Melbourne says about the matter.
– Dead right.
-He says that is dead right. Well, let me tell the honourable member what Mr Wran says about the matter. Mr Wran has a different attitude from those of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr Wilkes, Mr Simmonds and Mr Amos, because the Labor Party is split on this matter. It does not know what to do. Let me tell you what Mr Wran did.
– They are not split about it in Victoria.
– The honourable member for Melbourne should quieten down. On coming into office Mr Wran said that he would in fact establish an industrial relations co-ordination unit. Mr Wran is doing in New South Wales what Mr Hamer has done in Victoria. But the Victorian Opposition wants to go back to the dark ages of industrial chaos. It wants to go back and dismantle the Office. Mr Wran in New South Wales is copying what the Victorian Government has done but the Victorian Opposition is putting its head in the sand and saying it will abolish the Office. Mr Wran said about this matter
The State Government will take a tougher line on public service union claims on wages and conditions.
It will set up an industrial relations co-ordination Unit . . .
Mr Hills, who is one of the Opposition’s colleagues in the New South Wales Government, said:
What the honourable member for Melbourne by his rude interjections is establishing today is that the Labor Opposition in the State of Victoria would have more hit and miss in the conduct of the Government’s industrial relations if the Labor Party was elected in Victoria. Mr Wran has clearly said that the aim of setting up his coordination committee, copying what is done in Victoria, which the Labor Opposition in Victoria does not want to do, is to stop the flow-on effect of independent industrial agreements which adds millions of dollars to the annual public service payroll. A strange silence has descended on the Opposition for a moment, because there is a complete split in the Labor Party over this matter. We should just think of the cost of this industrial unrest to the taxpayer. Think of the taxes that would have to be raised, the increased probate duty that would be put on in Victoria, perhaps personal taxation. This is the sort of thing that the Australian Labor Party in Victoria advocates. It is also worth mentioning that the Labor Party when in government in Canberra established a Commonwealth co-ordinating committee. Honourable members opposite have not mentioned that.
We have the situation of Mr Wran copying the Hamer Government. Mr Whitlam copied the Hamer Government, but now the Labor Party in Victoria wants to abolish what its colleagues have done. It wants to go back to the dark ages of industrial relations. Let me also examine other matters of taxation relevant to the people of Victoria. Mr Wilkes, the faceless leader of the Opposition in Victoria, has said that he would abolish payroll tax. That is approximately $500m of Victorian revenue to be abolished. Where is all that going to come from? The people of Victoria will clearly understand that taxes have to be raised if things like this are going to be abolished, if we are going to abolish the right to receive $S00m. Mr Wilkes said: ‘Well, the Commonwealth can pay for it’. All right, Mr Wilkes, if the Commonwealth is to pay for it it has to increase taxation.
So, is he advocating increased taxation? I challenge him to say that as I challenge him to publish his letter to Mr Sammy Armstrong in the La Trobe valley saying that he will dismantle the Office of Industrial Relations Co-ordination in Victoria.
The Labor Party in Victoria is advocating increased taxes. It wants to do away with $500m but it has not said where the increased revenue is to come from. It is worth concluding on the note that again there is dispute in the Labor Party. On the one hand there is a dispute between Mr Wran and Mr Wilkes and on the other hand there is a dispute between, would you believe it, the new Premier of South Australia and Mr Wilkes, because the Premier of South Australia has said that he does not believe in the abolition of payroll tax. Again Mr Wilkes is grasping in the dark, grasping at straws to try to fool the people of Victoria. They are too smart. They understand that if his policies come into effect by having a Labor Government in Victoria there will be increased industrial chaos, increased taxation and the State will be much worse off.
-The matter I wish to raise has not had a great deal of publicity in this Parliament, possibly because it is happening a long way away. For those of us who are concerned with human rights around the world it is a matter of grave concern. In February of this year forces of President Nyerere of Tanzania, plus Ugandan exiles linked with Dr Milton Obote, have been involved in a war to dethrone the most vicious monster since Adolf Hitler. Idi Amin came to power in January 1971 when he dethroned Dr Obote while he was attending a Commonwealth conference in Singapore. Much of the world Press- I suppose we have all been guilty of it- has treated Idi Amin as somewhat of a buffon, a benign old despot. However, I have had the good fortune to have recently visited Kenya. I talked to people about Idi Amin. I have read what has appeared in the newspapers. I had read of people being killed, but it did not really drive home to me just what sort of a vicious thug and gangster this man is. Estimates of those murdered range from 150,000 to 250,000 out of a population, I believe, of about 1 1 million. In 1973- nearly six years agothe International Commission of Jurists estimated that some 100,000 people had been murdered.
In October last year Amin’s troops occupied and ravaged some 450 square kilometres of Tanzanian territory, an area known as the Kagera Salient. In that foray into another country some 12,000 cattle were rustled, a sugar factory was gutted, peasant homes were wrecked, children were speared to death on poles and women were raped. Quite naturally and quite justifiably President Nyerere was enraged and ceased his previous role of neutrality. He gathered together those Ugandan exiles under Dr Milton Obote and encouraged them, with his own troops, to attack Uganda. He was, as I said, justifiably enraged. The Organisation of African Unity, which is so quick to condemn outrages in other parts of the world, particularly in South Africa and Rhodesia- I have been a quite strident critic of South Africa and Rhodesia- is strangely silent on what is going on in Uganda. I think that this Parliament and other parliamentary forums around the world can be quite justifiably accused of hypocrisy for the way in which we condemn one form of denial of human rights and then ignore what is happening in countries like Uganda.
The damage that Idi Amin has done to his own country is bad enough; however, the damage that he has done to black Africa is immeasurable. We do not have today to go over the racist claims that were made about what would happen if many of the African countries received their independence. In some cases the predictions have been true. In many countries at least reasonable regimes- I will not say democratic regimes- have existed. Amin has succeeded in having the rest of the world point to him as an example of all Africa. The racists have a field day at the expense of all Africa because of Idi Amin. I was in South Africa this year. No doubt the fear of an Idi Amin in Rhodesia or South Africa is one of the reasons why South Africans and Rhodesians are so stubborn in refusing to allow black majority rule.
I would like to list from a book written by Henry Kyemba, a former Minister in the Amin Government from 1972 to 1977- he was Minister for Health- some of the people who have been murdered by Amin. He estimated at the time that 150,000 people had been murdered. He lists first of all his brother and then these names:
Benedicto Kiwanuka, The Chief Justice and former Prime Minister.
One could go on, from page after page, giving the names of Ministers of the Government, prominent churchmen, prominent army generals, plus hundreds of thousands of individuals in the country who have been murdered. In the few minutes left available to me I will read this short excerpt from Mr Henry Kyemba ‘s book:
To understand Amin’s reign of terror it is necessary to realize that he is not an ordinary political tyrant. He does more than murder those whom he considers his enemies: he also subjects them to barbarisms even after they are dead. These barbarisms are well attested. It is common knowledge in the Ugandan medical profession that many of the bodies dumped in hospital mortuaries are terribly mutilated, with livers, noses, lips, genitals or eyes missing. Amin’s killers do this on his specific instructions; the mutilations follow a welldefined pattern. After a foreign service officer, Godfrey Kiggala, was shot in June 1974, his eyes were gouged out and his body was partially skinned before it was dumped in a wood outside Kampala. Medical reports on the deaths of the Minister of Works, Shabani Nkutu, in January 1 973, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lt. Col. Ondoga, in March 1974, stated that the bodies had been cut open and that a number of internal organs had been tampered with.
I could sicken the House by reading chapter after chapter of this man ‘s monstrous crimes. People ‘s heads have been chopped off and paraded around on sticks. One of his wives was murdered, dismembered and then sown up. The book outlines the most barbarous crimes that I have read of since what happened in nazi Germany.
I raise the matter in the House because not enough is being done to help President Nyrere, Dr Milton Obote, Ugandan exiles and those who are trying to overthrow this man. We have maintained that we should interfere when necessary. We reserve the right to interfere in Rhodesia, South Africa, Vietnam and in other countries. To use the excuse that this matter is one for the internal affairs of another country is absolute nonsense. The world, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity have shown themselves to be nothing but a pack of hypocrites not only by not supporting those who are rebelling but also by not physically giving aid. I think that we should give moral and physical force to these people to liberate the Ugandan people from this monster. I am horrified- I am not surprised; I am horrified- that another great liberal democrat, Colonel Kadafi, is not only supporting Idi Amin morally but also his money has enabled Amin to buy the luxuries for his troops and kept them in power. He is now sending tanks, equipment, aircraft and 1,500 men. The Moroccans have done the same thing. Yesterday that other democrat, Yassir Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, announced with pride his long friendship and support for Idi Amin. What sort of world are we in when prominent world leaders say nothing about such things or, if they do, they come out in support of this sort of monster? I hope that our Government will do everything it can by way of physical or moral aid to get rid of this hideous, evil and monstrous thug.
-My contribution today refers to the operations of the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission. I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) whether Telecom has the right to divert a subscriber from the exchange to which he is attached to a new automatic exchange which is over 16 kilometres from his residence when he could be connected to a closer automatic exchange under 16 kilometres from his residence. I believe that such a practice negates the Government’s clear undertaking to provide telephone subscribers with up to 16 kilometres of free telephone line construction from an automatic exchange. In one case two homes on the one property are being connected to separate exchanges. I can see no reason for that. It is true to say that one of these subscribers is connected to the same exchange to which he will be connected when it becomes automatic. I believe that when the conversion to automatic exchanges occurs in any district at least all people within 16 kilometres of the exchange and all other subscribers who are closer to that exchange than any other exchange or proposed exchange should be connected to that exchange. That, of course, is the general practice.
I refer to what I believe is a change from that practice, to which I am very strongly opposed. If Telecom has the right to connect subscribers to exchanges beyond 16 kilometres from their place of residence when they could be connected to an exchange within 16 kilometres, I believe and strongly aver that that right should be taken from it. I hold the strong view that the undertaking by the Government to provide 16 kilometres of free line construction from an automatic exchange should apply to all subscribers within the 16-kilometre range of that exchange, irrespective of the exchange to which they may presently be connected. I accept that Telecom, for the most efficient utilisation of resources, should have the right to divert subscribers from an existing exchange to a new one, but that changeover should not be disadvantageous to the subscriber.
The whole matter about which I am talking today arises by virtue of the fact that subscribers have been required to connect to a specified exchange, not the closest exchange, which could involve a substantial contribution which would not apply if they were connected to the nearest exchange. I understand that negotiations are taking place with respect to the specific case that I have mentioned. Maybe that anomaly will be rectified. But I contend that this type of planning must not be allowed to occur again, even if it means a change to or clarification of the powers presently exercised by the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I ask the Minister to give consideration to this matter in due course.
I also express concern about the situation with regard to the downgrading of post offices. I recognise that the Australian Postal Commission endeavours to operate as economically as possible and I accept that that is a correct procedure. But it should never be forgotten that both the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission should also provide the best possible services to all sections of the Australian community. The downgrading of official post offices to nonofficial status is, of course, warranted on some occasions due to the falling off of the business conducted and the possible continuation of such a fall-off. On the other hand, if an official post office can be retained, if it is only marginally uneconomic according to the criteria used and if the prospects of development and an increase of business are reasonably good, I contend that the official status should be retained. In this regard I make special reference to the post office at Yarraman in Queensland, which is presently a grade 2 post office and which is listed for downgrading by two grades to non-official status, despite the fact that business in that area is increasing and can be expected to increase because of the proximity of the proposed new power station at Tarong.
It is claimed by the Commission that the services provided at unofficial post offices are no less than those provided at official post offices. Whilst that may be so, I still argue that official post offices should be retained if it is reasonably practicable to do so. At the same time, I pay a very warm tribute to the services rendered throughout Australia by the dedicated non-official postmasters and postmistresses who provide those services. Despite that, the towns in my electorate which have had official post offices and have had them downgraded to non-official status regret that changeover because it lowers the rating of the town as a community centre. As a government we must be concerned with the promotion of decentralisation. This factor should and does come into consideration when towns suffer a loss of status as a result of any government action or any action by a commission operating under the government.
The upkeep of buildings, particularly older buildings, is, of course, a burden on the finances of the Commission. I believe that that is one of the reasons why this move to downgrade post offices is occurring. But one also has to remember in relation to the cost of building maintenance that it is most likely that the non-official postmaster would have to use the existing building and carry the heavy maintenance costs involved. So there is no real reason why the Australian Postal Commission, with its greater financial capacity, should not be able to accept that burden. I say that because this would be the usual means by which post office services would be carried on. I suggest further that a very careful examination should be made of the prospects of post offices to be downgraded and that the local community should be fully consulted with regard to future prospects. I suggest that consideration should also be given to giving contracts locally for the maintenance work on these post offices. Those contracts could easily be more economic and would provide employment locally and thereby help in the decentralisation objectives and activities of the Government.
I have always advocated very strongly the decentralisation of the activities of both Commissions. I believe that the decentralisation of those activities should be promoted by this Parliament and by this Government. I have consistently advocated this aspect of the operations of both Commissions. I have assisted in endeavouring to provide better working accommodation for union members in areas where I regard the accommodation provided as not being up to the standard that I feel government departments or commissions should provide. My colleagues on the Opposition side of the House might take cognisance of the fact that I have received compliments from union officials in my State as a result of those activities. We are accused by honourable members on the Opposition side with being concerned only with trees and things that exist in the country. God help those honourable members if they were not able to be provided with the cheap food which in many instances comes from the people in those rural areas. Their standard of living would be reduced very considerably. I resent very much the accusations that are often thrown by the Opposition at members of my party, in particular that we lack appreciation of the needs and welfare of the working people in country electorates. I challenge those honourable members to take up this matter with the working people in my electorate. I have available a quotation which I have not used to political advantage but which I am prepared to use-
– You have said it four times this morning.
– I often think that one has to say something at least four times before it gets through, given the perception of some of the honourable members who sit opposite. I am only acting on experience in that regard. I have had a lot of experience, particularly with regard to some of the honourable members of this House. I leave the matter at that and hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matters that I have raised this morning on behalf of the people whom I have the privilege to represent and who do such a splendid job in providing export income and in making a contribution to the gross national product of this country.
-Earlier today I undertook to have a discussion with the Acting Leader of the House (Mr Fife) and the Acting Manager of Opposition Business (Mr Scholes) in relation to the debate on the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) for the purpose of enabling more honourable members to speak in the debate. I have had that discussion. When the Grievance Debate is concluded at 12.45 p.m., the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) will not present his report concerning the Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings; instead he will do so next week. The matter of public importance submitted by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) will then be called on. I understand that the Government will move that Government Business be brought on. Assuming that a division will not be required, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) will proceed to the second reading stage of certain wine grapes Bills and then certain notices will be dealt with. That should take the business of the House up to about 1 p.m.
When the sitting resumes at 2. 1 5 p.m. the ministerial statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) will proceed, and they will be followed by the calling on of any uncompleted notices. It is expected that these government procedures will occupy less than 30 minutes. Assuming that the Lusher motion comes on for debate about 2.45 p.m., that will leave three and a quarter hours until the dinner suspension of the sitting. The debate will then continue at 8 p.m. I think that the voting procedures should commence at or soon after 10 p.m. because a number of divisions could be called for. Overall this would permit about five and a half hours of debate. If each speaker takes 15 minutes, that will allow 22 speakers to take part in the debate. If each speaker takes 10 minutes, 33 speakers will be able to take part in the debate. I ask all honourable members to consider restricting their remarks to 10 minutes. I would appreciate such co-operation. However, the clock will still show 15 minutes as being available and no honourable member will be sat down before his 15 minutes has expired.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to make a short statement. I wish to express appreciation for the efforts that you have made to accommodate those honourable members who are anxious to speak in this debate. As you know, the Parliament was given an assurance yesterday by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that honourable members would be afforded the opportunity to speak. Despite your good offices, the fact is that we will not be able to accommodate all of those honourable members who seek to speak from this side of the House. I express concern about that. I believe that the Government could have been far more accommodating and co-operative. I believe that some legislation-
– I ask the honourable gentleman to pursue the co-operative mood that I have attempted to adopt and not to make this a political matter.
-I am not trying to exploit the situation at all. I gained the clear impression that it was the Government’s intention to ensure that everybody who sought to speak would be able to speak. I do not believe that the Government has made the same kind of effort that you have made, Mr Speaker, to make that possible.
– I have taken note of what the honourable gentleman has said. I should indicate that the discussion between the Acting Manager of Opposition Business, (Mr Scholes) and the Acting Leader of the House (Mr Fife) indicated that certain procedures had already been put in train in relation to government business and the ministerial statements that are to be made and that those matters could not be called off. That is why they have to proceed. I am sure that would be appreciated.
-I shall finish with one sentence. I would like it to be recorded that under the arrangements a number of honourable members from this side of the House have given guarantees to their electorates that they would seek to make their position clear on the Lusher motion and matters relating to it but, because of these procedures, they will not be able to honour their undertakings.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to protest at the fact that this is the second occasion on which the matter of public importance I intended to raise today will be gagged. We have raised this matter on three occasions. Last week you chose, as is your right, another matter to be brought on as a matter of public importance. We raised this matter of the Great Barrier Reef yesterday. We are trying to raise it again today but we are told that it is to be gagged. I am critical of the fact that last night the Government could have continued debating the Lusher motion and dispensed with the adjournment debate. It did not do that. We intend to protest very strongly about the gagging of this matter of public importance.
-I do not wish to become involved in what happened last night in relation to the adjournment debate. I understand that the adjournment debate proceeding for that half hour last night was the result of a request from the Opposition.
-In November of last year I placed questions on notice to Ministers whose departments may be using asbestos, may have an opinion on its use or may have a responsibility with respect to the use of asbestos. In November of last year I made a speech on the dangers of the use of asbestos when speaking on a Bill relating to government assistance to an asbestos producing firm. The dangers of asbestos have been known for a long time in Australia but it is only recently that much publicity has been attracted to the issue. A great deal of credit must be given to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for its radio program Broadband and to Mr Matt Peacock of that session. An asbestos diseases society has been formed, governments and responsible Ministers have been alerted to the dangers of asbestos and calls are now being made for a full public inquiry into the dangers of asbestos and the way facts have been suppressed on the dangers of asbestos. I raise the question of the dangers of asbestos again today because I passionately believe that there should be a public inquiry into its use and its effects on people.
It seems ridiculous for authorities to admit that crippling and fatal diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma can occur due to exposure to asbestos fibres, yet to deny the growing body of evidence that even minor contact with the material is also critically dangerous. Last weekend’s newspapers drew our attention to the possibility and dangers of 1,000 homes in the Parramatta area being built on old asbestos dumping sites and expressed concern about the dangers posed by flaking asbestos at Sydney University and the New South Wales Art Gallery.
Asbestos dust is carcinogenic. Asbestos dust is killing no one knows how many people in Australia today. Over many years medical evidence from Australia and overseas has shown that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos dust. Asbestos is known to cause cancer and a variety of other diseases and yet the asbestos industry persists in placing the community at risk.
It is unfortunate that one firm, James Hardie & Co. Pty Ltd, is by far the largest manufacturer of asbestos products in Australia. It gives me no pleasure to single out one firm. But this firm has recently prepared a background note for media reference when articles or new items are being prepared on asbestos related to health hazards. Last Sunday’s Sun Herald drew our attention to the fact that a Mr Sandilands, who worked for Hardies for IS years, has mesothelioma and is concerned about the dumping of asbestos waste. In yesterday’s Age a Mr Peter Russell, who was formerly in charge of safety at the Sydney plant of James Hardie, is reported to have said that the company repeatedly refused to meet his requests for more stringent controls over working conditions. He resigned in 1970 in protest against the intolerable conditions at the factory where levels of asbestos dust in the air were 90 times more than the National Health and Medical Research Council’s current recommended level.
The Chairman of James Hardie admitted last July that 100 employees had contracted asbestosis and other related diseases such as mesothelioma during the last 1 5 years. I believe the Hardies’ public relations document is a masterpiece of deception. The industry overall has lulled public awareness and duped bureaucratic surveillance through control of information and generally created an environment which is highly profitable to companies such as Hardies but which is deadly for its workforce and the population at large.
The technical and expert medical knowledge of the company places it in an excellent position to provide a factual document for the guidance of all seeking information on asbestos associated diseases. The Government clearly believes so, since representatives of this Hardie group of companies are on sub-committees of the
National Health and Medical Research Council which advises Federal and State governments on Public Health matters, on the Health Insurance Commission, and on other advisory bodies. Advice to government from these company representatives would be based on the company’s record in protecting worker health and providing a safe product to the public.
The Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) summarised for the House the main conclusions of the 1977 report of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. I refer honourable members to page 124 of the Hansard of 20 February 1979. The following points, drawn from that report, are representative of authoritative medical opinion both overseas and in Australia: Asbestos dust is carcinogenic. There is no known safe level of exposure below which an increased risk of cancer would not occur. A number of investigators have indicated that mesothelioma, and other rare cancers, may be associated with quite trivial asbestos deposits in the lungs. It is therefore not possible to specify a safe standard for asbestos dust at which the risk of cancer is removed. There is a multiplicative effect between smoking and asbestos exposure in the causation of cancer of the lungs, so that the risk is increased as much as 95 times more than non-smoking/non-asbestos-exposed people. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) recently assured this House and the people of Australia in the following terms:
In Australia, as far as I am aware, the dangers of asbestos have not been suppressed. On the contrary efforts are directed continually towards reducing the incidence of ill health caused by asbestos.
I shall quote from the World Health Organisation report:
It is not at present possible to assess whether there is a level of exposure in humans below which an increased risk of cancer would not occur.
To the practical layman that can only mean asbestos equals cancer. The burden of proof that this equation is wrong must not lie with those who are suffering now, or will suffer the agonising deaths of asbestos induced diseases. The Hardie background note has this to say:
In conclusion it should be stressed that the recent dramatic increase in the incidence of asbestos related disease overseas is a consequence of the widespread and uncontrolled use of asbestos many years ago at a time when the dangers of asbestos dust were not fully understood. Workers involved in the mining and milling of asbestos, the manufacture of asbestos based products- particularly textiles- and the use of asbestos for thermal and acoustic insulation in the shipbuilding and construction industries prior to the 1960s were often not provided with adequate protection. By contrast with most other countries Australia is fortunate in that by far the major use of asbestos has always been in the manufacture of asbestos cement products. These products are manufactured by a wet process and only a few of the processing operations require tight dust control measures to ensure the safety of employees.
In spite of all these assurances and the known dangers of asbestos, alarming examples are now surfacing which clearly show that the community at large is being exposed to asbestos fibres. The recent revelations of the dumping of asbestos on home sites demonstrate that we cannot rely on the commonsense and social responsibility of the asbestos industry. The chest physician at Halifax Hospital Group reported in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians, Vol. 12, No. 4 July 1978, that residents developed some degree of pleural damage simply by living downwind of a factory which worked asbestos. I wonder how many residents have been unnecessarily exposed to asbestos fibres through living downwind of asbestos dumps. Honourable members should remember that there is no known safe level of exposure.
Raw undiluted amosite is in the ceiling spaces of possibly 8,000 homes in the Australian Capital Territory. While left undisturbed the fibre is undoubtedly safe. However, we all know that air turbulence does occur in ceilings and asbestos dust could penetrate the living areas quite easily. Apparently the Capital Territory Health Commission has no powers to stop the contractor who, I am informed, is still putting asbestos into domestic ceilings. Whilst blue asbestos is by far the most hazardous, white and brown asbestos are also carcinogenic. The World Health Organisation, the United States of America and other government agencies make no distinction between the various types of asbestos fibres. For example a guidance note from the United Kingdom Factory Inspectorate states:
Mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum. This tumour may follow asbestos exposure (asbestosis may or may not feature). The hazard is currently thought to be greater on exposure to some sources of crocidolite . . . and amosite … At present the question is being raised as to whether if chrysotile … is produced in finer form in future it may not prove to be equally hazardous.
The presence of asbestos may be concealed by a trade name in its compounded forms, or in mineralogical terminology; for example, in material designated ‘talc’ where chrysotile anthophylite and tremolite may be found. Thus tradesmen and home handymen may be at risk when working with such materials. The public is being exposed in numerous other ways. For example, the Victorian and Western Australian railways and public buildings such as Electricity House, Canberra, the New South Wales Art Gallery, the Sydney University indoor swimming pool, lecture rooms of Townsville University and school rooms. How many more examples of unnecessary and avoidable use of asbestos are we to have before action is taken to bring this situation under control? We need a national policy for dealing with the problem. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the policy of the Asbestos Diseases Society.
The document read as follows-
A NATIONAL POLICY ON ASBESTOS
A tripartite policy for Government, Management and Unions for dealing with asbestos induced diseases, and for reducing the future risks of asbestos to health.
Information on the extent of asbestos use and people afflicted
Establishment of a national register of people who have been exposed to significant asbestos dust levels people who have contracted asbestos induced diseases companies producing or using asbestos products, or who have produced or used asbestos products trade names of products containing asbestos
Asbestos induced diseases to be notifiable diseases.
Worker Health Care
Early acceptance of a nationally uniform maximum tolerable level based on the best available scientific criteria, subject to continuous review and revision where indicated.
Regulations to adequately control dust levels and to control the use by workers of protective clothing and devices with punitive fines for non-adherence
Non-smoking to be a condition for employment in occupations exposed to asbestos and every effort to be made to dissuade current employees [rom smoking.
Medical criteria and surveillance
A national and uniform medical criteria for diagnosis
Regular medical surveillance of persons exposed to asbestos
The phasing out of asbestos, immediately safe substitute materials become available. particularly those occupationally exposed but including those exposed para-occupationally, and inadvertently or indirectly exposed in the home.
Rehabilitation and compensation of affected people
A national and uniform approach for dealing with the results of medical surveillance in terms of alternative employment vocational rehabilitation compensation
Adequate compensation for people afflicted with asbestos induced diseases workers and their dependants families of workers exposed in the home as a result of workers ‘ occupational exposure para-occupational and handyman exposure.
Information on health hazards of asbestos
Information disseminated to raise worker, management, union, bureaucratic, and general community awareness of health hazards from asbestos
Guidelines for users, including householders, on effective control of existing asbestos products
All asbestos products, including trade name products containing asbestos, to carry warning labels that asbestos fibres are carcinogenic, and with adequate instructions on handling.
Replacement of asbestos
To actively encourage and stimulate research into safe alternative products.
Adoption by industry of the ‘polluter pays’ principle, already endorsed by State and Commonwealth Governments and the Australian Environment Council, whereby the costs of pollution including the health care costs of induced diseases are internalised. That is to say such costs are met by the producer and /or the consumer.
The phasing out of asbestos, immediately safe substitute materials become available.
– As a first step, the Government must replace asbestos industry representatives on government bodies, such as the Health Insurance Commission and sub-committees of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The cynical use of these advisory positions to further the industry’s interest must cease immediately. It is one of the absurdities of our society that representatives of an industry which is exposing its workers and the community to the risks of asbestos-caused diseases are advising governments on issues of public health and welfare. Even senior executives of asbestos manufacturers are now falling victim to these diseases, yet the industry continues as though nothing is wrong.
More information is needed on the extent to which asbestos in all its forms is used throughout our society. We need information on the social costs of the past and continuing use of asbestos. Then we will be in a position to propose solutions and to develop a national policy. There is an urgent need for a searching, fact finding, public inquiry with terms of reference sufficiently broad to enable sound recommendations to be made on this national policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, 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 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-
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the Business of the Day be called on.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I must protest at the continual gagging of the debate on this very important matter. This is the second time in a row that that has happened and it is a disgrace.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of procedure. The Opposition is opposed to the motion which has just been passed. We did not seek to divide because of other matters, but we seek leave to have our opposition recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that levy is paid in respect of all grapes and grape juice used in the production of wine, brandy and spirit for fortifying wine. This was the intention of the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929, now to be replaced by the provisions of this Bill. Because of developments in wine industry technology it has become apparent that the Act does not authorise levy collections in certain situations. In terms of the Wine Grapes Charges Act, levy is payable by the owner of the winery or distillery to which grapes are delivered ‘for use in the manufacture of wine’. Of particular significance are new methods of storing single-strength grape juice at the establishment producing the juice pending a decision at some future stage whether to convert it to wine manufacture, or to sell the juice to another establishment which would use it for the manufacture of wine. Under the existing law levy is not payable on these transactions.
To ensure that the original intentions of the Wine Grapes Charges Act are fully met, the Bill provides that levy is payable by the proprietor of the establishment concerned in respect of grapes and grape juice when used in the manufacture of wine, brandy and fortifying spirit. For the bulk of grapes received, the winemaking process starts immediately following crushing and so most of the levy would continue to be paid on the fresh grapes used. Levy on the fresh grape equivalent will be payable by a winery when grape juice is used for winemaking in those instances where it has been brought in from another establishment or has been stored prior to winemaking. The winery would not be liable in respect of grape juice sold for consumption as such. The proceeds of the levy form the income of the Australian Wine Board, which is responsible under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 for controlling export of wine, undertaking promotion in Australia and overseas and research into the quality of Australian wine and brandy. The maximum rate of levy imposed by the Wine Grapes Charges Act is $2.50 a tonne in the case of fresh grapes. This maximum is being retained under the provisions of the Bill. Additionally, for the purposes of calculating levy, provision is being made for conversion of dried grapes and grape juice to their fresh grape equivalents. The existing operative rate of levy at $2.40 a tonne for fresh grapes is also retained and provides the Board with an income of about $1.1 million a year.
The Bill is presented following concern being expressed within the industry of the possible adverse and growing effect on the funds available to the Board if no payment of levy were made on grape juice brought into wineries and put to winemaking or of grape juice not used immediately for winemaking. The Bill is to come into operation on the date that royal assent is given, but with provision being made in section 5 for the levy to be imposed on prescribed goods used in the manufacture of wine on or after 1 January 1979. Under the terms of the Wine Grapes Charges (Repeal) Bill to be introduced, the Wine Grapes Charges Act is to continue in operation until 30 June 1979. Having both Acts operate for the first six months of 1979 is to facilitate the transition from the old levy system to the new one. There are, of course, provisions to obviate double-payment of levy on any grapes or juice.
I should refer to recent representations from parliamentarians both here and in the other place advocating that grape juice should be brought within the jurisdiction of the Wine Board to enable it to promote the product. In this connection 1 mention that a working party of senior representatives of the industry- private and co-operative winemakers and grapegrowers- under the chairmanship of the Department of Primary Industry, is currently engaged in a review of the constitution and functions of the Board, the method of financing its operations and the range of products which might be covered by its charter. In the Government’s view, it would be appropriate to await the outcome of that review and then to determine, after consultation with the industry, whether grape juice might be included in the Board’s functions. I expect that legislation covering proposals for the Board’s reconstitution will come forward in the Budget session. In summary, the Bill preserves the intention of the Wine Grapes Charges Act and meets the concern expressed by the industry generally that, as a result of changes in technology and in industry practices, action is needed to protect the funding of the Australian Wine Board. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is complementary to the Wine Grapes Levy Bill 1979 and is to facilitate the collection of levy imposed under that Bill. Under the Bill levy collection procedures are formalised which follow closely those that have been developed for other primary industry levies. The Bill includes penalty provisions for non-payment of levy, recovery of amounts unpaid and power to call for returns. There is to be provision for self assessment of levy. Additionally, the Bill preserves existing provisions for levy to be paid in two equal instalments at six monthly intervals. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a machinery measure to repeal the Wine Grape Charges Act 1929 which is to be replaced by the Wine Grapes Levy Bill 1979 and the Wine Grapes Levy Collection Bill 1979. As explained in my second reading speech on the Wine Grapes Levy Bill, the repeal will be effective from 1 July 1979. 1 commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill contains a consequential amendment to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 necessary to maintain arrangements for the appropriation of the proceeds of the wine grapes levy to the Australian Wine Board for the funding of its operations. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The object of this Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1 972 so as to extend the statutory accounting provisions in respect of the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1979-80 season. When the floor price arrangement was introduced in September 1974, it was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. Accordingly, the financing and accounting provisions provided for in legislation at the time were restricted to operations in that season.
These provisions consisted of two measures. First, the wool tax Acts were amended to impose a special 5 per cent levy on sales of wool by growers in 1974-75. The levy was intended to provide a reserve for meeting any losses that might arise out of the floor price arrangement. Secondly, the Wool Industry Act was amended to provide for the establishment of the Market Support Fund as a repository for the proceeds of the 5 per cent levy and also to lay down special accounting provisions for the reserve price operations. Since then the continuation of the floor price scheme has involved successive annual amendments to continue the arrangements described.
Consequent upon the Government’s decision to extend the scheme to include the 1979-80 season, it is now necessary similarly to extend the coverage of the accounting provisions in the Wool Industry Act as well as to continue the special 5 per cent levy on wool sales for another year. The first of these steps is the purpose of this Bill, and involves merely an alteration of a specified termination date so as to include in the existing arrangements wool purchased by the Australian Wool Corporation under the floor price scheme up to 30 June 1 980. The other legislative step required is amendment of the wool tax Acts to continue collection of the 5 per cent levy on wool sales during 1979-80. Bills to effect this amendment will be introduced immediately after the measure which is the subject of my speech.
In moving to extend the floor price scheme and the associated accounting arrangements and the 5 per cent levy on wool sales, the Government is acting with the concurrence of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The rapid rise in wool prices we have witnessed in recent weeks and the concurrent reduction in the wool stocks held by the Australian Wool Corporation do not diminish the need to preserve the safeguard of a floor price mechanism. As in the past, the wool market could change very rapidly and in such circumstances a floor price is an effective barrier to over-reaction. It is also necessary to bear in mind that, notwithstanding the reduction in stocks held by the Wool Corporation, there remains a substantial volume of wool in the stockpile, which will have to be carried over into 1979-80. Whilst the actual level of the floor price for next season will not be determined and announced until the current season ends, the Government has decided already that the floor price for 1979-80 will not be less than the present level of 298 cents per kg clean for the market indicator, which represents the clip average price on a clean basis. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Adermann) proposed:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent 5 Wool Tax Amendment Bills-
being presented and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of all the Bills together, and
the consideration of the Bills in one committee of the whole.
– I would like to remind the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) that the Opposition will not oppose the motion although I think that to preserve the integrity of this Parliament it would be wise on occasions such as this for us to use the forms of the House to ensure that Ministers understand that they often trample upon the rights of all members of the House, particularly members of the Opposition. We note that a debate on the matter raised by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in respect of the Great Barrier Reef has been refused on several occasions. We sit down so that matters can proceed. Now the Minister wants to proceed according to the Government’s program. But the last thing Ministers ever do- and this Minister is just as guilty as anybody else- is give any courteous consideration to the requirements of this side of the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
(Nos. 1 to 5) 1979
Bills presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
These five Bills will amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 to 5) 1964 so as to continue in force for another year the special levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool which is collected in connection with the floor price scheme for wool. The levy was introduced at the inception of the scheme on 2 September 1974 to provide a fund for meeting any operating losses on the floor price scheme. Originally, both the scheme and the levy were to operate for one season only. Their operation was extended successively to each of the subsequent four seasons and the present statutory provisions for the payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1979.
As already announced, it is now proposed that the floor price scheme for wool be extended further to operate during the 1979-80 season and that the levy of 5 per cent be continued similarly.
If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June. Revenue from this levy is credited to the Market Support Fund established by the Australian Wool Corporation. For administrative convenience the special levy of 5 per cent is collected in conjunction with the 3 per cent levy that represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of programs of wool research and promotion and the administration of the marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The present total levy of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the five wool tax Bills are similar in their text, which simply extends the operation of the special 5 per cent levy until 30 June 1980. The Acts which they amend are also similar but each covers a different wool marketing channel. The need for five separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. Opportunity has been taken to include in the Bills some minor formal amendments to bring the wording of the wool tax Acts into line with modern drafting practice. I commend the Bills to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and seek leave to make a statement on the report.
-The report was commissioned by this Government in September 1976. The Committee of Inquiry was chaired by Professor Bruce Williams, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, and its membership included:
Mr M. H. Bone, a former DirectorGeneral of the Department of Further Education in South Australia; Mr C. O. Dolan, the National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, Senior Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a member of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the National Training Council; Dr A. M. Fraser, the Director of the Queensland Institute of
Technology, a member of the Advanced Education Council of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the Queensland Board of Advanced Education; Miss Pauline Griffin, an Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioner, and a member of the Council of the Australian National University; Miss E. M. Guthrie, a Regional Director of Education in the New South Wales Department of Education; Mr J. A. L. Hooke, C.B.E., Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd; Sir Peter Lloyd, formerly chairman of Cadbury Fry Pascall Australia Ltd, and a member of the Council of the University of Tasmania, Dr W. D. Neal, chairman of the Western Australian Post-secondary Education Commission; and Mr D. R. Zeidler, C.B.E., Chairman and Managing Director of ICI Australia Ltd.
It is a long report comprising some 1,500 pages in its three volumes. The Committee’s task, as reflected in its terms of reference, was wide-ranging, covering not only the provision of educational facilities and services at the postsecondary level, but also the relationship between the educational system and the labour market, including the problems of unemployed youth, and especially early school leavers. The complexity of the task and the necessity for wide consultation are reflected in the fact that the report took 28 months to complete and covers many important issues in its 116 recommendations. The Committee commented that the quality and range of the system of education is of great importance to the future of our country, and it hoped that its report will contribute to understanding of the problems and possibilities and help to raise both the quality and the efficiency of the system.
Recognition of the importance of education is highlighted by the fact that expenditure on education has more than doubled as a percentage of the gross domestic product in the last 20 years. However, the Committee goes on to note that demographic and social trends point to a reversal of that trend in the next 20 years. In presenting its report to me the Committee has pointed out that its review of education and training in schools was restricted to the problems of transition to work or further study. Its main recommendations in regard to schools relate to greater emphasis in teacher education on ways of teaching reading and number work, further studies by the Australian Council for Educational Research to specify the range of performance levels to be expected of pupils of varying abilities at particular ages, and the accountability of schools for achieving specific objectives.
The Committee’s most important general recommendations in post-secondary education, as conveyed in the letter of transmittal, are:
The Committee considers that in the next 20 years problems of growth will be less important and problems of rationalisation and coordination more important. To respond to this change, the roles of the Commonwealth and State authorities will need to change also. Each State will need an authority capable of coordinating advanced education and TAFE activities in the middle level field, and for this and other reasons the Committee has recommended that the State authorities be given a greater responsibility for allocating recurrent funds to the colleges of advanced education.
Education and employment
The Committee commented that the links between education and employment are complex. One link is through research which, with the application of science and technology to primary, secondary and tertiary industries, has made possible great increases in employment and material standards of living. The Committee expects this relationship to continue, though it does not expect it to be a smooth process. It recommends a considerable increase in operational research designed to identify the fields of science and engineering where Australia’s research and development is most likely to be effective. The Committee also emphasises that policies on applied research and development- as on hours and conditions of work- are important aspects of employment policy.
The Committee has noted that unemployment is high among teenagers and especially high among those with least education. The Committee’s suggestions for dealing with that problem relate partly to schools but mainly to technical and further education: In particular they suggest an extension of some of” TAFE’s least conventional activities- for example, remedial work for early school leavers, not necessarily at standard TAFE premises, and flexible special training programs. Despite changes in overall unemployment rates the Committee emphasises that the proportion of youth who are unemployed has not risen significantly relative to the unemployment rate for older people. The Committee’s proposals for changes in education to improve the employability of young people therefore concentrated on the general tendency for youth unemployment to be higher than for all persons and on the problems of special groups. The Committee’s review of manpower forecasts, their reliability and application in educational planning, did not persuade it to advocate any substantial extension in this area. Forecasts of the need for doctors, dentists, veterinarians, technicians and tradesmen have proved to be very defective. The Committee did however recommend some extension of forecasts in highly specialised and /or expensive fields of training and a greater attention to sensitivity analysis.
The Committee argued that a considerable part of the demand for post-secondary education, and of the demand for the products of post-secondary education, is a consequence of the rise in material wealth. This was taken into account in projections of student numbers, in the Committee’s conclusions on the limited role of manpower planning, and in its interpretation of ‘credentialism’. The report concludes that the major factor in credentialism is the extension of opportunities for education. The report discusses the future of some of the smaller universities and colleges of advanced education and has suggested the merger of Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia. The report goes on to point out that there has been a continuing process of rationalisation in the advanced education sector involving a few closures and many amalgamations.
Government consideration of the report
The Government has decided to establish a committee of Ministers to co-ordinate the handling and consideration of the report, including consultations with the States and other interested parties. The ministerial committee will present to the Government, before the end of the Budget session, proposals relating to the report as a whole. In the meantime, the report having now been tabled in the Parliament, the important matters which it raises are open for public consideration. Consultation with the States will be essential on many of the matters raised, and the Australian Education Council is already planning to hold a special meeting to discuss the report, probably in June. Adequate time must be allowed for consideration of the report, and it is clear that a number of the recommendations, if adopted, will require several years to implement fully and effectively.
Lastly, I wish to thank all members of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, and especially the Chairman, Professor Williams, for the task which they have so ably performed in preparing this major report. The report will be of great assistance to the Government and, indeed, to all those concerned with education, training and employment. I present the following papen
Committee of Inquiry into Education and TrainingReportMinisterial Statement, 22 March 1979.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
-The report of the Williams Committee on Education, Training and Employment has been two and a half years in preparation. It has cost the taxpayer $750,000. By its wide ranging and ambitious terms of reference it has raised immense hopes of producing a blueprint for Australian education until the year 2000. There are a number of recommendations which commend themselves, some of which are the recommendations for increased funding of research to universities; a rational transfer of credits between institutions; return to full triennium funding; better labour statistics and facilities for manpower planning; the need for a special effort to increase numbers of Aborigines in skilled trades; the endorsement of migrant education; wide access of skilled trades to women; special efforts to improve numeracy and literacy skills; greater flexibility in staffing of universities; special attention to the needs of the handicapped and arrangements to be negotiated with the civil services, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, industry and other universities for exchange and secondment of staff.
The Opposition received the report early this morning- earlier than usual for these types of undertakings in the Parliament, for which I thank the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Nevertheless, one has not had time to do more than consider merely the general thrust of the proposals. Of course, there will have to be much more detailed consideration. Having enumerated some of the more favourable impressions that one gathered from a quick assessment of the report, I must confess general disappointment about it. Perhaps it is a matter about which we were encouraged to expect too much. Certainly the evidence seems to be that the Prime Minister expected a great deal- a great deal more than was achieved by this report. I remind the House that on 9 September 1976 the Prime Minister stated:
The Williams Committee . . . will provide a perspective on educational planning to the year 2000.
In the most charitable fashion possible the best I can say is that it is a blurred perspective. I find it very hard to see that far ahead as a result of the support of this report. It is a disappointing document. It is loaded with tentativeness. There is an enormous lack of specifics. I shall give to the House some illustrations of what I mean, in terms of recommendations. The report states:
That is an unexceptional finding for such a lengthy inquiry. On the subject of Aborigines, it states:
They are not particularly novel or profound findings. In regard to migrants the report says:
I do not find that a very penetrating conclusion. It does not take us very far. In regard to the relationship of school to work, the recommendation states:
On the matter of the role of schools the recommendations state: . . initiate public debate.
I want to put all of this in a better context than the mere extract of those quotes from recommendations would indicate. Of course, the report is not completely like that but that is the dominant impression one gets, of a report that favours certain values, virtues or objectives which are commonly held in the community. There is then a recommendation- almost an exhortation- that we ought to do more about achieving those things either with more research or seminars, or initiating public debate. I hope I am not too unkind but I repeat that I find the report enormously disappointing. The report had set before it two key tasks. One was to reassess educational facilities and services from a series of aspects which were outlined in the terms of reference. The other was to assess the role of education in relation to the needs of the labour market. For the Australian Labor Party, and I would expect the Government, there was much more interest in the exploration of the second matter than the former.
It is not that the Opposition does not regard the former matter as one of high priority but especially following the Study Group on Structural Adjustment, under the chairmanship of Mr J. G. Crawford, it is clear that there are enormous changes occurring in the economy. The Crawford report confirmed that and justified the worry of people who had been commenting about this for some time. More than that, it is equally clear that in the absence of manpower programs which will be crucially supported by educational programs that are relevant to manpower programs, we will not adequately attend to present challenges and challenges which will get much more demanding in the near future.
Let us look at the challenge of the first of those tasks, the reassessment of educational facilities and so on. There have been marked demographic changes. Economic factors have been at work in the economy, bringing about a range of changes right throughout our socio-economic system and impinging as heavily on the educational system as anywhere else. So we have noted in the period 1970 to 1975 there has been a rapid acceleration in the number of full time students leaving universities and colleges of advanced education. The number has risen from 29,500 to 44,300. Although there is an awareness that there appears to have been an overproduction of tertiary qualified people for the community, and although there would also appear to be some winding back of the production system in the tertiary institutions, the rate of increase is still coming through the pipeline with a disturbing momentum.
Look at the pipeline bulge behind those graduates to whom I have referred. The 15 years to 24 years age group of students attending secondary and tertiary institutions has increased from something like 3 1 per cent of all people in that group in 1971 to well over 37 per cent in 1 975. That is an increase from close to 200,000 to well over 866,000. This is the dimension of the problem which is coming through the pipeline and, frankly, having read in detail the summary of the report and having considered in some detail sections of the main volumes of the report and other parts of it more superficially, I do not find myself reassured that the inquiry has adequately attended to this problem. Furthermore, I do not believe that the Government will be adequately informed to handle this challenge which is before it.
Honourable members should note another aspect of the problem that is upon us. The working party of the Australian Education Council has forecast a surplus of school teachers of 73,700 by 1985. The estimate is that by 1981 there will be a surplus of 45,000 teachers. Let us put that in monetary terms to get an approximate order of the type of waste and misdirection of resources occurring and the problems that flow from it. There will be an average expenditure of $1,500 for the training of each of those 45,000 people qualified for a particular area. That means that there is a waste of some $800m on training those people for jobs which will not be available. I find it massively worrying to go to colleges of advanced education and universities and find that there is still a substantial number of young people coming through the educational faculties and departments of those institutions. Indeed, there does not seem enough hard, factual evidence presented to hopeful enrollees to indicate to them the problems which are ahead.
I wish to look at a few of the implications of the recommendations as a whole in relation to education. We are going to have more committees, inquiries, working parties, study groups, commissions and councils. There will be more than we will be able to handle. There is no mention of whether they will be subject to a coordinating body or whether there will be any semblance of organisation and, if so, where it will come from. My rough count in the limited time available indicated another eight inquiries, another eight working parties, review agencies and research bodies. On top of all that we have State appointed bodies, State governments and a Federal Government. In effect, the report is advocating an even more rigid tertiary education structure than we now have, even though it claims it is attempting to produce flexibility. Its heavy concentration on the establishment of research centres in universities for post-graduate and higher work, funding of those centres, and so on, is commendable to the extent that it does go, but at the same time it neglects more fundamental aspects. The Committee of Inquiry should have considered in much more detail some of the things to which I have referred. It also seems to have structured the tertiary education system in a way that I find less than wholesome.
One of the major aspects that has not been considered by the inquiry in the sort of detail I would have liked, with the provision of a program to attend to the problem, concerns the rationalisation of tertiary institutions in the future. Demographic changes and, conceivably, economic forces at work making tertiary qualifications perhaps less appealing than they have been in the past make it clear that there will have to be rationalisation. There are official reports from Government sources to confirm that, but again the evidence is that the Committee shied away from the hard work on these difficult issues, perhaps with the exception that it recommended some sort of integration of the Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia. I move to the second requirement set before the inquiry, that is, the assessment of the role of education in relation to labour market needs. Probably nothing sums up the shortcomings of the inquiry better than a few quotations. Let me read from page 53 of the summary:
Technical change which saves labour in existing activities and creates a demand for it in new fields calls for training in new skills and the retraining of displaced workers.
That is enormously helpful for social planners.
Education institutions at all levels must be sufficiently flexible to deal with these demands.
I am sure that the government is overwhelmed with gratitude for that penetrating form of helpfulness.
Opportunities for technical change will come to a country from centres abroad and from domestic research. Australia has problems peculiar to itself and in certain fields of science and technology can make an important contribution.
That does not take us very far at all. Quite frankly, it is enormously disappointing. At page 60 the report states:
The Committee recommends that the concept of imbalance between supply and demand for highly trained manpower should be a matter for periodical inquiries whenever there is reason to believe that traditional forms of organisation unduly restrict its use.
All I can say is that I am displaying a remarkable degree of restraint by describing this report as greatly disappointing. If it were a Government report I would be excoriating in my criticisms of it. It does not explore properly the sort of supporting services or measures that come in behind commendable recommendations made in relation to an expansion of technical and further education services in the community; for instance, finance for people undertaking prevocational training. How do people on lower incomes survive if they want to undertake this sort of training, bearing in mind that about 80 per cent of the population does not have postsecondary qualifications? What is needed is a more generous provision of allowances for people undertaking that form of training. The Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance for tertiary students averages $1,970 per beneficiary. The Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training is $6,030.
It may seem that I am being unduly harsh on the Committee of Inquiry in stressing our disappointment on this side of the House at the failure of the Inquiry properly to come to grips with an assessment of the role of the education system in this country in relation to labour force needs, manpower requirements, now and in the future. But the fact is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), among other members of the Ministry, has sought frequently in this Parliament at Question Time to evade specific responses to questions on the matter of training and retraining, labour force requirements and manpower policy on the basis that these are things to be attended to by the William’s inquiry. They have not been attended to adequately by this inquiry by any measure. The report deals almost exclusively with post-secondary education. Let me indicate the urgency of the need to attend to these matters. From 1971 to 1975 the total number of skilled tradesmen in this country was reduced by some 152,000, or 13 per cent. In that situation, we will face the problem at a time of economic recovery, should it arise in the near future, that we will not have enough skilled tradesmen to respond to the needs of the economy and the community. Accordingly, economic recovery either will have to be retarded compared with the rate of growth that could take place or, if it is not retarded, then hothouse problems will arise with the economy going on the boil very quickly.
This inquiry has fudged on the manpower policies. Several reports have made it very clear that the country requires manpower policies if we are to provide adequately the sorts of skilled people we will need to handle the economy successfully in the process of change to which we must adapt if we are going to hold our international position competitively. I refer to the report of the Australian International Mission to Study Manpower and Industry Policies and Programs in 1975. (Extension of time granted). I am grateful to the Government. It is not often that I compliment the Prime Minister, but I do on this occasion. That report made five strong points in support of the need for manpower policies. The Australian Council of Social Services, after thorough social and economic research in the community, has also underlined the need for manpower policies, especially in relation to the education system, as an essential support part of any such programs. The Crawford report contributed a full chapter to the need for a manpower policy. The South Australian Government, in an official submission to that inquiry, said this:
Australia is currently experiencing significant labour market and work force imbalances, which conventional policies appear unlikely to solve completely. These current labour market imbalances are likely to persist into the future as long as either the international economic situation, the education system and community values all remain unchanged or governments (and employers) insist upon relying on those policy actions which seemed sufficient during previous decades.
It added: . . there is some evidence that labour markets themselves are becoming less effective in coping with the impact of structural change and in matching workers with jobs, so that given structural changes may be resulting in larger imbalances.
The two observations from that are clear. Firstly, there has to be manpower planning. Secondly, as the South Australian Government has very pertinently pointed out, there must be a role for education in any such program. We have been led to believe by the comments of the Prime Minister particularly, as well as other Ministers, that this is an area to which attention would be devoted in this inquiry in the sort of detail that would allow us to formulate more confidently policies about manpower and its relationship to the education system. That has not happened, and it is my firm belief that the education system has to be restructured massively so that the training of skilled tradesmen required in our community can proceed successfully. If that restructuring does not take place as a matter of urgency, then we are going to be quite inadequately equipped to handle economic problems in the near future.
If I could make some points about manpower training which come to mind as a result of reading this report, and taking it in conjuction with the Crawford report and others, the Government’s priorities are wrong in this area. Given its reluctance to display any broad commitment in this area, it might suit the Government to have a report such as the Williams report, which is so limited in its attention to this very important area. Let us look at the way in which the priorities are wrong. Near enough to $900m is to be spent this year on unemployment benefits. Only $245m is to be spent on manpower policies. If we go to the heart of the Government’s program on manpower policies, we find really that we are talking about the National Employment and Training Scheme. If we exclude from that the employment subsidisation programs and look at the real labour training programs, we are talking of only $42 m in the latest Budget. In real terms, that is a fall in the allocation for this need. We have a disturbing deficiency in this area, and I regret that nothing in the Williams report gives us a guide as to how that ought to be rectified. I expect that the Government will take that as an endorsement of its neglect and will continue in that way. It is not good enough. Labour training and retraining has to be undertaken as part of a national manpower training program. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Committee of Inquiry on Labour Market Training, which was set up in this country in 1974, pointed out that at least one per cent of the work force at any given time should be undertaking some sort of labour retraining. That is 60,000 people. In 1978-79 the most who will undertake this sort of retraining under the NEAT scheme in Australia is about 30,000. If anything, the level ought to be much higher than it is at the present time. Sir John Crawford, in his report, made it clear that there was an abundant need for this sort of retraining. He stated:
The existing approach involves a series of programs often inadequately related. In many cases these programs are developed, introduced, or substantially altered at short notice in response to immediate pressures, and prima facie, lack the resources, diversity and flexibility to meet their stated objectives.
If we look at the second task which was set before the committee of inquiry, we find ourselves far from reassured. We are disappointed at the results of the inquiry. It has been under way for more than two and a half years and it has involved an expenditure of some $750,000. As I said earlier, the committee had wide-ranging and ambitious terms of reference. There are some worthwhile proposals involved in the report, but, overall, it is not a blueprint for Australian education, especially in relation to labour force requirements until the year 2000, as the Prime Minister promised two and a half years ago when he announced that this inquiry had been set up.
There is only one concluding comment which I want to make arising from this report, and it is a quote from the main body of the report which is found in volume 1. It is an important quote, because it seems to me to demolish so much of the conventional wisdom of the Government and so much of its abuse of the so-called dole bludger syndrome which is held responsible for the unemployment problem in this community. Paragraphs R14.5 and R14.6 at page 651 of the report, states:
There have been many attempts to explain the very sharp increase in youth unemployment in terms of poor standards of education, a relative increase in award rates of wages for juniors, the high labour turnover rates of young workers, a large increase in unemployment benefits relative to post-tax earnings from 1973 onwards and its effect on the incentives to accept employment in the less pleasant or stimulating jobs, or by some combination of these factors. But the very disturbing increase in youth unemployment from 1974 onwards cannot be explained in this way.
The rough similarity of the rates of increase in the percentage unemployment of various groups in the labour market points to the more general factors which caused the recession and which sustain it.
That I think is an appropriate critique of the superficial and very offensive approach of the Government to profound economic problems confronting this country. That is one important contribution that the report makes. It does demolish a case which the Government rather spuriously has sought to establish. Mr Deputy
Speaker, and honourable gentlemen, I repeat that one does find the report a rather disappointing document after so much time, so much expenditure and such high hopes about what it would achieve were raised in the community by the Prime Minister.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cadman) adjourned.
-by leave- For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply. Honourable members will be well aware of the debate as to the implications for our health services of the projected levels of supply of doctors in Australia. On the one hand, we have had views expressed by respected researchers that Australia is fast moving to the situation where it will have considerably more doctors per head of population than are actually needed. It is contended that by having more doctors than we need health costs will rise unnecessarily, medical services which are not needed will be provided and that there will be little or no improvement in the health of the community. The contrasting view which has been advanced is that there would be benefits for all Australians if the supply of doctors is not regulated in the forseeable future. Exponents of this view claim that the increasing supply of doctors will lead to reductions in the prices charged for medical services and to improve geographic and functional distribution of doctors. Another dimension is given to the implications of the future supply of doctors by some communities in Australiaparticularly in country areas and some locations in our capital cities- which find it extremely difficult to attract doctors to set up practice. These communities claim the prospective increase in the number of doctors available is their best hope of getting doctors to practise in their area.
It was against this background that the decision was made to appoint the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply. The Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr Sidney Sax, Chairman of the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat, included representatives from my Department and from the departments of Education, Employment and Youth Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and from the Tertiary Education Commission. The officials were requested to examine and so report on the implications of the current and projected levels of supply of doctors and to provide recommendations for future action. The detailed views and recommendations of the Committee of Officials are set our in the report and, while I do not propose to outline them in detail, there are some specific matters which I wish to bring to the particular attention of honourable members.
Firstly, it is apparent that in 1981 Australia will have one doctor to 543 people. This is ten years earlier than anticipated in the report entitled ‘Expansion of Medical Education’ which has been adopted by successive governments as the planning basis for the intake of students into our medical schools. Secondly, it is apparent that there are some medical specialties which are either in or fast approaching an oversupply situation. For example, the officials’ report concludes that the specialty of surgery exceeds its commonly accepted level of supply by a factor of four to one. On the other hand the report notes that some specialities, such as geriatrics and rehabilitation, are underserved. I think it is also worthwhile mentioning that even the expert members of that Committee took different views about the extent to which the increasing supply of doctors will affect health costs and the contribution it will make to the well-being of the community. All in all the officials’ report is an important overview of the current and future situation on the supply of doctors and the Government has accepted the very practical recommendations proposed. The Government also accepts the officials’ view that further detailed examination is essential.
As the first step in the further examination of the matter, I believe that widespread reaction and comment on the officials’ report from the community generally, from the medical profession and from those working in the health services would be most valuable. I am hopeful that comments can be made to me by the end of May. Because future action on the matter extends beyond the responsibilities of the Commonwealth, I will be approaching State health Ministers to seek their views and their co-operation in this examination. I believe that this important issue necessitates discussion on a wide scale because of its complexity. I also believe that future action on medical manpower supply would benefit greatly from such a course of action.
I commend the Report of the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply to the attention of honourable members. I thank the officials for the work that they have done in bringing this report to me and for the way in which it has been prepared. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That legislation committees have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Thursday, 22 March 1 979.
Motion ( by Mr Fife)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 1, General Business, being called on forthwith.
Debate resumed from 2 1 March, on motion by Mr Lusher:
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.
Dr EDWARDS (Berowra)-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, I do.
-He may proceed.
-On the front page of the Canberra Times today there is a list of speakers for and against the Lusher motion. I am listed among speakers against the motion. This illustrates the difficulties of those among us who would seek some middle ground. I am correctly reported as saying the terms of the motion were too narrow and that I expressed myself in favour of the joint Cadman-Sainsbury amendment. I did in fact second the Sainsbury amendment. If, however, that or a like amendment were to fail, I would be bound to vote in favour of the Lusher motion by way of protest against the high level of abortions facilitated by the payment of Commonwealth benefits.
-The objective of this motion, which is to do with the public funding of abortions, is to make it more difficult for people to exercise an independent moral judgment as to whether or not a pregnancy should be terminated. There are those, such as the Right to Life Association of Victoria, who argue that it does not go far enough in that it allows one avenue of escape, that is, when the life of the pregnant woman can be saved in no other way. There is no doubt in my mind that it is seen as the first step in a campaign to outlaw abortions altogether. If the motion is carried, pressure will be put on State Parliaments to amend the law to make all abortions illegal.
I know that in notes circulated by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) it is claimed that ‘the motion does not seek to affect the legality of pregnancy termination in the States and Territories’. Looking merely at the wording of the motion in isolation, that is literally true, but in terms of the campaign to which all honourable members have been exposed it is not true in the spirit. There are people in the community who hold the view that the termination of a pregnancy is unacceptable under any circumstances. They are entitled to hold that view, and they are entitled to give it effect in any situation where they themselves are directly involved. They also are entitled to try to persuade those close to them, or indeed anyone in such a situation with whom they come in contact, that that is the correct moral judgment and the correct course of action to follow. Members of the Right to Life Association who have spoken and written to me on this subject- and I have listened to all who have wanted to state their case- generally have been of this opinion. The motion before us goes very close to reflecting that opinion. It goes about 99 per cent of the way.
Others in the community do not agree with this view. Some agree with it in the abstract, until they are confronted with a particular human situation affecting themselves or someone dear to them, and make a different judgment, often accompanied by feelings of guilt. Different people apply different criteria as to the particular circumstances which in their opinion justify an abortion. I cite the following examples as cases where many people would regard an abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy, as justified. Firstly, where the woman’s health, although not endangered to the extent of likely death, could be seriously and permanently impaired by the continuation of the pregnancy. Secondly, where the child is known to be, or could in all probability be, deformed or mentally defective. Thirdly, where the pregnancy might well lead to the breakdown of a marriage, or other intolerable social or economic circumstances.
People’s views may well be different depending on whether they are considering the matter in the abstract or are faced with a particular case. I have examined my conscience and I am not at all sure whether my fairly conservative views on the subject would stand up in a particular case of someone near and dear to me. I would hope that those placed in the unfortunate position of deciding whether or not an abortion is to be performed would, despite the stress that inevitably accompanies such occasions, make a responsible moral judgment about what is best, giving due weight to the fact of the presence of an unborn child at a particular stage of development. No one in his or her right mind could make such a decision lightly.
Now we come to the heart of the matter. We are being asked as legislators to judge such a decision, if not according to the absolute standards of those who believe that an abortion is never justified, then preciously close to those absolute standards. Perhaps since it is only a funding decision, we are making that judgment only in the cases of those in the most disadvantaged financial circumstances. If that be the case then the judgment must be made with very considerable reservation. It is not, I suggest, our role as legislators to try to impose, by force of law, absolute or near absolute standards of morality where there is no general agreement as to those standards. In this case there is no general agreement.
The lack of agreement is reflected in the somewhat uncertain application of the State laws on abortion. In this case I therefore believe that the Commonwealth is correct to fund these particular medical procedures as long as they are legal under State or Territorial law. There is therefore, in my opinion, no justification for this motion and I will vote against it.
I now turn to the amendments. That submitted by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) is virtually identical in intent with the original motion, and therefore I will vote against it. The amendment submitted by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) acknowledges three additional grounds on which benefits should be paid. However, I believe it may well be too restrictive as regards the desirable legal position, and furthermore- this is perhaps the greatest concern I have- it has not had sufficient study devoted to it for one to be certain of its implications. Therefore I will vote against it. The amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) is merely a reiteration of the status quo. Therefore I am prepared to vote for it.
I understand that some honourable members are considering voting for the motion because they are concerned about the way abortion laws are being administered in the States. From some reports I have had, that concern may well be justified. I beseech them not to use this blunt weapon merely because it is the only one at hand. It will not achieve what they want of it and it will cause harm that they may not have considered. Let us hope that we can decide to act in this House today with compassion and justice, certainly for the unborn, but also for the unfortunate women and their families.
– I move:
The amendment that I have moved to the motion proposed by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has been formulated because it achieves four principles that are not contained in the original motion. The amendment expresses, firstly, deep concern. It then expresses an opinion, it requests action and it states an intention rather than detail. The amendment expresses deep concern because of the large numbers of potential Australians who do not live to enjoy this country. Between 60,000 and 80,000 abortions are performed a year. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard statistics of the abortions performed in South Australia.
The document read as follows-
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ABORTION STATISTICS
In 1977, among women aged 1 5-44 -
Abortions notified represented 18.77 per cent of confinements resulting in live births.
Abortions notified represented 15.80 per cent of the combined pregnancy rate. By comparison, in 1973, abortions: confinements 14.67 per cent; abortions: combined 12.80 percent.
In 1 977, among women aged 1 5-19 -
Abortions notified represented 65.55 per cent of confinements resulting in live births.
Abortions notified represented 39.6 per cent of the combined pregnancy rate.
By comparison, in 1975, abortions: confinements 38.61 percent; abortions: combined 27.86 percent.
In 1 977, among women aged 20-24-
Abortions notified represented 14.89 per cent of confinements resulting in live births.
Abortions notified represented 12.96 per cent of the combined pregnancy rate.
By comparison, in 1975, abortions: confinements 10.88 percent; abortions: combined 9.81 percent.
– In summary the statistics show that 40 per cent of all confinements of women under the age of 20 resulted in termination of pregnancy. It is interesting to note that substantial percentage increases followed the abortion on demand legislation being passed in South Australia. It is therefore fitting that the House should indicate its concern at the high proportion of abortions.
In matters of this type it is difficult for members of the House to arrive at a decision on social and moral issues because a matter of financing is involved. On referring to parliamentary practice and philosophical thought of the responsibilities of legislators I have found that Edmund Burke, Plato, Socrates and other political philosophers have expressed the belief that the only way in which a decision of this type can be made is for each individual to act without fear or favour on his personal conscience. The House will do so today. The amendment expresses an opinion because Ministers, leaders of parties and private members need to act as individuals of the Parliament and divorce themselves from their office in government or opposition. The amendment therefore seeks an opinion from the House rather than to have the House demand or request legislation of the Government. Government and Opposition members must indicate a personal and conscientious opinion based on the parliamentary process.
A consequence of expressing an opinion is to require the implementation of the decision. The amendment requests the Government to take whatever steps are necessary. It does not seek to specify by way of legislation or regulation. For example, the removal of item 6469 from the medical benefits schedule would not require legislation. The Government, having received the opinion of the House, would be obliged to formulate a course of action which if legislative, would then be judged by the House. The amendment does not seek to specify, to certify or to insert itself over the responsibilities of State governments to control and regulate legal medical procedures. The role of State governments must be recognised in this matter. The federal role is one of financial responsibility for certain medical procedures. But one cannot accept a financial responsibility without at the same time having a share in the social and moral responsibility. That is the iniquity of the present situation.
We should not back away from expressing our views and Parliament should take proper responsibility for its own area of administration of medical benefit payments. To proceed beyond that point, as the original motion does, is to deny the citizens of each State the capacity to formulate laws of legality. The motion contains the principle of preservation of life. That is the intention of this amendment. But the amendment expresses the principle and at the same time does not ignore the need for compassion.
-I oppose the motion before the House and support the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). I am glad to have this opportunity to place my reasoning on the public record, albeit in a brief form because I know many others wish to speak in this debate. Initially I want to discuss abortions generally before moving to the subject of the funding of abortions, which this debate should be about. I am opposed to abortions because I believe that life begins at conception- or at least implantation- and should not be terminated. In other words, I belong to the genetic school. It is no secret that my family and I are practising members of the Catholic Church. However I recognise that this attitude is not something I or anyone else can scientifically prove. In other words, this belief that I have in the genetic school is, to a large extent, a matter of faith.
I respect the beliefs of those of many differing religions as well as those of no religion at all who belong to the developmental school, namely, those who hold that whilst conception establishes the genetic basis for an individual human being some degree of foetal development is required before one can legitimately speak of the life of an individual human as being an issue in the abortion decision. The developmental school belief, I repeat, is one that I believe is properly held. I respect that belief, although from a personal point of view, due to my education, experience, training and the life which I have led, I do not support it.
Because ours is a free society of many differing views, because there exists among persons of goodwill a genuine difference of opinion concerning the rights of a foetus in its early stage of development and because all people I respect support, among other appropriate and relevant statements, the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council Declaration on Religious Freedom, I find myself, as a parliamentary representative, unable to support legislation, which makes criminals of those who do not share my faith. Similarly I was unable to support the McKenzie-Lamb Bill and would be unable to support any other specific legislation which may come before this Parliament which did not follow the generally accepted beliefs about truths of the vast majority of people in our society.
I shall continue to speak out against abortion and to donate personally to Birthline and to any other organisations which seek to support those who suffer unwanted pregnancies in preference to succumbing to abortions. I shall seek, by my vote, to allow only those changes to the relevant laws which carefully control abortions and allow them merely for a short period after conception. Those laws, as far as this Parliament is concerned, affect only the Territories. The laws that I am now talking about are the laws of the States. If the present laws in the States are deficient then we, as politicians involved in our State machines, ought to be applying pressure in Victoria and New South Wales in particular to tighten up these laws if indeed they should be tightened even to conform with the developmental school ‘s thoughts and beliefs. I know of no impending changes anywhere but I do know something about the South Australian legislation. I believe that it is built on the developmental school’s thoughts and beliefs. It is harder in South Australia, because of its specific legislation, to get an abortion than it is in New South Wales and Victoria where there is no specific legislation and the nettle has not been grasped. It is, of course, totally wrong that this should be so. I repeat that I shall never support abortion on demand and I shall be bringing pressures whenever I can see that the legislation is clear and follows generally held beliefs in our community about what are truths.
I turn to the question of funding which, of course, is what this debate should be about but which it has not entirely been about. As I have indicated, I shall not support the Lusher motion or the specific amendments to it. I shall be supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan. The issues relating to abortions should be decided when formulating laws concerning whether or not abortions are legal, not in relation to whether or not they should be publicly funded through medical benefits and by other means. In relation to the latter I am informed- and the Australian Medical Association statement has made this clearthat there is a great practical difficulty in distinguishing between what is an abortion and what is, for instance, a curette. In other words, if medical benefits were terminated under one heading the operation would soon be described by many members of the medical profession under another heading which attracted subsidy.
What a farce this debate is in that it is supposed to be in relation to medical funding alone. We have, indeed, the added farcical situation reported in the news today that even if the Lusher motion or some other version of it were passed by this House it would be impractical for the Government to bring legislation into this House conforming with it. We must therefore bring ourselves to realise what the real issues are. I ask the House to take note of a letter from the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, the Most Reverend E. B. Clancy, which was published the day before yesterday in the Canberra Times. In relation to the debate in which we are now engaged he stated:
It is not so much the morality of abortion that is directly at issue here as the morality of constraining countless citizens of all faiths to violate their consciences in having to pay via Commonwealth medical benefits towards which they consider to be intrinsically immoral and to which, in consequence, they are totally and profoundly opposed.
I do not want in any way to give the impression that the Archbishop was supporting the line that I am taking. He was supporting the Lusher motion. But it means at least that he understands what is at issue in this debate, namely, the matter of funding. I merely say in response to the point he makes- I respect very sincerely that pointthat I cannot agree that because some people disagree with it, there should be no public funding for something which is legal. In other words let us clear up the legality of the matter where it should be cleared up, in the State parliaments or, in the case of the Territories, with appropriate legislation before this Parliament. Let me make clear the point I am trying to make by asking a question: Should the state not support blood transfusions because Jehovah’s Witnesses find them abhorrent? It would be entirely logical to state just that, that we should not fund blood transfusions because there are a number of people in our community who find that particular aspect of medical treatment to be against their consciences and against their morality. We could all find similar examples of matters being funded against the consciences of some members of the community. It is worthwhile also pointing out the opposite argument with which we cannot be impressed, that citizens should be able to opt out of paying taxes for those policies with which they disagree. For instance, pacifists are bound by law to pay their share for defence.
I cannot agree that this is a matter of antiabortion on the one hand or abortion on demand on the other hand. Some honourable members have tried to show that this is the issue in this debate; far from it. It is a matter of recognising that there is a genuine difference of view as to where life begins. This is a pluralist society and differing views have to be catered for in our legislation. This Parliament and State parliaments have made decisions and will continue to make decisions on these vexed questions. If we do not agree with the State decisions we should do something about seeing that our State colleagues change them. If we do not agree with the decisions taken in the Territories we should do something in the appropriate place about having the appropriate legislation enacted. What we are dealing with here is the matter of funding of medical treatment in relation to decisions on abortions which have already been taken on another occasion by this Parliament or by other Parliaments. If one agrees with the argument that I have just put forward, it is most logical to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan. At the same time we should all support the proposition for far more adequate funding than is being given at the moment. More adequate funding should be made available for Birthline and other such bodies doing similar types of work so that counselling is available for these people who have to withstand unwanted pregnancies and so that we obtain, through proper educational means, a situation where not more but fewer abortions take place in our community.
– I was involved with the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) in drafting the amendment which has been circulated to honourable members. The amendment was drafted because whilst we thought that a great deal needed to be done by way of encouragement and to show guidance against the proliferation of abortion we also wanted to provide a solution in the motion which would support our view, with which I think the majority of Australians would agree, that abortions should be allowed to proceed in a few cases. It has been put by a number of speakers in support of the main motion that there must be some cases where it is necessary to condone a woman having an abortion; that is even if one considers on first principles that abortions in general should not be allowed. That is why we have framed this amendment. We believe that it is a practical solution that can give practical direction.
The present debate is being held, I notice, both as to form and as to substance. Certainly, the form is one of money, of where the taxpayers’ funds will be spent in certain areas. In my view the main essence of the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) was one of substance. The purpose was for this House to present an opinion which could guide the Government in its decision-making, albeit ultimately on the way it spends money. It is a debate on substance, on whether we believe that we can afford as a society to look upon abortion as something which does not matter. Perhaps they are heavy words. I certainly respect the views that I heard from the other side. It seems to me that there are two sides in this debate. The supporters of both sides say that they favor respect for humanity. The people who are in favour of abortion on demand or of abortion being fairly freely available see that view as being a humane one.
I rather support the view taken last night by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) who sees the protection of life and the belief in the sanctity of life as the first and most important principle. I must say that the speech of the honourable member for Moore encompassed what I think most Australians believe, namely, that life is sacred, that people do not have the right lightly to remove it. If we condone abortion we are saying that people do have the right to remove life according to their consciences but perhaps against the well-being of society as a whole if sanctity of life needs to be supported in order to preserve our society. The issues are not simple. Yesterday morning I was relieved to read in the Canberra Times a statement by the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn which fits in very closely with my view. I take the liberty of reading what he was reported to have said:
It is regrettable that the debate about the costs of abortions being met from public and health insurance funds is again dividing our unity over the abortion issue . . .
Nevertheless, the use of funds in this way should be determined, and public as well as parliamentary opinions expressed about it.
I believe that that is a fair statement. The report of his comments continued:
Ready access to abortion is one facet of the widespread indifference to life, and the value of human beings before God, that can easily be detected in our society. Violence in attitudes if not in action is becoming a way of life.
On the other hand, Mr Lusher’s motion is, in my opinion, too confined in restricting reimbursement of the costs of abortions to cases where the mother’s life is endangered by her pregnancy. If the motion stands in that form without a broadening amendment, it ought to be defeated.
I want this House to give a general direction to the Government to introduce changes in the provision of funds for abortions which will reflect a view that human life in this country is sacred. Therefore my amendment should be supported by members of the Government. As I said, the situation cannot be perfect. As the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said a few minutes ago, no matter what motion or amendment were put forward, it would be difficult for the Government to incorporate it in sensible legislation. Nevertheless, the general lead needs to be indicated. One of the great issues in this debate which concerns me is whether a motion such as the original motion or this amendment will have the effect of discriminating against poor women as against other women who can perhaps afford abortions. If, within the laws of the States- the States are the law holders and the law upholders- people have abortions outside the meaning of the resolution that results from this debate, it is up to society to help in some other way. I do not see that the relatively small amount of money required in such a case would be an imposition in very many cases at all. We are talking about sums of money that could not amount to any more than $150 or $200. In all sincerity, I just cannot see that in these days that amount of money, when it is related to such an important issue as this, is material. In this country we have laws which force people, for instance, to wear seat belts while in their cars because we believe that money needs to be spent to save lives. I think it is fair enough to force people to spend money to the extent where they have to think very hard about whether the preservation of life itself is to be regarded as a very first principle of the preservation of our society.
I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell and seconded by me. I suggest to the House that this amendment provides a very sensible approach to the issue. It is an approach which would have great support throughout the community, not only within the church- I include both the Catholic and Protestant churches- but also amongst a large number of other people who do have serious misgivings about the drift that we have had in our society towards a lessening of concern for human life.
– lt is with some trepidation that I, and I suppose other honourable members, participate in this debate because it involves a matter which is sensitive and which is important to a large number of Australians. I suppose that all honourable members have been a little surprised at the extent to which emotions and the degree to which intimidation have characterised the efforts of the public to make their points of view acceptable to members of parliament. I express concern about the philosophical stand upon which the mover of the motion, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), has based his case. It was brought to my attention that he said ‘that if a person can afford to send his kids to Kings School, he can; if he cannot, he cannot. Certain people will always have advantages over others, and I do not think we will ever get away from that’. This is a component of the total philosophy on which the Lusher motion is based. It represents acceptance of maintaining an advantage for the advantaged and continual denial for the oppressed.
This motion is not about morals; it is simply about money. It seems to me that some honourable members who have participated in this debate hold the view that the affluent can terminate a pregnancy but the poor can be left holding the baby. Many people do not like spending money on the weak, the poor and the oppressed. I liken this to the Fraser Government blaming the unemployed because there are insufficient jobs available and the jobless cannot obtain jobs.
Honourable members have been inundated by letters and telegrams stating points of view on abortion. I suppose I have received several thousand of those. There are mass protests- petitions and the like. I received a letter from the Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations from the Archdiocese of Sydney. Of course, it strongly supports the Lusher motion. What I am about to read does not deny that fact. It is interesting to note that the Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations is also concerned at the denial of support for the weak and oppressed, to which I have referred. The representations which came from that body are in these terms:
This Federation represents parents who are not only rearing their own families, but have over the past few years been expected to pay ever increasing tax to cover the cost of antifamily Government policies. Concessional deductions for dependent children were abolished, educational deductions are minimal, and family allowances are annually eroded in value because of the Government’s failure to index same.
Although that view is not my own, it expresses the concern I have that the weak are the subject of indifference on the part of the mover of the motion and those who support him. If the motion is successful it would grossly discriminate against the disadvantaged. Tampering with the medical benefits schedule, as the honourable member for
Hume proposes, would only serve to make safe abortions, which are lawful medical procedures, unavailable to women who would most need them- women on low incomes, women who have been the victims of rape, women with large families and other women to whom an unwanted pregnancy threatens physical and mental health. The motion represents a grave invasion of privacy for those patients for whom pregnancy termination is necessary. I hope I have time to mention the Australian Medical Association’s attitude to that matter.
The motion undermines the concept of universal health insurance. It constitutes an unwarranted interference in the doctor-patient relationship. It singles out one medical procedure for unnecessary bureaucratic control. When we look at that aspect alone we see that, if the Lusher motion is carried, the future prospects are indeed frightening. It would not prevent abortions from being carried out but it would result in an increase in illegal and dangerous operations as people in receipt of low incomes would be forced to resort to unscrupulous or unqualified practitioners. In mentioning those basic objections to the Lusher motion, as it is called, I express the views of some 130 women’s organisations around Australia, representing probably many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women in this country. They are points of view which really have grass roots support in this country. I briefly mention the view of the Australian Medical Association. I do not always uphold its view, but I think that the points it made in its submission on this matter to honourable members are valid. Its submission states:
The move in the House of Representatives by a private member to restrict the payment of medical benefits on items related to termination of pregnancy, could set a precedent opening the way for the Government to apply similar restrictions to other items in the Medical Benefits Schedule.
Today we heard the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) mention several possibilities, including the concern of Jehovah’s Witnesses about blood transfusions. This discriminatory approach could be adopted towards many other matters of very great importance to the people of this country. The AMA raised the matter of breach of confidentiality. It exposed the possibility of important confidential information being mauled by bureaucrats, with the information being passed through the hands of clerks in the various government departments. The AMA stated in its submission:
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.
The AMA submission is long and I can only summarise it. Further on it stated:
In order to ensure that benefits were not paid for a procedure which resulted in the termination of a pregnancy it would be necessary to require certification in respect of the following items in the Medical Benefits Schedule:
Eleven items were then listed. It went on to state:
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.
Honourable members should imagine this happening to their wives or their daughters. It would be an intolerable situation which probably would be without precedent in the so-called Western World. The submission continued:
The certificate would state the actual purpose of the procedure, for example, investigation for suspected cancer of the uterus, which could well result in unnecessary distress.
Those are the views of the conservative Australian Medical Association, warning honourable members that, if we give effect to the motion before us, we will be breaking new ground which will have horrifying prospects, including the prospect of causing great embarrassment to the women of today and the women who will follow in the future. The AMA concluded:
The Committee took the view that termination of pregnancy, when legally performed, is a medical procedure and as such is open to the payment of benefit.
As I have a feeling that the motion has a money motivation rather than a moral motivation, I mention that in 1977-78 the expenditure incurred under the provisions of the National Health Act totalled $986.5m. If we add such items as dental and optical care to the medical bill the total goes up to $999m. The amount associated with medical benefits schedule item 6469, which covers the most commonly performed curette, is very small, namely, $3.4m, which happens to present the infinitesimal percentage of 0.34 per cent of the total expenditure. If we seek to consider this matter on the basis of money, that is the amount of money involved. That amount is of little consequence and cannot possibly justify our holding this debate.
I, probably like every other honourable member, have no enthusiasm for terminating pregnancy, yet it is apparent that many women consider that they have the right to elect to do so. No honourable member can ignore the fact that that belief is acted on extensively and that the introduction of prohibiting laws so far has failed as an effective deterrent. Despite the threat of penalty, as well as the availability of adequate facilities and, often, the lack of medical competence, women have exercised what they regard as their personal prerogative in this matter, often at great expense and unnecessary exposure to injury and even risk of life. Regardless of the outcome of any legislation, these women will continue to adopt that course of action. They regard this matter as one for their own consciences. I, for one, do not presume effectively to exercise a conscience on their behalf. Whilst having respect for the principle of the right to life, I find it extremely difficult to disregard the right of a woman to resolve the issue for herself in the early stage of a pregnancy. I certainly am not advocating blatant termination of pregnancy after 2 1 weeks. I think that we have to differentiate sensibly in respect of that matter.
I draw the attention of the Parliament to the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, the section dealing with sexuality and fertility, in which a particular category of abortion is defined as follows: . . termination of pregnancy before the foetus has attained viability, i.e., become capable of independent extrauterine life.
Most of us have some compassion in that respect. I believe that most of us are prepared to facilitate the application of that definition. In other words, we are talking about the life issue. No honourable member is in the business of taking life cheaply. In debating this physical, emotionaland whatever other sensitive description we can give it- issue, no honourable member is talking about taking away a life. But I believe that, in terms of that definition which relates to early pregnancy, we have a very distinctive case to contemplate. I see that my time has run out. In view of all the circumstances, I did not mean to talk for as long as I have. But I am impressed and influenced by the determination of a distinguished scholar, Daniel Callahan, whose studies have been commended by R. J. Gerber, a moral philosopher of the Roman Catholic University of Notre Dame. Incidentally, Gerber insists that: the abortion question is not primarily a religious issue but a secular moral matter best resolved by secular moral arguments.
After years of devoted study of abortion law versus choice morality, Callahan found it necessary, reluctantly, to choose permissive abortion as the only type of abortion law which recognises women’s rights over their own bodies, but not absolute rights because due regard must be given to the foetus and to society, and which upholds the dignity of the law by not allowing it to fall into disrepute, as laws prohibiting abortion do. In my view, therein lies the balanced, sensible, moral and practical approach to this extremely extenuating controversy concerning this vital human issue.
-In many ways I, and I am sure many other honourable members, regret the so-called Lusher motion which has been moved because, despite the enormous amount of publicity and lobbying which has preceded this debate, I wonder how representative of the views of the community at large are any of the views put to all members of this House. I wonder how representative are the views of members of this all-male House. It therefore leaves us with the almost awesome task of thinking our way through what is obviously a very complex web of values, some of which are mutually incompatible.
In strict terms, what we are considering is simply the question of who should pay for the overwhelming majority of abortions in Australia which are not medically necessary: The taxpayer at large or the person who has the abortion? Although technically that is the issue which we are debating, it is quite impossible to form a view on the matter without that view being importantly influenced by one’s general view on the whole issue of abortion. The facets which lead one to a view on this general issue will differprobably in their range; certainly in the weight given to the individual components- from one individual to another.
Before turning to these major issues I would like to comment briefly on the subject of medical necessity because I cannot fully accept the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) in support of their motion. I have three problems with their arguments on this score. Firstly, I rather feel that the net effect of the adoption of this motion would be actually to increase the amount of the taxpayers revenue going to meet the cost of abortions, mainly because of greater usage of the free facilities of public hospitals. Secondly, there are many other items in the medical benefits schedule which could not be regarded as medically necessary. To be consistent this motion should perhaps be also calling for a test of extreme medical necessity to be applied to these items as well. Thirdly, in my opinion, there are certain of these other non-medically necessary items which should remain in the schedule. So I have difficulty in supporting the test of medical necessity advanced by the mover and seconder of the motion.
However, I do support the general intent of the Lusher motion, but on other grounds. I know that there are many people in our community who take a very fundamentalist view on the issue of abortion one way or the other. Whether we like it or not, the issue of abortion is really what this debate is all about. These people see the matter in stark black or white. For them their particular decision is simple. In some ways I envy them for that. To me the matter is more complicated. Parliament cannot be the determinant or the arbiter of a community’s morality. Only the community itself can do this. In the pluralist society in which we live the range of views on social and moral issues will be as broad as the number of individuals in that society. But Parliament can and I believe should discuss social and moral issues even though it cannot dictate on these issues.
We must also remember that the Federal Parliament has no power or responsibility to legislate on, or otherwise determine, the legality or illegality of abortion, other than in the Australian Capital Territory. Whether particular forms of abortion are or are not legal is a matter, as has been said over and over again, for each State to determine. The present laws on this matter differ considerably from one State to another. Even more, they differ greatly in their administration, and this is perhaps one of the major reasons why the Lusher motion is before this House. One important question for consideration is whether Federal Government arrangements for the funding of abortions should necessarily be in complete accord with the range of laws on abortion prevailing through the States. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), and those who may propose to support this amendment, presumably accept this proposition, but I cannot. On the contrary, I most strongly oppose it because if one did accept the honourable member for McMillan’s proposition it would mean that the Federal Parliament would be forced to support what it might regard as ‘ bad ‘ State laws on a whole range of issues. Conversely, it would be locked in to the lowest common denominator of State laws. This would give the Federal Parliament no right or scope to form its own judgment or express its own opinion not only on social issues but also on a host of other matters.
The real motivation underlying the Lusher motion would appear, inevitably, to be a belief in the sanctity of human life- a belief that the unborn child has as much right to life as has any other human being. I know that there are those who would argue that human life does not date from the moment of conception, but the overwhelming weight of medical and other opinion would not support this view. It is the principle that the sanctity of human life must be upheld at all times where to do so does not endanger the lives of other people which leads me to support the motion before the House. I believe that if we move away from that principle there will be no end to a progressive weakening of community values and attitudes towards the rights of human beings to choose for themselves their very existence.
I appreciate that critics of this viewpoint will argue that, whilst the very existence of life may be a matter of great principle, so too is the quality of that life and that to permit a child to be born into a family or to an individual who does not want it or who feels she cannot cope is a greater misfortune than to abort the life of that child. Such critics would also argue that it is the lower income families which will suffer from the introduction of the funding arrangements proposed in the motion. These arguments, of course, cannot be lightly dismissed. But they all appear to suffer from the basic weakness that at no stage do they take into account the fact that a human being’s life is at stake- an unborn human being, but a human being nevertheless. Nor do they appear to give cognisance to other positive alternatives- for example, adoption.
The same weakness appears to lie in the assertion by certain women’s groups that it is, in their words, the basic right of every woman to control her own body. I certainly do not dispute that assertion in itself. But I ask the question: Does every pregnant woman have the basic right to determine whether her unborn child shall be permitted to live or to die regardless of circumstances? Should she have the basic right to say that her unborn child be not permitted to live simply because she does not want the child or because it may cause financial or other strain which she would prefer not to have to cope with? To me it is far from clear that she has such a basic right. At the end of the day these arguments of the quality of life for both parents and children and the rights of women have to be weighed on the scales against the principle of the right of human beings to be born, provided the safety of the mother’s life is not at issue. That is a principle which I find very difficult to overturn.
The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), in his speech yesterday, quoted with approval an extract from the Royal Commission on Human Relationships that the life of the unborn child is different in quality from the life of a human being after birth, the clear implication being that the life of the unborn child is somehow inferior. I find such a proposition extraordinary. How can one differentiate between the intrinsic quality of one human being compared with another? Does this also mean that a so-called normal person is of higher quality than a Down’s syndrome or a spastic or a cerebral palsy? What right and what criteria can possibly justify such assertions?
If the Government implemented the motion being debated today, or the amendments of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) or the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), and if the medical profession acted in accordance with the motion, it is not certain that the number of terminations would actually be reduced. It could well be more of a discouragement to on-demand abortions if the Government were simply to delete item 6469 from the medical benefits schedule. Depending on what procedures the House follows later today when we come to the vote on the motion and/or the amendments before the Chair, I ask the Government not to lose sight of this proposition as one of the alternative options to be considered.
It has been argued in this debate and elsewhere that implementation of the intent of the Lusher motion could place an intolerable burden on the resources of public hospitals. I do not believe that any firm judgment can be made about this argument. South Australia, for example, where terminations must be performed in a hospital, has not, to my knowledge, experienced particular difficulties on this account. If the argument did prove to be correct, appropriate remedies would obviously have to be found. But, to me, to use a hypothetical possibility as an argument is not in itself a sufficient reason to vote against the motion.
The spectre of the re-emergence of the backyard abortionist has also been raised. No one could have failed to be deeply impressed by the moving speech we heard yesterday from the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). It goes without saying that all members of this House would be totally opposed to such a repugnant development. But there appears again to be little evidence to indicate that such a development would be likely. Blessedly, we have been virtually free of the back yard abortionist for well over a decade and I have seen nothing to suggest that this has occurred simply because of changes in the medical benefits schedule. The main item which appears to have been associated with the increase in abortions in recent years is item 6469.
This item was introduced into the schedule, without any debate might I add, only in 1973, which was years after the back yard abortionists had been effectively eliminated from our midst.
The question of abortion cannot be looked at as a social issue in isolation. If we as a community believe that our society would be a better and more humane society with fewer abortions, and regardless of how we as individuals vote on the motion before us today, we must as a community take increased steps to lessen the number of situations arising where abortions are contemplated by the women concerned. Financial discouragement, which is essentially what the Lusher motion proposes, is only one possible part of the solution. The real solution involves many potential elements- improved systems of family support, not only financial but also educative, counselling and moral; improved sex education in our schools; improved understanding of human relationships; better family planning facilities, and many other elements. None of these, however, is in any way incompatible with the general intent of the Lusher motion or of the amendments moved by the honourable members for Moore and Mitchell.
Like other members, I am in a quandary as to how to vote on the amendments which will be put this evening before the substantive motion is put, because it appears quite possible that the Lusher motion itself will not be put to the vote. If it is, I will vote for it. I will not support the Simon amendment for reasons I have already stated. I could support the Hyde amendment. I can also see much merit in the Cadman amendment, particularly with its coverage of pregnancy arising from rape or incest. How I vote on these latter two amendments will have to depend on how I assess the likelihood of the Lusher motion succeeding if it comes to a vote. Above all else, my vote will be cast on the basis of the fundamental importance that I attach to the life of a human being, whether he be born or as yet unborn, and to the laws of our society, not just the laws of our parliaments, relating to life and death generally. Surely the sanctity of human life must be the fundamental linchpin of any just, humane and compassionate society.
– There is no ambiguity about my intentions, nor are there any doubts in my mind as to what I will do. I will vote against the Lusher motion and all the amendments except the Simon amendment, which I will support. It seems to me that the Simon amendment sums up what is a perfectly proper and sensible approach to this matter. It recognises what is legal in terms of a medical service and, accordingly, does not seek to subvert the right of people in the back door way which is implicit in the motion which the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has moved or which the amendments generally seek to impose, either more extremely in the case of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), or less extremely but nonetheless within limitations in the case of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury). It seems to me that there are two obvious reasons that the Lusher motion is before the House. The first one is to rig the system and to make unavailable what is legal and a necessity. The other is a simple matter of cheer chasing behind the anti-abortion lobby and perhaps grabbing a little easy publicity. In short, the purpose is to give note to what apparently is otherwise an unnoted career.
I want to make three points. The points arise from the comments which have been very largely made by the honourable member for Hume who has moved the motion which has led to this debate. The first concerns the timing of this matter and the extent of debate available; the second concerns the economics of the proposition to which he has devoted a great deal of” attention; and the third concerns the health rights of people. In relation to the first matter, the timing and extent of the debate available, I confess complete perplexity that this issue should have been brought forward ahead of so many others on the Notice Paper. There were three other matters of which notice was given on 22 February ahead of the Lusher motion. One is by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and concerns the need for compensatory support for people in non-metropolitan areas suffering financial disadvantage because of their place of residence. The second is by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and concerns inroads into the normal postal and telecommunications services by private enterprise. The third is by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) concerning Australian representation in Taiwan.
– That was a good one.
– I believe so. I do not believe it ought to be written off too easily or be the casualty of people’s prejudices. There were 1 1 other matters on the Notice Paper already dating from 1978, some very important in my view and all important to some degree. I find it rather puzzling that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who after all is responsible for these matters, should have decided that the Lusher motion deserves so much priority attention from this Parliament not only in terms of jumping the queue over all of these other important matters but, having jumped the queue, also in terms of demanding so much of the Parliament’s limited time. There are other important matters which deserve attention too, apart from those on the General Business Notice Paper. There is the Prime Minister’s statement on the state of the economy. That should be the subject of extensive debate in this House and given time at least equal to the time made available for this issue. In fact my recollection- and it is purely recollection and may be wrong- is that in the past several years nowhere near as much time has been devoted to an issue for debate in this Parliament, whether it was a matter of great national importance to the Government and the country initiated by the Government or any other matter, than has been devoted to this one. I find that perplexing and curious and I suspect that perhaps a ploy that the Prime Minister had in mind has fallen apart. The debate has not gone in the way that he would rather have hoped.
Let me move on to the other substantial point which arises from the honourable member for Hume’s approach to the debate on this matter. That concerns the economics of the whole proposition. I find the reducing of the discussion of this matter to economics or its financial aspects to be rather crude, objectionable and unacceptable, but one has to attend to such items when they are put forward. What the honourable member for Hume has said publicly in effect is that he is not worried about abortions as such. He is merely worried about the cost the taxpayers are asked to bear as a consequence of abortion medical procedures being undertaken. So that I am not misquoting him, let me refer to a statement he made on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program PM on 26 February. This is the exact quotation:
All I ‘m seeking to do is to say that if you want to have an abortion that’s fine but don’t ask the taxpayers to pay for it unless you can show there’s a medical necessity for it.
So he is saying that it is fine to have abortions and that he has no objection to them in principle, on moral grounds or on any other sort of grounds- aesthetics or whatever they may be. It is merely the financial aspect that disturbs him. Of course, we all know that to be a meretricious proposition, but let us dismantle it. Let us look at the comparative economics involved in abortions as against the costs which are involved in the community if abortion procedures are not available. I repeat that I do this to respond to this key argument that the honourable member for
Hume any many of his supporters from the antiabortion lobby have been promulgating in support of their proposition. Item 6469 covers most of the abortion-type procedures and not all of them are abortions undertaken for the purpose of inducing a miscarriage. Last year there were 50,900 such claims at a cost of $3. 4m and many of the people who are emotionally disturbed by these sorts of statistics, which have been put forward in a rather coloured way by the honourable member for Hume and his supporters, whistle though their teeth with concern at that level of abortions and, I dare say, at the cost which disturbs them. That is an average cost per claim of $67. It is not much when one considers it against the alternative. I point out that I find making these comparisons quite objectionable but unavoidable in the circumstances of the nature of the debate.
Let us look at the alternative. The alternative is a supporting mothers’ allowance, a guardians’ allowance, a dependants’ allowance, a family allowance and supplementary assistance for accommodation because most of the women receiving the supporting mothers’ allowance draw on that benefit- a total cost over 16 years in current terms of $61,000. On top of that there are education costs for six years of primary education and four years of secondary education, a total of roughly $ 13,760. Then there is the public hospital confinement, the costs of which are borne by both the State and Federal governments under the cost sharing procedure- $900 for a six day confinement on the basis of an average cost of $ 1 50 per bed day occupancy in a public hospital. We are talking about a total cost of $76,000 as the alternative to the $67 involved in item 6469- abortion-type procedures. I repeat that I make that comparison only to dispose of the argument of the honourable member for Hume.
Let us stick to economics for a little while. The average cost for item 6469 is, I repeat, $67. The confinement cost to the Government for a birth is $900. More than that, if the honourable member for Hume were to be successful in his stated objective- that, very simply and crudely put by him, is that poor, distressed women can go to the public hospitals and either complete their confinements or have their abortions- the result would be a strain on limited public hospital facilities. It would mean that more maternity beds would be required and there would be more strain on the available professional and semiprofessional sources in the hospital in support of the increased demand for maternity beds. At least initially there would be compensatory contraction in the services which could be provided for the non-maternity sector. He says that poorer women can go to public hospitals for abortiontype operations.
Let me assure honourable members, as one who has had some experience in administering public health services, as a Minister of the Government, that it just would not work out as simply as that. By and large, our large public hospitals are under heavy strain in providing services. If they found an upsurge in demand for abortion-type procedures because people were forced away from abortion clinics as a result of the elimination of this benefit or were unable to afford private hospitals, then the hospital authorities would have to make a very tough but necessary decision. Simply, they would have to limit, if not eliminate, the abortion-type procedures which otherwise would have been provided at the hospitals. Whichever way one looks at the matter, distress and disruption would be caused. But, if one wants to talk about financial comparisons, or crudely and vulgarly about the economics of the matter and ignore rights, then the economics are dead against the proposition which has been put forward by the honourable member for Hume and overwhelm the arguments that he has put in support of that proposition.
I wish to move on to the health rights of people because for me that is the most important proposition involved in this debate. My simple principle is the same as that of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), that where the procedures are legal there ought to be medical benefits cover for them under the health insurance schedule. We do not want to be a party to backdoor rigging of the law in the most objectionable way imaginable. It is objectionable because apart from any other factor it will discriminate most against those least able to bear with that sort of discrimination- the poor, the distressed and the overwrought. The House has heard from some medical practitioners in the last 24 hours about their experiences in this area. I found them rather harrowing and disturbing. I wish to draw on some practical experiences that I had when I was a member of the police force and came in contact with women who had to resort to back street abortions. I saw some of the harrowing and demeaning experiences of those women, most usually young girls who were overwhelmed with the distress and what they believed to be the shame of the situations with which they were confronted.
I mention in passing that this was one of several influences that led me to introduce the supporting mother’s allowance when I became Minister for Social Security. I remember one case of a young lass who had had an abortion in the kitchen of a run-down tenement in a back part of Spring Hill in Brisbane, something like a quarter of a century ago. It was a particularly run-down area. The abortion was literally carried out with a knitting needle on the kitchen table. She was given a rolled up towel to stuff between her teeth to save her from screaming and disturbing the neighbours. When it was finished she paid the fee; the money was put under the lino on the table and she had to stumble out. Weeks later she was still having trouble with vaginal haemorrhaging which she could not regulate or control. Because of the shame she felt, she could not confide in her family doctor or her family. I do not like being emotional about that sort of thing; it is scarcely the way to try to win an argument on such an important matter. But I find I cannot be but emotional because that is only one of many experiences that I came across in real, practical life. It is nasty, demeaning and distressing. I wish some of the people who tried to prevent women from exercising what I believe to be a proper right had had some of these experiences. They might then have more sensitivity about the rights of those people.
Where is this sort of thing going to end? The honourable member for Hume draws an analogy between the amputation of a healthy hand and an abortion. The analogy is not relevant. First, the amputation is a serious assault; it is carried out with authority. If carried out without authority it would be highly unethical for the medical practitioner to perform it. Put that to one side. A person who wanted a healthy hand amputated clearly would be mentally disturbed not because he had a healthy hand but because of some other problem or disorder. A person who is pregnant may well be mentally disturbed not because she is pregnant but because of the implications of that pregnancy. There can be many causes for that disturbance. In that situation I do not believe that there is an analogy between a healthy hand and an unhealthy physical and mental condition which arises from a pregnancy directly causing those sons of problems. That is one aspect of it. There is a range of justifiable reasons for abortions- matters like the physical and mental health of the person involved and their social welfare, which is not unimportant. Also, let us consider the severe case of genetic malformation such as an encephalic delivery which can be established by an amniotic fluid test. In many cases a person in that situation would not want to go on with the delivery.
There are many legal but controversial procedures covered under health insurance, such as tonsillectomies, circumcisions, vasectomies and cosmetic surgery. To be consistent these also ought to be challenged, so where do we end up? Do we allow the Jehovah’s Witnesses to decide that blood transfusions should no longer be covered by health insurance benefits because they object to them on moral grounds? I completely reject all of these arguments that have been put forward by the opponents to the benefits presently provided. I wholeheartedly support the proposition which has been put forward by the honourable member for McMillan. I wish I could present more arguments in support of what I believe to be an eminently proper proposition that he has brought before the House.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– Not exactly; I misrepresented somebody else. I wish to put the record straight. In the course of my speech in the Grievance Debate this morning I referred to certain aspects of Australian Labor Party policy on housing. Looking through the Hansard greens a few moments ago I noticed that I attributed certain remarks to the honourable member for Tangney. That was a mistake and I apologise to the honourable member. In respect of Australian Labor Party housing policy I used the quotation which stated:
Australians were brainwashed into believing that owning one ‘s home is the Australian thing to do.
Of course, the quotation was made in this House by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), not the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack).
-Order! I believe the honourable member has made his point. I do not want him to canvass the issue.
– As I said, I apologise to the honourable member for Tangney for this slip of the tongue. I have asked Hansard to make the necessary amendments to the record of my speech.
– He is still not quite right. When I made that statement I was the member for Tangney.
-Order! I call the Minister for Health.
– Whilst I support the general approach of the Lusher motion, as it will be historically known, I am concerned about some important aspects of the motion. Firstly, the written declaration required of doctors for the purpose of claiming benefits would result in the medical account and the declaration being submitted to health funds acting as agents for the Commonwealth medical benefit. Such a declaration would pass through the hands of doctors’ staff, into the hands of the patient, into the hands of the health fund acting as an agent for the Commonwealth, and ultimately to the Department of Health. This process not only cuts across the historical confidentiality that has protected the confidential aspects of health care of a patient. I think it also endangers the privacy of the patient, herself. However, I can understand the reasons for deep concern about both the spiritual and moral consequences of turning a blind eye to the increasing number of abortions being performed in Australia. It is for that reason that I will be lending my support to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). I am deeply concerned that conservative estimates suggest that there could be between 60,000 and 70,000 abortions carried out in Australia in 1979. Indeed, there were 50,900 claims for benefits under item 6469 alone in 1977-78. To that figure must be added other procedures carried out under other item numbers and in public wards of recognised hospitals where these procedures are cost-shared between the Commonwealth and State governments. The preliminary figure for live births in Australia from 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978 is 226,364. Therefore, if 60,000 abortions were performed in that period, and I contend that there have been a lot more, one pregnancy in five is being aborted. Apart from religious and moral principles, and whether one believes abortion is murder or not, there are quite significant economic and social implications in this development. Firstly, the number of registered births has declined every year since 1971. From 1 July 1970 to 30 June 1971 there were 271,295 live births in this country, yet from 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978 there were 226,346 live births. The 1 97 1 figure of natural increase was 165,712 and the 1977 figure of natural increase was 117,501, representing a fall of 29. 1 per cent in that six year period. It is a disturbing fact of life that in this country, due to abortion and other forms of contraception, the natural increase in this great country of ours is falling. I am alarmed that for every four live births in Australia there is now one abortion. The rate is about 2Vi times the rate in the United Kingdom and, as somebody said yesterday in this House, we probably have in this country the highest proportion of abortions to live births of any country in the Western world. Surely that must be a matter of great concern to Australian people generally.
Unfortunately, this House is debating a motion relating to the payment of benefits for abortion because the State governments have failed miserably to administer the laws that prevent the occurrence of abortion on demand. One of the great culprit States is my home State of New South Wales, where there are numerous abortion clinics, some of them run by private enterprise and others by non-profit-making organisations. The State governments have ignored consistently what is going on in regard to the carrying out of abortions on demand. That attitude has helped in the proliferation of abortion in this country. I firmly support the view advanced yesterday by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart). The Commonwealth Government has taken its initiatives to stop these activities in areas under its jurisdiction. In the Australian Capital Territory, for instance, we have moved successfully to prohibit the establishment of free-standing abortion clinics. In the Australian Capital Territory, abortions can be carried out in our public hospitals under fairly strict conditions. Last year the Fraser Government gave to health insurance funds the right to delete items for abortion from their schedules. I believe that the Government has lived up to its responsibilities, and it is high time that the State governments faced up to theirs.
In regard to those disadvantaged women who require an abortion to protect their lives, benefits would be paid if they were bulk billed by their doctors as long as they conformed to the terms of the motion. However, one would presume that disadvantaged persons who could not afford to pay the premium- I say this because there has been so much argument that the motion will harm disadvantaged women- would not be privately insured in most circumstances. Where an abortion was necessary to protect such a woman’s life, she would be eligible to obtain a gynaecological procedure resulting in the termination of pregnancy in a hospital standard ward at no cost to her, the cost being shared equally between the Commonwealth and State governments. I believe that it is quite fallacious to say that a disadvantaged woman who had occasion to have such a procedure would be discriminated against under the terms of the amendment 1 am supporting. On the other hand, the wealthy woman using a clinic for the purpose of an abortion that did not conform to these criteria, a woman who is seeking an abortion primarily to satisfy her own convenience, would not be eligible to receive benefits, particularly if she were privately insured. However, if there were sound medical reasons why an abortion was necessary to protect her life, she would be entitled to receive benefits in the same way as any other woman in that circumstance.
The increasing number of abortions since 1971 has brought its own socio-economic problems to our society. The House will recall that about seven years ago Dr Ehrlich came to this country to demolish the populate or perish myth, as he called it. Dr Ehrlich dramatically warned us in a well orchestrated and horrific manner that the world faced the prospect of over-population. He urged us to improve birth control and family planning procedures. His dramatic warning sold his book, spread a wave of concern throughout our community, and caused a minor ripple in developing countries, where over-population is a real problem. In a quite remarkable manner, Australia’s population growth rate began to decline until today we are heading rapidly for a zero growth rate. Thus, all our population predictions for the year 2000 are to be changed. Even the shorter term projections have had to be amended. Our planners have been thrown into confusion. Our earlier manpower projections for many professions, including the medical profession, and many trades are now astray. We are facing a surplus of teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and so on.
The fact that fewer babies are being born alive is also contributing to unemployment for one important reason. More married women are either entering the work force or remaining longer in the work force, thus withholding some job opportunities that would otherwise be available to those single females who seek to enter the work force on leaving school. Fewer babies are being born not only because of abortion but because of the pill and other family planning devices and methods. Family planning procedures, including abortion, undoubtedly are allowing more married women to remain in the work force. Although extra jobs have been created during the past three years, the increase in these jobs has not been sufficient to meet the increasing number of married women and school leavers seeking jobs. During the same period, abortions have prevented the live births of 150,000 to 200,000 children. Add to that the pregnancies prevented by other methods and one can appreciate the extent to which family planning is affecting the socio-economic balance of this country. In the long term, the consequences of the loss of this human potential and potential consumer demand will be reflected in fewer employment opportunities in this country unless we are prepared to engage in a massive immigration program to try to fill this great land of ours. It is true that they will not come on to the labour market, but the natural increase in population needs to be serviced with housing, schools, hospitals and consumer goods.
– Are you talking about humans or sheep?
– I am talking about human beings, not babies that are chucked into a waste paper bin. The provision of these requirements means the provision of jobs. In spite of the emotional arguments for easy abortion laws that are advanced by some people, there is little justification for the public funding of those abortions that are performed for the convenience of the mother. It is abundantly clear that the inclusion of item 6469 on the medical benefits schedule has led to the escalation of abortion and of increasing costs to the public purse. I firmly believe that the medical profession and those who have invested in abortion clinics have lobbied sufficiently with the profession in order to have item 6469 put on the schedule to meet their demand and also to help pay the benefits for the services that they are prepared to render. I think there is sufficient evidence to prove that since item 6469 went on to the schedule there has been a substantial increase in the number of abortions performed in this country. This also has been reflected to a very large extent by the great decline in the natural increase of the Australian population. It is therefore essential that the Government impose limitations and qualifications on the payment of benefits for abortion.
I refer to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell where he states that benefits shall not be paid by the Commonwealth for termination of pregnancy unless the termination is performed to protect the mother when her life is endangered by a physical pathological condition, and so it goes on.
This Parliament should find some difficulty in condoning the high incidence of abortions in
Australia, and the circumstances that have encouraged its proliferation, while the community collectively bears the cost. The Parliament now has the chance to restore a sense of personal responsibility in the community by imposing strict conditions on the payment of benefits for the termination of pregnancy. I believe that the conditions which are spelt out in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell provide sufficient grounds for exemption to cover the cases where compassion should be applied. The present openended arrangement has encouraged a sense of moral irresponsibility at the financial expense of the community as a whole.
– The following amendment to the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has been received from the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) and seconded by the honourable member for Herbert ( Mr Dean):
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘This House is of the opinion that medical benefits should not be provided by the Commonwealth for any surgical procedure unless such surgery is certified to be medically essential to the health of the patient and is performed in accordance with the la w of a State or Territory. ‘
-No one can regard with equanimity the appalling volume of abortions at present being undertaken in Australia. No one can express pleasure at the millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money being used to finance this practice which arouses such deep concern among so many decent Australians. The question for this House is what should be done about the situation. What is the proper duty of this House? If the matter is purely one of finance, then there is no doubt that this House has a responsibility in the sense that taxpayers’ money is used through the health system to fund abortions. As the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) quite rightly pointed out, an abortion is discretionary surgery rather than necessary surgery in the great majority of cases. Like a face-lift or a hair transplant it is not, in most cases, a necessary operation that is essential for the sake of the health of the patient. If financial considerations rather than morality are the issue, then an abortion cannot be distinguished from other optional surgery and it cannot be singled out for discriminatory attack.
In my view the situation with public health in this nation has now reached the point where we must decide whether taxpayers should continue to be asked to dig deeply into their pockets to finance the enormous bill involved in nonessential surgery. Should someone who wants such surgery and its associated services really have the right to demand that their neighbours should pay for it? It is about time that the nation’s obligation to provide a health service to all without discriminating between rich and poor should be reflected properly in providing a real health service which meets the health needs of the community, rather than an expensive luxury which in many cases panders to people’s desires- to their wants, rather than to thenneeds. It is amazing how desirable surgery can become to some people when their neighbours are paying for it. On a financial score, there is no doubt about the merit in excluding discretionary surgery such as abortions, hair transplants and face-lifts from the medical benefits table. But it must be all or nothing. On financial grounds there is no way in which abortions can be singled out for special treatment.
In that case, the only justification for special treatment would have to be on moral grounds. But the morality or otherwise of abortions is not a matter on which this House is competent to decide. In the first place, any expression of its views is not only irrelevant in that it does not have legislative power to take a moral legislative view on abortion, but also any attempts to do so would involve a subversion of the rights of sovereign States in this area. The case against abortion on demand is a strong one, but it has not been strong enough to sway the legislators in those governments which have the sovereign rights to legislate on this matter, or indeed to enforce existing legislation that is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. No pun is intended. It is improper for anyone to endeavour to use this House to subvert the sovereign rights of the States by imposing a discriminatory restraint on the rights of individuals to have abortions. This would involve the use of the back door’ method in seeking to control funds for abortions. For example it is as improper as using federal export powers to impose environmental restraints on States. It intrigues me to see that so many members of this House who objected to the use of export power in that case are prepared to support a similar proportion in this case.
One of the main reasons I joined the Liberal Party was my very strong opposition to the concentration of power in Canberra as the Whitlam Government set out deliberately to subvert and destroy the independence of the States. I regard that concentration of power as a threat to the maintenance of the democratic traditions of this nation. I have constantly maintained that view and cannot, in conscience, be associated in any way with any attempts to subvert State sovereignty. If a strong body of opinion which objects to abortion has been unable to convince the State parliaments; if it is not the majority view in the various States; if, at no stage, it has effectively been able to raise this as an election issue; and if there has at no stage been any expression of public view on this matter by way of referendum, then there is no justification whatsoever for this vocal, well meaning, honest and decent minority to endeavour to use the back door- by way of this Parliament- to impose its view on the community.
I find it personally unfortunate that only recently there was a State election in New South Wales where none of the candidates were subjected to any of the pressures to which I have been subjected in the last month or so. Yet the New South Wales Parliament is the one with jurisdiction over abortions. It is the Parliament which decides the rights and wrongs of whether they should take place. I am disappointed that the present campaigners who sought not to play a major part in the recent New South Wales election have been involved in what can only be regarded as threats to me in terms of electoral support at the next election, when, in fact I have no proper legislative capacity in this matter whatsoever. The motion we are debating is an expression of opinion and nothing more. What a shame the organisers of this enormous campaign have chosen to direct their power towards getting an expression of opinion and nothing more from a parliament with no rights in the matter, rather than to do something that would be practical and useful to its cause; that is, to influence the State parliaments to either introduce additional laws in respect of abortion, or to impose and make certain the existing laws work.
There is no doubt that in most States the law relating to abortion is held in contempt. Most abortions are, effectively, on demand. If the people of Australia do not like that situation, they should do something about seeing that the law relating to abortion is enforced, and I urge those who have organised the anti-abortion campaign in this Parliament to establish the extent to which they do have popular support throughout Australia. This is a democracy. I regard it as an undemocratic procedure that this House of Parliament, with not one woman member, with no mandate, and with no direct power in relation to abortions, should be asked to subvert the rightful duties of State governments elected by the majority of voters in those States. No matter how meritorious is the case against abortion, I reject the implications in the Lusher motion that the end justifies a most improper means. As a result, I ask honourable members to support the amendment that has been circulated in my name, which reads: . . this House is or the opinion that medical benefits should not be provided by the Commonwealth for any surgical procedure -
Which includes abortions- unless such surgery is certified to be medically essential to the health of the patient and is performed in accordance with the law of a State or Territory.
I think the purpose of my amendment is selfevident. It seeks to avoid discrimination against any section of the community, particularly women. I submit to the House that what has been presented in this debate so far is discriminatory in all matters. I believe that this House does not have the power or the right to impose a view, for better or for worse, upon the States, which have the duty to introduce and administer laws in respect of abortion. I urge the House to give my amendment its support.
– I support the motion of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) or the amendment of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), which is the same in principle. I reject the amendment of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) and that of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). If it were necessary to do so to avoid the defeat of the motion, I would support the amendment of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). I know that many members of the House have been subjected to pressures from different groups in the community. In some cases, those pressures amounted almost to intimidation. It has been said that the way an honourable member votes may be used against him electorally. It is my opinion that the members of the Australian public are too sophisticated and too intelligent to be beguiled into venting their spleen upon any member of this House at election time because of the way he votes in relation to this Bill. It is a conscience vote and I think that the members of the Australian public are mature enough to realise that. I do not believe it would be a consideration in their minds at a general election. I would point out that any groups which have used such tactics as could be called intimidation will not be able to have their way.
As far as the substance of the issue is concerned, I am opposed to abortion on demand, although I believe there are certain circumstances in which abortions are justified. However, in New South Wales, with which I am more familiar, and perhaps Victoria the fact of life is that abortion is available on demand. The law has fallen into disregard or disrepute. I would have more respect for some of the honourable members who are urging the defeat of the motion if they were prepared to rise in this House and say that they in fact support abortion on demand. A number of honourable members have in fact said that they are opposed to abortion on demand and yet logically are arguing for it.
The evidence, at least in relation to one substantial clinic, is that the main reasons persons have gone to have abortions are as follows: Firstly, in 32 per cent of the cases it was felt that future plans might be impaired by a child being born to the mother; secondly, in 35 per cent of the cases it was felt that there would be additional financial strain on the rest of the family; thirdly, in 1 7 per cent of the cases it was felt that the girl concerned was too young or too immature to deal with a child; and, fourthly, that in 5 per cent of the cases the woman was pregnant to a man other than her husband. Those cases are not matters involving a medical consideration; they are matters involving convenience.
In the electorate of St George there is a clinic that is the subject of many complaints. It is close to the airport. Large numbers of women come to the airport from many different places, including other countries, and it is said that those women have abortions in that clinic and then leave. Women from other parts of New South Wales come to the clinic. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who is the shadow Minister for Health, has said in this House that he believes that many of those who run the abortion clinics are crooks. I remind honourable members of the report of the royal commission in England into their abortion Act, which produced irrefutable evidence of a most unseemly state of affairs arising in England following the introduction of what was in fact abortion on demand. Those clinics that are acting improperly, and in breach of the law, are providing abortion on demand right now. There is no way that 60,000 abortions each year could be described as being within the rulings of Mr Justice Menhennitt and Judge Levine. It therefore falls upon this House to determine its view in relation to the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of termination of pregnancy.
In my opinion the House is entitled to tighten up the situation, particularly in view of the expression of opinion in 1973 and the fact that subsequently, by administrative action, item 6469 was introduced, which resulted in a very great increase in the number of abortions that were being carried out. Although there are some difficulties with the Lusher motion, I support its general tenor. I would support the Hyde amendment because it overcomes the problem of certification with regard to the Lusher motion. On the other hand it may be possible to provide some reasonable and proper means of checking. That could be dealt with at a later time.
As far as the States are concerned, I think it is most important to realise that the public hospitals would provide a service for the poor person. It has been said that there is nothing more than a transfer of the use of taxpayers’ funds from one area to another. I want to deal briefly with the public hospitals question. The Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria was good enough to write to all honourable members. Following further correspondence it sent me another letter. It is perfectly plain from its letter that it is concerned about the lack of facilities to perform all the abortions that it believes it may have to perform if there is a restriction on the medical benefits payment. However, it has not addressed itself to the possibility that the number of persons seeking abortions might be reduced if there is a change to the requirement; nor has it really addressed itself to the fact that if it were put back onto public hospitals to carry out abortions for persons who were impecunious, one would expect the State governments to have to make an appropriate decision as to whether facilities should be provided.
There are 1,000 spare hospital beds in the inner-metropolitan area of Sydney. That is an irrefutable fact. It has been announced by the State Minister for Health on a number of occasions. As there are 1,000 unused hospital beds, the argument of those honourable members who say that there would be insufficient facilities in the public hospitals seems to wear a little thin. It is a fact that in South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory abortion is not legal unless it is performed in a public hospital. In those places the system does not seem to have fallen apart at the seams. It is also a fact that under the schedule of fees of the present medical benefits scheme there are three fees that would involve the ordinary patient in having to pay a $20 subscription in any case. So the ordinary patient would have to pay $60, plus a little extra for the cost of blood tests and the like. The patient would have to pay over $60 in any case unless the doctor declares the patient to be disadvantaged and takes advantage of the bulk billing procedures.
I cannot believe that the majority of the persons involved in the very large number of abortions that have been carried out in clinics and on which there has been a claim against the Government would come within the general criteria of disadvantaged under the new system. Those who did not come under the criteria of disadvantaged would save by going to a public hospital. They would pay nothing. In regard to those determined as being disadvantaged, I answer the honourable members who criticise the public hospital concept by saying: If the responsibility is put back on the public hospitals State authorities will have to actually determine whether or not and to what extent they will expend public moneys for these purposes. When the State which has control of the law and control of the public hospitals as well as control of the administration of both these elements is able fully to make a decision, such a State legislature will become responsible to the people who wish to lobby to it for either more liberal abortions or more restrictive abortions.
A very great debate is taking place in the community at present. As I have said, I believe that the law at least in New South Wales is in disrepute and that a racket and a ripoff are being operated by some of the abortion clinics. We will never solve the community debate on this issue while there is a trade-off between State and Federal parliaments. We do not have power over the law. We have certain limited powers in respect of medical benefit schedules. If this matter came under the province of State governments which have legal power in respect of the criminal law, financial power in respect of their own public hospitals and administrative capability in respect of facilities in public hospitals, I believe that the issue could well be forced in each State. Those who are opposed to abortion can demonstrate their arguments to the State governments. Those who want more liberal abortions can demonstrate their arguments to the State governments. A government with full control of the situation could make a decision.
Right now the Commonwealth is a scapegoat for New South Wales, for example, to get itself off the hook. It just will not order any prosecutions at all. No prosecutions are ever brought to test the position. It relies on the fact that federal funding is available to turn a blind eye and to say to those persons who wish to have more restrictions that it is not in control of the situation. I believe that if the community debate on this extremely important issue is to be brought to a head it ought to be done in circumstances in which competent State authorities with overall control of the matter can be responsible to their electors. Their electors will then produce pressure which will determine the issue. I believe it is appropriate for honourable members to support the motion or the amendments as they see fit. I, therefore, will be supporting the motion.
-I oppose the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). I would like to say something on the question of pressure. We have all been subjected to pressure. Perhaps the Parliament is made a healthier place when the people of Australia get out of their torpor and start to tell us what they think about things. Perhaps it makes us the healthiest possible parliament when we resist them, when we do not agree with them no matter what the electoral cost may appear to be. However, I suspect that on this issue the public of Australia would probably vote against the motion of the honourable member for Hume. I am basing that assumption on some gallup polls taken at various times. I hope that each member will make his decision on the merits of the case.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) asked whether anybody would stand up and say that he believed in abortion on demand. I believe that in the position I take it can be described as demand, request or necessity, with the question of necessity being decided by the mother in conjunction with the doctor. Whatever words we wish may be used but I believe that in this context it is an unreal use of the English language to use the word ‘demand’ in this context. Probably we should say that it is abortion on request as a result of a necessity imposed upon the family situation or the mother as a result of her own decision. Honourable members can use any definition they like. I have outlined where I stand. I will support people in their right to obtain abortions.
I refer rather briefly to the astonishing speech of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). He seemed to think that population growth was a necessity to keep the machines in the factories of Australia moving. I do not believe that the Minister has a proper appreciation of population trends which have resulted from movements going back into the 1 930s. The big increase which occurred in the birth rate in the immediate post-war period has produced various population waves ever since. I also understood, from what he said, that he thought that item 6469, which is the evacuation of the gravid uterus, should be removed from the medical benefit schedule, but he did not talk about other items such as curettes or aspirations. He was worried about the money, apparently. I believe, however, that he is a man of real morality. It would be unfair to attribute all his remarks to his worry about money.
I am deeply disappointed with the form in which this motion has been brought before the House and at the way in which the Parliament has chosen to bring it forward giving it priority over other more important matters. It looks to me perhaps to be a political gambit on the pan of some of the members of the Government. I wish that there was no need for abortions. Many of us wish that we had had larger families. We are speaking here of the result of the most intractable of human emotions- the sexual relationship. To deny medical benefits for abortions is to place a moral judgment on the matter and on other people ‘s behaviour and to condemn people for misjudging matters of this sort. How many of us are capable of doing so? How many of us have the qualifications, as a result of our behaviour throughout life, to pass that kind of judgment? Let those without sin cast the first stone.
I think that this is the most callous and retrogressive proposition that has been put to this House for many a day. It is an appeal to the most unworthy of human emotions. It involves meanness about money spent on other people. It is true that all of us share a common ethic, philosophy and morality, but the logic of the situation seems to escape us. We are all in favour of the sanctity of life. We are all in favour of the amelioration of the human lot, but we all pose different gradations upon how far we will take it. Throughout my public career I have devoted my efforts to the amelioration of the suffering of other people wheresoever I could do so. I hope, along with other members of this House, that I have been able to do so. I accept a responsibility for other people. The question involved may well be whether we are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers. We are. People have been asking why they should pay for abortions when they hold a very strong conviction against them. I pay for treatment for alcoholism. It costs this country- in all sorts of ways- perhaps $ 1,000m a year. I do not drink; I wish other people did not drink. We pay for people’s treatment for lung cancer that has been induced by smoking. What kind of community would we be if we did not pay for such things? We pay for the maintenance of prisoners who have committed dreadful crimes. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the view that people should not pay for things over which they have no responsibility.
I agree with honourable members who have doubts about how to define where life starts. Some say that life starts from the moment of conception. I do not think that the word ‘life’ can be used in the sense in which it has been used in this debate. We are talking about an entity of some sort which eventually will be a human life. I will leave to the medical profession the decision about the time at which a termination of pregnancy can be undertaken. I do not think that many members of this House are qualified to make a firm decision about that question.
If we took the logic of the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume to its conclusion, what would we do about it? What sort of motion should be before the House? Should there be a return to the 17th and 18th century attitude to abortion; that in fact abortion is murder or at least manslaughter and that we should bring down laws to that effect? I could respect people who did that but it will not be done. Of course, if that were the case we would have to carry out pregnancy tests, just as we do for TB, to make sure that we catch everybody in the net. We are not going to do that. Of course we are not. If we took seriously the expressions that have been heard on this issue from honourable members from both sides of the House, that is what we would do. We will not do it. The more civilised approach would be to introduce more adequate family support systems. We do not do that either.
What has this Government done on this question during the last three years? I look into every area of social and family support and see what has happened. Honourable members opposite have taken steps to reduce the capacity of families to handle the added child. What did they do to the Public Service in respect of the maternity and paternity leave provisions? What have they done in relation to the rental of houses? We all have a responsibility for that in this capital city. Rentals have more than doubled in the last three and a half years. What have we done with the most deprived people in the community, the Aboriginal people of Australia? Honourable members should read the report giving the figures for housing, for instance. Housing surely must go to the heart of the family matter. Expenditure of Commonwealth funds on housing for Aboriginals increased from $2.3m in 1968-69 to a peak of $45.3m in 1975-76 and that figure is now back to $40. 3m. I would have some respect for honourable members who support the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume if consistently they had supported programs for family support and treated it as a vital matter in this Parliament. We should be doing something for mothers and for children. We should be providing child care centres and the whole array of social security systems.
Honourable members have agreed mostly to try to take no more than 10 minutes while speaking in this debate. There are many things that I would like to say. Let us take a look at the figures quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). Of abortions performed in South Australia, 27 per cent are procured by women under the age of 19 years- some of these women are under the age of 16 years- and 49 per cent are single. How could those people handle the situation unless there was some total change in the community? Such a situation is the product of a new and permissive society. As I said earlier, I regret that people feel the need for abortion but I can understand it. I represent a community which includes the first victims of changes in economic affairs. I suggest that honourable members read an article published recently in the Melbourne Herald. It is headed Taking the Lift to Despair’. It is an account of life in housing commission flats. How could people living on the 12th or 15th floor of a building face the prospect of another child when perhaps they already have two or three children?
I think this motion is a reversion to the old idea that we pay for our sins and we pay heavily. It is one of the misfortunes of human affairs that the people who are likely to be the most seriously victimised in these matters are the women in the first instance and the poor in the second. But I have been around long enough, I have been associated with public affairs long enough, to know that it is not only the poor who need assistance in these matters. For the well-off people, I suppose the amount of money is not of great significance. But for nearly everybody else it is. Do not let any member of this House believe that if something is costing only $150 in these times it does not really matter. To the family person, every cent matters. I hope therefore that honourable members will consider this matter long and hard. If any honourable member has an amendment to support the proposition of the honourable member for Hume which will bring the matter closer to reality, then let him move it and demand that the Government bring in family support systems adequate to the situation of a person who is faced with a family she cannot possibly support. I refer to the unemployed, Aboriginals, certain migrants, the single person and the person who is the victim of unfortunate emotions. I hope that the House will reject the motion.
-I rise to support the motion before the Chair. I do not do so lightly but after long and careful consideration and after long and lengthy discussions with many people, discussions which have revealed wide differences of opinion even within my own family and amongst my own friends. Before addressing myself to the motion I wish to thank all those people within the community, on both sides of this argument, who have taken the trouble to contact me personally, by telephone, by letter or by telegram expressing their views. I want them all to know that I have given each and every one of their representations the most careful and heartsearching consideration.
My position on this motion can be stated simply. If a person believes that something is fundamentally morally wrong, it must follow as a matter of logic that it is equally fundamentally morally wrong for taxpayers’ money to be appropriated to give effect to it. My position with respect to abortion is stated, if I might say so, in one of the finest speeches ever delivered in this Federal Parliament. It was delivered on 10 May 1973 by the most distinguished former honourable member for Fremantle, the Hon. Kim Beazley. I heard him make that speech as I was driving my motor car. I remind the chamber today of what he said back in 1973:
Innocent human life, in whatever stage of development, should be secure from the very first moment of its existence from any direct and wilful attack. This is the essential right of the human person . . . It is as valid a legal and human right for the life still hidden in the womb of its mother as it is for the life already born and proceeding with an existence independently of the mother. It is not a matter of belief that the embryo is a human person. It is a matter of knowledge that the embryo state is part of human growth . . . abortion used as a deliberate means of destroying a life, and not as a means of saving a life, is a grave attack upon the inviolability of human life.
What he said in the next passage I shall quote has come home only so forcibly to an Australia approaching the 1 980s. Mr Beazley said:
The wide spread assertion of the need for such methods of contraception-by-killing is the measure of the degree to which social values have become callous and ruthless.
I want also to refer to another outstanding speech, again by a Western Australian, a member of this House who spoke only yesterday. I refer the House to the speech of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde). I shall read part of that speech and adopt it as my submission as to the fundamental prime point of the motion before the Chair. The honourable member for Moore said this:
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.
The honourable member for Moore concluded his memorable speech with these words:
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.
A few days ago Cardinal Sir James Freeman referred to an abortion mentality which has arisen within our society. These words are strikingly similar to those used by Mr Beazley when he referred to contraception by killing and social values being callous and ruthless. As an Australian, I find it a matter of regret that our nation has one of the worst abortion records in the civilised world today. On a conservative estimate 80,000 terminations of pregnancy are carried out in Australia per annum. What are my sources? They are 50,000 recognised, reported and medical benefit funded abortions; 1 10,000 dilatations and curettages, of which 30,000 are terminations of pregnancies. So we have 80,000 terminations in a population of 14 million. What is the position in the United Kingdom which has a population of 40 million?
– Fifty million.
-Thank you, 50 million. Last year the figure was 1 10,000. That one out of every four pregnancies ends in abortion is something of which this nation cannot and should not be proud. That in one State of Australia 40 per cent of pregnancies of women aged between 15 and 19 years resulted in abortion, providing a ratio of one abortion for every 1 .5 births, again is a matter of shame. That a mother can come into my parliamentary office and tell me that her 19- year-old daughter has just had her third abortion, after she had been counselled and advised by people whose identity would be well known to honourable members in this House, I believe is a matter of which I as a Federal member of parliament cannot be proud.
It is bad enough that we appear to be on a path of national self-genocide, but how much worse it is that, while over 80,000 unborn Australians never see the light of day, thousands of parents around Australia are denied the opportunity of adoption. Those thousands of parents could provide magnificent Australian homes for magnificent Australian children who will never be born. How can we face those people when they are told that they have to wait three, four or five years and at the same time be part of a government which funds the slaughter of the unborn? I believe that respect for human life is the only thing that distinguishes a civilised society from the animal kingdom and the barbarians. I believe that the vote that will be taken today is not a vote on rich versus poor; it is a vote on right versus wrong. The decision taken by this House will be an indication to the people of Australia of the value which we are prepared to place upon human life.
I adopt the arguments of the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) in seconding the motion. I ask the question: Who will speak for the unborn child, other than the members of this Parliament? Who will put the case for the foetus? I want to draw an analogy between the situation of a man on trial for his life and that of a foetus. I am a barrister. I have lived in a State where in my lifetime, under a Labor government, a man has been hanged for murder. What sort of defence did that man have? He and others who have been executed in Australia had the best available legal representation. They had a fair trial before a judge and a jury. Everything possible was said on their behalf. Many were acquitted. Some were convicted and some were hanged but nobody could say that any man was hanged without a fair trial.
Some years ago in Hobart a part-Aboriginal serving a long sentence in prison was charged with a serious assault on a warder. It was quite clear that, if convicted, he would have received a sentence of five to 10 years. It was a very serious matter. He said: ‘I did not assault the warder; the warder assaulted me’. In that trial I asked the jury: ‘Who else other than you, the jury, will be standing by prepared to protect and defend this prisoner? If you are not prepared to defend him, who else will? What sort of life will he have in prison if he is convicted?’ I believe that it is the duty of this Parliament and of this nation to recognise that for too long in the abortion debate the rights of the foetus have been ignored and overlooked by people who were duty bound to uphold those rights. Whilst I fully recognise the logic and the sincerity of the point of view put by honourable members who have taken in this debate a view different from my own, the rights of the mother should be considered. I plead that the right of the foetus be considered. It is a matter of regret that a profession for which I have had respect has not stood on its hindlegs and honoured something which is not just symbolic of the Hippocratic oath but is pan of the teaching of Hippocrates upon which the medical profession has existed for 24 centuries.
Today’s vote in this Parliament is the first step to restoring here and now in the national Parliament some of the real values of human life, of saying to the community that we stand for those who have the rights to live. For those reasons, without any equivocation or qualification, this motion has my complete and wholehearted support.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ellicott) adjourned.
-I seek leave to make a short statement on the announcement of the New South Wales Government this afternoon of moves towards having a 3714-hour week.
– Has any arrangement been made with the Opposition? Have we been given any indication of what you are about to say? Will we have an opportunity to reply to this statement?
– Leave has been granted. I should make it clear that the Government will have no objection to a response from the Opposition of the same duration as the period for which I speak.
– But what is the subject?
– I have given the House the subject. I do not have a written text of my remarks but I would like to take advantage of the leave that has been given me. Today the New South Wales Government, through the Minister for Industrial Relations in that State, made an announcement which offered thousands of electricity employees in that State a 37V4-hour week. I want to make it clear to this Parliament that the Commonwealth Government unreservedly condemns this irresponsible action by the New South Wales Government. It is a decision and an action which is totally against the national interest. Its implications for wages policy and for general economic recovery in the Australian community are enormous. Australia cannot afford a 3714-hour week, let alone a 35-hour week, for which this particular decision will obviously create pressure.
This decision is not and cannot be limited to the electricity employees in New South Wales. It is a decision which will flow on and in relation to which there will be pressures for it to flow on to other sections of the community. It will not help the unemployed people in New South Wales or in any other part of Australia. It will add to labour costs in New South Wales and throughout Australia. It will lead to greater inflationary pressures in the Australian community. By this irresponsible cave-in the New South Wales Government has forfeited any claim to a pursuit of a responsible wages policy. The Wran Government in New South Wales has caved in in a fashion that its predecessor government, as my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) knows better than any person in this House, was not prepared to do. This decision will put at risk the already fragile degree of wage restraint in the Australian community.
I make it clear to the House that this Government cannot idly stand by and allow irresponsible decisions of a State government to undermine national economic policy. The House, the Australian community and all State governments are aware that Commonwealth financial assistance to the States comes in a variety of forms. Within the assistance provided by the Commonwealth Government there is significant flexibility as far as decision-making at the Commonwealth level is concerned. I make it quite clear that, in making future decisions about the level of assistance to be given to the States by the Commonwealth Government, this Government will not ignore the implications of irresponsible decisions made by individual State governments.
In particular, I make it quite clear that there is no way that this Government will go on supporting a guaranteed formula for general revenue payments or tax sharing which enables a State to receive an automatic adjustment for cost increases which result from that State’s irresponsible decisions. The decision made by the New South Wales Government is a very serious and adverse one. It strikes at the basis of any semblance of a responsible wages policy for the community. It will create pressures for a flow-on of that decision to other sections of the community. The decision made by the New South Wales Government is irresponsible. It is an abandonment of any claim by that Government to responsible economic management and moderate, middle-of-the road policies. It is a decision which ought to receive the unanimous condemnation of this House. I present the following paper:
New South Wales State Electricity Commission- Grant of 3716-hour Working Week- Ministerial Statement, 22 March 1979.
Motion ( by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-First of all, I protest in the strongest terms at the way in which the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has brought this matter before the House. He failed to observe the normal courtesies that have been observed here since the Parliament was brought into existence, including the courtesy when a statement is to be made on behalf of the Government of informing the Opposition beforehand. This should be so particularly when a Minister of the status of the Treasurer is seeking leave to make a statement from a representative of the Opposition who is sitting at the table at the time. Instead of interrupting the debate on the abortion issue, as the Treasurer did, he could have allowed us a few minutes to let us at least discover what subject he wanted to bring before the House so that we could determine whether we would grant such leave.
We have had no opportunity to consider the context in which that decision was made by the relevant Minister of the New South Wales Government. We had no advance knowledge of this matter. We know nothing about the case which has been put by the New South Wales Minister to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But we do know that there are certain incontrovertible facts, including the fact that as long ago as 1941 the hours worked weekly moved from 48 to 44 hours and that in 1 947 they moved from 44 to 40 hours. Now, 32 years later, when the greatest technological advances that this country has even known have been made, we have seen the usual response from a conservative government when blue-collar workers seek a reduction in the number of hours which they are required to work. How many white collar workers in this country are now working 40 hours a week? Not only do they have enormously better conditions in which to work, but also none of them works more than 35 hours a week. That is the sort of context in which we ought to be looking at a decision such as this.
On behalf of the Labor Opposition, I declare that we believe in the need for a proper wages and incomes policy. In line with our suggestion that the economy requires stimulus, we believe that it is absolutely essential that that stimulus be provided in the context of an incomes policy so that we do not ricochet into an inflationary situation. At a time when the Commonwealth Public Service- the Public Service over which this Government presides- is working only 36 hours a week, we are not prepared on the spur of the moment to condemn a decision made by the New South Wales Government on the matter of the hours required to be worked. I repeat what I said when I began: A more considered response to this statement will be given when we have had time to look at the arguments put in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission hearing in New South Wales by the relevant State Minister. But the facts which I have given are incontrovertible. If the Treasurer wants to wax loud in an emotional way, as he did about this decision concerning blue collar workers, it is up to him to say something about the Commonwealth public servants working 36 hours a week and to make a change to that. What we want, first of all, is to be allowed the courtesy of being given an opportunity to study the matter which is before us. Next, we want consistency in this Government’s wages policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– I present the seventh report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Publications, sitting in conference with the Senate Standing Committee on Publications. Copies of the report will be circulated to honourable members in the chamber.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– The previous speaker in the debate on the termination of pregnancy, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), made the comment that we are here to decide between right and wrong. The problem before us is a very complex one and one which does not easily lend itself to lines being drawn, as I shall indicate. This debate really is not a debate about who is in favour of abortion and who is not. I have listened to a number of honourable members address this chamber and so far all of them seem to be against abortion. But I do not think that this is really a debate about that issue. Each one of us is asked to exercise a vote of conscience. I am not too sure what that means because I hope that each of us, as legislators, exercises his conscience in everything that he does. However, I hope that we will exercise our vote on this issue as legislators with a conscience. We should bear in mind all the time that the function of this Parliament is to legislate and not to pass motions in relation to matters about which we may have little or no power. We are to be wise legislators and, I hope, legislators with a conscience.
In relation to the matters that have been raised in this debate, I hope that every one of us has a deep belief in the sanctity of life. Clearly, we cannot logically claim that there is no life in a foetus; obviously there is. For instance, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) would not be with us if, as a foetus, his life had been terminated. We would then have been deprived of his presence. In other words, if we talk about the right of the foetus or the right to life, logically we cannot argue that there is no life in a foetus because there is life in a foetus and the foetus ought to be allowed to live if that is conceivably- if I may use that term- possible. Then again, the rights of women are involved. I hope that none of us would readily say that the rights of women should not be taken into account. Obviously one does. A woman is very personally involved. I would hope every one of us would take that into account.
One hears stories that women more or less rush in to a surgery, hop up on the table and that is the end of it. I think those of us who know of women or young girls who might have wanted to lose a child will understand the trauma of those occasions. We know they are not just simple occasions and that women do not do the sort of thing that some people imagine to be done on the spur of the moment. As I have said, an abortion is a traumatic experience. I would think it is an experience that affects those who are uneducated and inarticulate more than it affects, say, the more educated and wealthier members of the community. That is just an observation which I believe to be correct.
I think the social implications are relevant. For instance, honourable members would know that there has been a decline in the number of babies available for adoption. I believe that every one of us ought to be concerned about young childless couples who would like to adopt a child. There is no doubt that an excessive number of abortions has the effect of depriving those young couples of children. I believe that everyone of us would be rationally attracted to these propositions; none of us would really deny their validity.
The first question I find difficult to answer is where to draw the line. I do not think that any member of this House wants abortion in a way that is unprincipled, and I use the word ‘unprincipled’ in the sense that one would not want to draw a line somewhere. Obviously the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) would draw it at the life of the mother. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) also would draw the line at this point. But the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) would draw the line at protection of life, rape, incest and disease expected to result in the deformity of the child. The Menhennitt ruling that was adopted by the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) goes even further. The South Australian legislation goes a little further still. The fact is that a different line is being drawn in each of these combinations of principles and attitudes. I hope that everyone who in effect holds views about where to draw the line is a man or woman of conscience.
This place does not have a woman member but that does not mean that we do not discuss matters relating to women. I do not agree with the argument on this matter that I think was put by the honourable member for Hindmarsh and others. We must take into account the effect of this motion on women. Although we are people of principle, we draw the line at different places. I ask honourable members to bear that in mind because we all hold bona fide beliefs yet have different attitudes. The fact is that different bona fide attitudes are held in different States. The attitude in New South Wales is possibly a little wider than that held in Victoria because of the Levine judgment. The attitude in South Australia is probably wider than that in New South Wales because of that State’s abortion laws. The result is, of course, that the line has been drawn at different places.
Therefore, I want to say at the beginning, and almost at the end, of my remarks that it is a matter first of all of drawing the line so that one can make a judgment as to what is proper and what is not proper. Wherever we draw it will not be a matter of common acceptance. Yet different lines will be drawn by different men and women of principle. For example, the Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn takes one view; the Anglican Bishop takes another view. Am I to say that they are not each men of conscience? Of course not. Both of them are men of conscience and great principle. I hope that we will see it that way in our approach to the problem.
I would like to explain my approach to the problem so that my constituents know where I stand. I take the view that the Menhennitt ruling together with the Levine ruling draws the line in a proper way. I think that this is what the right honourable member for Lowe said yesterday. These rulings indicate the point where I believe that the various interests are appropriately resolved- that is, the sanctity of life, the protection of the woman and the social implications of abortion. I take the position determined by the Menhennitt and Levine rulings. However, other honourable member may take a narrower or wider view. I want to indicate to my electorate that I accept what is the law in New South Wales. I believe it is a reasonable assessment of the situation and takes into account all the principles.
Having said how difficult it is to draw the line, I would like to ask a question- how does one draw the line. Traditionally the line has been drawn by reference to criminal action and by criminal sanction. This is the only way it could ever be drawn. I do not believe that the line can be drawn by the use of a medical benefits schedule. I would be more attracted to such a proposition if it were practicable, but I do not believe it would work. For instance, if the line was drawn at the place where the honourable member for Hume wants to draw it, one would need a certification procedure. The honourable member faces up to this requirement and he has included it in his motion. However, the honourable member for Moore has excised that provision in his motion because it worries him a lot. That does not get rid of the problem because the problem is still there. One still has to have a system of proving that the test laid down by the honourable member for Hume has been satisfied and one can only do that with some form of evidence or some sort of certification. Therefore one immediately involves a question of evidence and just imagine the difficulty of proof that would be involved. Supposing a certificate is rejected. What would one do? Would one appeal to some tribunal on a matter which is basically a matter of the criminal law? Of course one could not do that. It is just unthinkable that one could introduce into the medical benefits area criminal sanctions and criminal standards of proof.
I should think under the existing situation that if a certificate comes from a doctor one should presume that he has acted within the law. Many honourable members will say that doctors are not acting within the law. All I suggest to them is that they bring pressure to bear on their State governments because it is the State governments which should implement the State laws. The reason why this is happening is because nobody will in effect bite the bullet. No one will face up to the real problem. I must say that to some extent- and I am not embracing the content of its law- South Australia has done this. But there has really been no attempt anywhere to implement a law based on the Menhennitt and Levine rulings.
The only way to have an effective system is to put those principles into legislation and to require every woman who wishes an abortion to appear before two doctors, get the appropriate certificate and then have the abortion. One could then enforce the criminal law against those doctors, nurses and others who carry out abortions outside those rules. That is the only way to have an effective system. But legislators will not face up to this. Honourable members know that this legislature cannot face up to that issue because except for the Australian Capital Territory it does not have the power. The result is, of course, that the motion is not really practicable.
I know that the motion has been moved with a great sense of principle. I understand the feeling of the honourable members involved, but it should be understood that I am in the Commonwealth Parliament. I have to support legislation and when, as a member of the Government, I go into the Cabinet room I have to decide, with other Ministers, whether such things are practicable. I know that this is not practicable. I know that I would be fooling my Catholic friends who want this motion passed if I were to suggest to them that I could recommend to the Government in the Cabinet room that it could have such legislation. As an honest and conscientious legislator I have to say that although I embrace the Menhennitt ruling, although I am against abortion, and although I understand the sanctity of the foetus, the rights of women and the social implications of abortion, I cannot in conscience support the motion. It is not a matter of conscience in the sense of some religious attitude. I cannot in conscience, in the sense of being an honest legislator, support the motion that is before this House because I do not believe that it could be implemented by any government, whatever its affiliation and regardless of whether it was made up of people who were all of the same view as to what the principle should be for drawing the line.
– I am pleased to enter this debate. There is to be a conscience vote. Ever since I became a member of Parliament I have been wondering what a conscience vote is. Tonight I may have the opportunity to prove what a conscience vote is. Irrespective of the arguments that have been promoted, this motion is about abortion. I speak according to my conscience and I am going to vote accordingly. Not one person in this wide world will change that vote. For the first time in six years the House of Representive is to vote on the question of public funding for abortion. The motion before the House states in part:
That this House requests the Government to introduce legislation which will provide that-
medical benefits shall not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancy unless the termination was performed to protect life of the mother from a physical pathological condition and that the life could be protected in no other way ….
I support that motion. Who reasonably can oppose which seeks to uphold the right to life of an unborn child while safeguarding the mother’s equal right to survive?
Since 1974 some 250,000 unborn babies have been aborted in Australia since private abortion clinics have been operating in Melbourne and Sydney. An estimated 60,000 innocent and defenceless unborn children are terminated each year. They are children that Australia cannot afford to lose. One in four is aborted. I believe that they should have the chance to live. Australia is faced with a low population growth for the next 20 years. In the five years between 1971 and 1976 our natural population growth suffered a 30 per cent drop. What has happened to this country? We have a higher proportion of abortions to births than any other country. If taxpayers are forced to continue to subsidise the transfer of thousands of the present generation into the incinerator the present trend towards zero population growth will be accelerated. We will be faced with a situation whereby an increasing number of older people will need to be supported by a dwindling number of working aged people.
We live in a democracy in which the Government provides protection for the weak, the sick, the handicapped and the elderly. It should not be called upon to provide funds to kill the smallest and weakest of all human beings, the most defenceless members of our society. Last year alone over $5m of taxpayers money was paid out for abortions. The abortion industry flourishes secure in the knowledge that the Government will pay. It is essential that we educate people about contraception and family planning. To cut off the funds for this sick trade in human life must be the first step towards affording protection for our unborn children. We must accept that every abortion kills a baby and that legislation should be available to give the baby legal protection before birth. A first step would be the elimination of medical benefits for anti-life procedures. The money saved could go to pregnancy support services which provide counselling and help mothers suffering psychological or physical problems during pregnancy.
I have received many letters from single mothers. They are sincere letters that I would like to table in this House, but because of their confidentiality I cannot do so. These mothers have told me exactly how they feel now that they have children of their own after they did not accept the advice to have their children aborted. I was reared by a single parent. I am just one person who had the opportunity to survive and I am here in this House trying to defend that right for the 60,000 children who are aborted each year. Surely they should have the right to life. They should have the right to be citizens of Australia and help it become a better nation. It is a sick nation at the moment when one in four children is being aborted.
The arguments defending abortion payments for the poor are cynical and socially completely unacceptable. Poverty will not be overcome by eliminating the poor or the children of the poor. Killing is no solution to human problems. This Parliament should stand firm in the defence of human life. The money now used to subsidise abortions should be diverted to pregnancy support services. Abortion funding has no place on the schedule of medical benefits. Many women argue this way: Whilst they are involved, why should men make decisions involving the lives of many women in this private and sensitive area? I apologise for the fact that, we have not got more women in this Parliament who probably could assist us in making these difficult and sensitive decisions that are going to affect many thousands of young people. Many members of this Parliament, like me, have been brought up to oppose abortion on demand and to fight it until it is outlawed in this country. I would like to say something to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Last night it called someone a Labor Catholic. I am a Liberal Catholic and I do not care who the ABC tells that to. I make that point and I make it quite strongly.
The provision of medical benefits for abortion is only serving to endorse and encourage the practice of abortion. There is no conflict with me. It is my right, based on my religious belief, to vote in support of the Lusher motion. I think of all the married couples in Australia who could afford but are unable to adopt babies which would bring them joy and happiness and who would provide them with an opportunity to participate in this wonderful nation and add to the wonderful institution that we call the family. I am afraid the family is being eroded because of many fundamental things occurring in our society. The family is everything. Everybody seems to be thinking of some other alternative to the family, but it never succeeds. Other countries have tried it. Socialist countries have tried it. But the family structure has meaning. It is the best system that anybody could ever produce to be the saviour of this country. There are many families in Australia that could adopt young children and give them the family love that they so richly deserve and need. To the young unmarried mothers who are in this terrible predicament- I feel for them; we all feel for them- I say: ‘Be careful. Take your time. Get the best advice. Do not take that initial advice that will affect you, your life and your way of living for the rest of your days’.
This is a conscience vote. Not one member of this House should be pressured, and I do not think anybody has been pressured. I think one honourable member said today that he talked to various groups. Surely that is what the parliamentary system is all about- to hear points of view. Nobody has pressured me- not one person. I have received letters and I have talked to certain people. I have talked to members of the Right to Life organisation. It is a fine, wonderful organisation. Things have been said about the Right to Life organisation that are completely untrue. It is talking about the right of the unborn child to live and be part of this society. I have listened to people who have talked in favour of the other side of the argument. They have their point of view. We have taken that into consideration. But tonight there is to be a conscience vote. The only thing I am wild about is that a political commentator telephoned me today and said that 58 per cent of the people in my electorate say that I should not support the Lusher motion. He indicated that they had said that it would be politically unwise for me to support it and that I should change my decision. This is a conscience vote. If honourable members will vote according to their conscience they will disregard that type of thing. Do honourable members agree with that?
I am conscious of the filth of rape, incest and all the other atrocities committed against young women but that does not outweigh the right to live, the right to be born and take a chance in this complicated world. I have five lovely daughters and I am conscious all the time of the danger to them. I feel it all the time. It could happen to them; it could happen to anyone. I take that into consideration and I outweigh it with the points that I hope I have made. Each day the world becomes more selfish. We have the most selfish country in the world. We have the highest number of elderly people in nursing homes. Many people today cannot wait to get rid of them. They do not want children; they would rather have a dog and a cat because it is easier to look after them. They have simply to open a can of meat. They are rotten selfish and it is about time we started to talk more about the fundamental things that are eroding life in this country, decaying it and making it not a very good place in which to live.
-This debate is an unfortunate debate because it will be seen by the community outside as a debate about abortion. The fact is that the motion that the House is really debating and on which honourable members will vote has nothing to do with the legality or otherwise of abortions. Under certain circumstances abortion- not abortion on demand- is now legal in all States and the Territories, even in the Australian Capital Territory, where the present Liberal Government has the power to determine the laws. The real question on which honourable members have to vote, to quote the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), is about thirty pieces of silver. If honourable members vote for the motion before the chair they will be saying that the termination of pregnancy that is legally performed anywhere in Australia will not entitle a patient to draw a medical benefit to help her to pay for the legal and legitimate treatment unless she is prepared to divulge the details of her personal history to non-medical bureaucrats completely unknown to her and, at the same time, her doctor is prepared to act as the tool to this destruction of confidentiality by providing very personal details of his patient to faceless bureaucrats. In the process the doctor has to surrender a traditional right- a right I value and I am sure all honourable members value when it comes to their personal treatment. In the words of a document circulated by the Australian Medical Association:
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.
On the question of confidentiality, the AMA has pointed out its general position that the confidential relationship between the patient and the doctor should not be broken by disclosing details of this nature to a third party, and that Mr Lusher’s proposal would mainly affect women not seeking a termination of pregnancy. It is their case histories which would have to be revealed to Government before benefits would be paid on items that could relate to termination.
The AMA then points out that the benefits cannot be paid unless certification is provided in respect of 1 9 items, which it lists. It continues:
The majority of these procedures 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.
The certificate would state the actual purpose of the procedure, for example, investigation for suspected cancer of the uterus which could well result in unnecessary distress.
So the AMA puts it elegantly and with restraint. Let me put what this motion means in terms more easily understood by the layman. In particular, I address these remarks to those honourable members who are supporting the motion in the mistaken belief that it will simply stop some women from having legal abortions. I cite the example of a girl in her late teens- she could be the daughter of any one of us- who is having problems with her periods. A whole range of options is available to the doctor, including the prescribing of the pill and, of course, a procedure covered by this motion which is not a termination of pregnancy, but it could be. Imagine the knowing smiles and the snide comments such as: Some people, politicians certainly, could get a certificate for anything, but where there’s smoke there’s fire I always say’. The procedure is performed today and, of course, technically it still could be an abortion, but no one has specifically to question it and it is no-one’s business because it does not matter as far as medical benefits are concerned. But if certification is required it will become an interest of many people.
Now, take the example of the young woman who wants to have a baby but who cannot get pregnant, although she is trying to do so. A whole range of investigations is available to the doctor in his attempt to determine why pregnancy is not possible, including procedures covered by this motion. Imagine the embarrassment, pain and anguish and the knowing comments, such as: ‘Of course she was pregnant. They have been married for years and she looks healthy to me. She was popular with the men. She got pregnant and just did not want to spoil her figure and fun’, or, conversely: ‘There you are, you cannot tell, she looked normal to me’. Imagine the embarrassment in either case for the women concerned. I will not elaborate more on the problems of this age group. I shall come to the age group of many of our wives. There can be no argument that, in the biological sense, life is often not easy for many people, particularly as they pass their mid-forties. For many women this is so, and the problems are often specifically related to their sexual physiology and anatomy; their sex organs and how they function. To indicate the relevance to honourable members, I would hazard a guess that problems of this nature beset the wives- or mothers in the case of the few younger honourable members- of at least 30 members of this House and probably more. The problems will range from difficulties arising from menopause or its onset. It is popularly called the ‘change of life’. That very term surely can indicate to all honourable members its significance and in some cases the severity of its effects. Some anatomical problems, such as the aftermath of a difficult childbirth, take some time to manifest themselves.
The problem of tumours arises more commonly in this age group. Some of them will be cancer and some of them will not, but the anxiety suffered by the patient before a diagnosis is made is enormous. Like the other difficulties I have mentioned, all can require investigation and treatment by procedures covered by the motion the House is debating. Although rare, in some of these cases the patient could be pregnant and the result of investigation or treatment could result in an abortion being performed by the doctorconsciously, usually, and maybe occasionally unconsciously. Imagine the psychological problems in addition to the physical pain and discomfort inevitably associated with the medical problem. Imagine the burden on a woman facing the prospect of losing her sexuality in her eyes and, she would then fear, in the eyes of her husband. Imagine the fears for her life, in the first instance, and then her fears for the survival of her relationship if she sees herself as a non-woman.
In giving these examples I am not saying that I believe in the assumptions on which far too many women and men make judgments which give rise to these fears. Even if I think they are wrong, the fears, the anxiety, the destructive effects on the women and their family relationships are all too real all too often. To add to all these burdens, this motion is seeking to add loss of confidentiality and all that can flow from that. I ask those honourable members who support this motion please to think again, to think for themselves, about themselves. If their wives or mothers were affected in the ways I have suggested, and those would be the vast majority of cases where the procedures covered by this motion would arise, that is, where there is no pregnancy, how many of them could say honestly that they would not really mind if the confidentiality between them, their wives and their doctors was broken? How many of them have bothered to ask their wives what they would feel about it if they were affected? I could go on, but I hope that that is enough to cause them to pause and think again.
Are the few miserable dollars this motion might save the Federal Government worth the problems associated with its implementation? In addition to all the patient and immediate family burdens I have mentioned, how would it be implemented? How would we check up on the doctors to be certain that they are bothering to make sure that a woman is pregnant before they perform one of these procedures that are indicated for the range of conditions I have mentioned, which are not related to pregnancy, and I emphasise that? Will we require a sample from every curette performed, whether on its own or in association with all the other procedures in which the technique for abortion is used, to be sent to a pathologist for a report? Given what has happened over recent years with some pathology services, will we issue a proscribed list of pathologists or will we insist that all samples be sent to health department pathology services? In the very many cases where it will be a question of judgment as to whether or not a curette should have been performed, how will we assess the doctor’s judgment? Will we check up on it or will we be forced to rely on the doctor? If we check up on it, how will we do that? If we rely on the doctor’s judgment, as we do now- in my view, inevitably we have to- then what is the point of this motion if checking is impossible and would be only an expensive farce?
This motion is about money, not about abortion, but many are debating the issue of abortion. The motion will do nothing about the legality or otherwise of abortion, but most of the letters supporting the motion mention murder, the implication being that the payment of benefits would condone murder. The claim that abortion is the same as any other murder is based on the assumption that a foetus has the same independent existence and the same right to live as all other victims of murder. I question the assumption about the independence of the foetus. Once born, no matter how prematurely, I accept that the individual has all the rights most or all of us assume it has, even though a new born baby, and particularly a premature baby, in a practical sense is totally dependent on another person or other people, not necessarily its natural mother. Before birth the foetus is totally dependent in every way on one individual- its mother. That to me is a very basic difference from a child immediately after birth. Before birth we are confronted with a pregnant woman who also has rights, rights that might be in conflict with the rights of the foetus she carries within her. My assumption is that the carrying mother’s rights are paramount. Of course, I agree with any steps that might be taken to support a pregnant woman and enable her successfully to give birth to a happy, healthy child.
On the question of abortion, I take the view that any individual woman has the right of access to comprehensive medical care. If, in the particular circumstances relating to any woman, after full examination and the advice of legally qualified medical practitioners, the conscientiously advised course of treatment involves termination of pregnancy, then that treatment should be provided in a properly licensed and managed hospital and should entitle the patient to draw the medical benefit to help cover the cost of treatment.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, before dinner I was discussing the indications for abortion and indicating that if, under particular circumstances, it was conscientiously suggested that any woman after full medical examination should require termination of her pregnancy, then in my view she should be entitled to have it in a properly licensed and managed clinic or hospital and she should be able to draw medical benefits for it. I do not advocate that every child should have its tonsils removed, that everyone should have his appendix removed, or that every woman should have an abortion. Indeed, I strongly advise against all these procedures unless very strict indications are fulfilled. These indications cannot be assessed for any particular individual by preachers- whether political or religious- or by self-appointed custodians of public morality. Society has a right to, and does, lay down general guidelines within which those trained and licensed to practise are entitled to exert their independent judgment in advising their individual patients. If one is opposed to termination of pregnancy then I assume that that individual, if female, would never avail herself of such treatment.
If a male were opposed to termination of pregnancy, I assume he would advise his pregnant companion or dependant to refuse such treatment, even if it might be necessary to save her life. I trust he would not force her against her own judgment, whatever that might be. I would never be so arrogant as to deprive a pregnant woman of the right to avail herself of such treatment. Nor would I deprive a male of the right to advise his female companion or dependant not to have a termination of pregnancy, no matter what my personal assessment might be. In like fashion, I refuse to assume the right to deprive others of the right to avail themselves of legally recommended medical treatment.
Views of morality are many and varied in both time and place. In view of this enormous diversity in the human family, I refuse to assume the right to dictate what morality is, although as a politician I am actively engaged in suggesting changes in morality in line with my own perceptions. Whilst I disagree with the views of prominent church men who have in recent days indicated their opposition to legally performed abortions, I do not disagree with their right to express their views. On an issue like this, I do not believe that any one view should be forced on everybody. In supporting the law as it stands at present it is not suggested that those who do not want abortions should be forced to have them. It is simply a question of the right of the individual to be free to avail herself, or not to avail herself, of legitimate medical treatment in the eyes of many people in this country. A clear majority- if one can judge from opinion polls between 1967 and 1974, and the latest poll which, as far as I know, was in 1974- of 80 per cent of the population supported legalised termination of pregnancy under the indications that are now accepted in all the States and Territories of the Commonwealth.
For those reasons I think it would be disastrous to support the Lusher motion. It will not change that law. As I mentioned in my speech earlier it will simply make the whole situation unworkable and impose enormous strains on people and on their relationships and it will reduce the confidentiality that should exist between patient and doctor.
– The following amendment has been received in relation to the termination of pregnancy motion from the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) and seconded by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnson):
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘This House-
is of the opinion that medical benefits should not be provided by the Commonwealth for the termination of pregnancy (i) unless the termination is performed (A) to protect the mother when her life is endangered by a physical medical condition, or (B) where it is certified by 3 medical practitioners that her mental health would otherwise be seriously endangered, or (ii) unless the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape, or 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; and
where applicable draws the attention of the State Parliaments to its opinion.
-Mr Speaker, I enter this debate deeply regretting the fact that there is no opportunity for women to have an input into this discussion now before us. In issues like this I can see the advantages that would occur if we had some female members of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, I have carefully considered the issues and listened to the debate. Although I have no hesitation in supporting the Lusher motion, I do recognise that some arguments exist for the legalisation of abortion. Particularly, I have some sympathies with the amendments which have been put forward. I ask honourable members to consider carefully the likely implications of this decision that they are going to take today, because I do not think it is an issue on just stopping the payments for abortions. I think that whatever decision this Parliament makes today will be something that all State parliaments and all law enforcement agencies throughout Australia will hide behind.
I do not think honourable members realise the seriousness of the implications that will come from this decision. Already the Premiers of two States have suggested to honourable members that they should vote in a particular way. I can foresee serious implications where people will hide behind the decision of this Federal Government. State law enforcement authorities will hide behind the decision, and I can see that if honourable members do not vote for the Lusher motion, abortions will continue in the present haphazard manner of today. I am sorry to say it, but I can almost visualise an abortion supermarket if the Lusher motion is not passed.
It is interesting to look at all the correspondence that honourable members have had. It has been vast. I have endeavoured to read as much of it as I possibly can. I suppose that the one piece of correspondence we should look at is one of the more authoritative is that which comes from the Australian Medical Association. It is rather interesting to see that in the letter which the Association sent out to members it admits that the views of its members on termination of pregnancy are as varied as those of the rest of the community.
We do have an important decision to make. In the time allocated it is impossible to speak on all the issues raised. However, I would like to dwell on a few that I feel have a major bearing on the subject. The political interference in the private lives of people should only be applied sparingly in extreme cases. Laws and regulations are needed, however, when it is necessary to protect people from each other. Of course today that is exactly what we are doing. We are trying to protect people from each other, because I do not think there is any doubt that we are dealing with a situation of a mother and a baby who still has life. It is rather interesting, when one looks at all the evidence that has been put before this Parliament by honourable members, that there is not really any shadow of doubt that life does begin soon after conception.
The passing of this motion will still enable doctors to freely exercise their judgment regarding the medical need of the patient, the mother. The life of the mother will still be protected from the effects of physical pathological condition. The Lusher motion allows for that. The AMA has also said that the acceptance of such a proposal, as it is moved here, will require doctors to provide health funds and the Government with a diagnosis of their patient’s condition where a claim is made for the termination of pregnancy. This claim is highly exaggerated and in fact such circumstances would only emerge in extreme and rare instances, if at all.
I should refer the House to the legislation which already exists in South Australia, where a form has to be completed by medical practitioners regarding the termination of pregnancy. There has been no complaint by the doctors in this regard. I do not see how they can bring up this bogy now. The Lusher motion ensures that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. But as I said, this motion goes far beyond that. I would think it appropriate to refer briefly to an article which appeared in a leading Sydney newspaper on 10 March. I want to switch to this article because it deals with the results of a survey supposedly conducted of Catholic women at St Vincents Hospital, Sydney, by a Dr J. A. Johnson. The article I refer to appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is headed: ‘Catholic Abortion Rate High’. I want to refer to this article because some members in this debate have already referred to it. I view this article and this survey with grave suspicion. Part of the article states:
The report compiled by Dr J. A. Johnson while research director of the Family Planning Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney . . .
In another part it goes on to say:
Dr Johnson, who has since resigned his post to direct a medical service in Glebe . . .
As I said, I regard this article with grave suspicion because I have evidence that shows first of all that Dr Johnson is not a doctor of medicine but a doctor of philosophy and a Dr Johnson was heavily involved in the proabortion campaign in 1977 in New Zealand. I have a letter from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. In part it reads: . . In 1977 the New Zealand Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion handed a report to Parliament which proposed that the unborn child was entitled to effective legal protection in any abortion laws laid down in this country.
The letter goes on to say:
During September and October 1977 a Dr Tony Johnson visited New Zealand and travelled around the country addressing meetings on behalf of NZ’s pro-abortion lobby.
This is the same Dr Johnson who did a survey at St Vincent’s Hospital, supposedly a survey of Catholic women, referring to their abortions. I have a newsletter from the Abortion Law Reform Association, Christchurch Branch, New Zealand. Under the heading ‘Recent Events’ it states:
The evening of 6 October saw the Ngaio Marsh Theatre filled to capacity for a combined . . . meeting.
The guest speaker was Dr Tony Johnson . . .
Again that is the same Dr Johnson who reported this supposed survey of Catholic women at St Vincent’s Hospital. I think that there are grounds to view this survey with grave suspicion. I come back to the issue before us at the moment. It is hard to condone the numbers of abortions that are taking place in Australia today- 60,000- when Australia has a need for population, when Australia has a birth rate which has shrunk to its lowest level. In 1977 there were only 16.08 births per 1,000 people, which is lower than the depression years of 1934. The abortion rate in Australia is two and a half times that of the United Kingdom. Australia’s abortion rate is the same as that of the United States where there is abortion on demand. I think it is a shame when we in Australia have families deprived of being able to have children and there are years and years of waiting to be able to adopt a child. We have a situation where out of a total population growth of 200,000-odd per annum, 60,000 babies are being slaughtered needlessly. I have sympathies for the mothers, I have sympathies for the surrounding circumstances when a lot of these abortions occur and a lot of babies are conceived, but it is very difficult to condone such a high rate of mass slaughter.
I have the misfortune of having an abortion clinic very close to my electorate. Called the Arncliffe Centre, it is across the road from the Rosslyn Private Hospital. On two days in February I was able to conduct a survey and view all the girls going into this centre. Between 30 and 35 girls go into this Arncliffe Centre each day. When I conducted this survey I wanted to check the connection between the Arncliffe centre and the Rosslyn Private Hospital. I was horrified to find that the Federal Government, because of the regulations under State laws, is subsidising the Rosslyn Private Hospital to the extent of $16 per day per bed. To back up the connection between the Rosslyn Private Hospital and the Arncliffe Centre I will cite my report of what happened each day. On 14 February between 8.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. 35 women entered the Centre. On 2 1 February between 8.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. 30 women entered the centre. Each day a group of girls went from the Rosslyn Private Hospital to the Arncliffe Centre. On 21 February one of these groups included five girls accompanied by a nurse. They went to the Centre at about 1 p.m. and at 3 p.m. three girls returned to the hospital.
I am horrified that we are paying money, $16 per day per bed, in an institution where abortions are being carried out. I give that as an example of the chaotic situation of the abortion industry in Australia today. Coming back to the original Lusher motion, I support it fully. I appeal to members of this Parliament: If you vote against the Lusher motion you are opening the gates to abortion throughout Australia. As I have said before, every State government will hide behind our decision. It is a decision we should consider carefully. We do not want to open the gates to abortion in Australia. We do not want an abortion supermarket.
-The Clerk has a proposed amendment to report.
– The amendment proposed is by Mr Short if Mr Simon’s amendment or Mr Baume ‘s amendment to Mr Lusher ‘s motion is agreed to. It reads:
That the following words be added to the motion, as amended:
But is also of the opinion that the Government should remove Item 6469 from the Medical Benefits Schedule.
-In 1973 when a proposal came before this House to legalise abortion on demand or abortion on requestthey are both the same- in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, I voted against it. I still hold that view as I believe that terminations of pregnancies cannot be utilised as another method of birth control. However, I also made it clear at that time that there were exceptions such as rape, incest and the life of the mother, et cetera. However, the Lusher motion goes far beyond this to an extreme. I therefore cannot support it. It provides for an abortion only in cases where the death of the mother in imminent. It does not even cover rape or incest, and there are other exceptions apart from those.
The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has had three bites at the cherry. The first motion he put on the notice paper provided for no exceptions whatsoever. He withdrew that and replaced it with another that gave the only exception as the imminent death of a mother. I emphasise the word ‘imminent’. He also withdrew that motion and replaced it with his latest motion that still provides for an abortion only if the life of the mother is at risk. Can he not make up his mind? Without doubt abortion on demand is being practised in some States, but this can be overcome only by the State legislatures concerned. That falls within the jurisdiction of the State legislatures.
It is therefore difficult to understand why the advocates of the Lusher motion always concentrate their efforts on Canberra when they should be calling upon the State governments either to challenge the Levine and Menhennitt rulings in the courts or to call upon those governments to legislate to outlaw abortion on demand by statute. They must know that even if the Lusher motion is carried it has virtually no chance of being put into practice. As the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) said: ‘Its intentions are administratively impracticable’. One could only say that it would create an administrative maze. This has been confirmed in discussions I have had with Department of Health officials. Why, then, do these people concentrate on the Federal Parliament when they should be concentrating on the State Parliaments? Is it that they like trips to Canberra? On the other hand, the honourable member for Hume talks of the cost to the Federal Government of item 6469. Yet he does not mention that his proposal would mean that women would go to the public hospitals and obtain abortions free of charge in public wards. He does not mention that the cost of this would mean even more expenditure of funds by the community than under the present procedures, as the Federal and State governments have to bear the costs of the public hospitals. In other words, the carriage of the Lusher motion would not reduce the number of abortions on demand.
I must say that I am rather attracted to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). However, unfortunately, it does not provide for the severe impairment of a mother’s mental health, particularly a mother who has a family already. Let us take the case of a woman who has, say, three young children, who becomes pregnant again and is then deserted by her husband. I would say that this type of case is an inhuman case. Unfortunately such cases are far too prevalent today. The worry from this additional pregnancy is such that the mother’s mental stability and physical health is so seriously affected that soon her three young children will not have any parent to care for them. What would happen in such a case? What about the case mentioned yesterday by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins)the case of a girl of 16 years of age who came to him, pregnant by her father? What should be done about that case?
There is another very important matter about which I wish to speak. Supporters of the Lusher motion speak of the cost to the Federal Government of terminations under item 6469 and the abortions on demand which are funded under that item. As I said before, abortion on demand is a very regrettable action which can be stopped only by the State legislatures. But what about providing those very important support services for pregnant women in need? What about providing an adequate living wage, counselling services and so on, for the mother on her own? Is this not one of the best means of ensuring that women do not have abortions and that they keep their children? But when the Whitlam Government provided the supporting mothers benefit for single women, conservatives in this community- the wowsers- went around saying that we were encouraging women to have children out of wedlock. To the contrary, we were helping young women to keep their children. We were helping to stop them being driven to having abortions. But can honourable members imagine this Government providing funds to improve and increase the support services for pregnant women? Of course not. To the contrary, only this financial year this Government cut down from 75 per cent to 50 per cent its allocation of block funds to the States for the community health program, the very program which provides some of these support services. That is the attitude of this Government, yet we have had this hypocrisy being spoken during the last two days in this Parliament.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Chifley refer to the motion.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, As I said before, I cannot support the Lusher motion. I consider that basically it is a dishonest motion. It is not looking at the real facts. It is trying to hide behind the question of cost the basic issue of abortion, which is not within the legislative province of this Parliament. For those reasons I will not support it. To the contrary, I will look very carefully at the various amendments which come forward in this Parliament. As late as just before I rose to speak in this debate a further amendment was distributed. I wish to look at it as well as the others that have come forward before I make my decision as to which amendment I will support.
– I wish very briefly to inform the House of my views. In doing so I do not intend to canvass all of the arguments which have been expressed so well already during the debate. There are few absolutes in life. I am not prepared to say that the gift of life should never be taken away. To say that would be to ignore the realities of life. If I am under attack and in risk of my life I am entitled to strike back to repel my assailant. A fatal strike might be justified if it could be said to be a reasonable reaction in the defence of my life or the life of my family or others close to me. There may be other limited circumstances in which it is not wrong to take a life. Nevertheless, it is right to consider life as a precious possession to be cherished by its beneficiary and to be respected and protected by others, more so if it be an innocent life. The life of an individual commences at the moment of conception, and from that moment onwards that individual is entitled to respect and protection because he or she possesses life and, before birth, is totally innocent.
Naturally, it is the mother who has the opportunity and primary natural responsibility during the pre-natal period to offer protection of that life. In truth it is, always has been and always will be a very personal issue for a mother. The fact is that the choice of protection or destruction is in practice a personal decision for the mother. But it is wrong to say that it is wholly personal, that it is her body and that no one else, especially a male, has any right to be involved. From conception onwards someone else is involved- an individual totally innocent and defenceless. Of course, no public law, no public directive, can shield that life from harm, but that does not mean that there is no public responsibility to assist and protect, within the means available, the mother and the unborn child. The questions of discrimination, social and economic stresses and the mental anguish of the mother must be weighed against the taking of life.
Some excellent contributions have been made during this debate. I know that honourable members from both sides of the House speaking both for and against the motion have spoken with sincerity and feeling. I was impressed especially by the comments of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) when he stressed the need for a positive approach to the abortion issue; in effect, that we should look to greater social support for the mother, and that we should give her an opportunity, by counselling, advice and economic support, to bear her child. As he said, no one really wants an abortion. I agree with him. Therefore I state my conviction that each human is innately equal and should have the opportunity of continued life subject only to the natural human right of self-defence. I express my opposition to the use of public funds for purposes inconsistent with that conviction. I support the original motion. Perhaps that motion is not ideal and will not be implemented easily. I recognise that others may, as a matter of their own consciences, consider other principles to be of greater importance. I cannot say that I am right and that they are wrong. I can only state my personal beliefs.
It has been said that an abortion is a State matter but here we are concerned with the use of Commonwealth funds to facilitate and perhaps encourage abortion. The State criminal laws and, similarly, the funds provided may influence the number of abortions. Are we to disregard that fact and disregard our beliefs in dealing with this motion? Where we have authority we have a corresponding responsibility. It has been suggested also that the issue before us is funding simpliciter and that the abortion issue is not really relevant. My colleague the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) made that point in his excellent and thoughtful speech but then went on to indicate his own attitude to the basic issue. I believe that the fundamental abortion issue is plainly relevant and basic to the motion before the House. Most speakers have argued that issue.
I appreciate the sensitivity of this matter. It certainly is a very personal issue as far as a mother is concerned. She has a tremendous responsibility and she, in fact, makes the decision. We can only stress on occasions such as this that the life of the unborn child is very important and cannot be treated as something without any real value or worth. The motion before us requires the most careful consideration of all honourable members because the decision of the House will certainly influence the attitudes of people in all parts of Australia.
– I oppose the motion. I do so because I believe that the motion has little to do with the general issue of abortion but much to do with the matter of funding. The motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) is punitive and piecemeal. It fails on both counts. It is punitive because it seeks to limit funds, believing that this alone is sufficient to deter abortion. It is piecemeal in that it is selective in its application. It does not deal with funds made available by the
Commonwealth and the States through the public hospital system. It is a case of selective indignation. I do not approve of abortion for contraceptive or convenience reasons. In fact, there are very few grounds on which I would approve of abortions taking place. I do not believe that governments in Australia should approve of convenience abortions. The imprimatur of State approval should not be given to such a practice.
Proponents of the motion argue that the payment of medical benefits for abortion has the Commonwealth condoning in a de facto way the practice of convenience or contraceptive abortion. This issue troubles me also. However, I feel that that can be the case only if free abortion is allowed under the law of the States. But it is not. It cannot be presumed that all abortions outside the criteria of the Lusher proposal are for convenience or contraceptive reasons. Whilst it may be true that the Menhennitt and Levine rulings are based on poor legal grounds, who can say that the Lusher criteria would in fact be better law? They completely exclude any mental health consideration, believing that health is to do only with the physical pathological condition. The mental health area is, I feel, the area of greatest abuse. Because in some cases it is legitimate, it remains the most difficult to tighten. Distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable abortion remains purely subjective, especially in respect of mental health.
On any of the criteria mentioned in the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume or the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) there is the requirement of certification by a doctor. In respect of any such certification there must be a right of challenge. The right of challenge to a doctor’s certification will involve criminal-type proceedings before a court to determine whether a medical benefit should be paid. It is obvious that if the question of the legality of abortion is to be resolved it should be determined by the merits of the issue and not on the peripheral matter of funding. Legislation would be difficult to draft and enact. This debate is but an expression of opinion to the Government. If either the Lusher or the Cadman proposal is carried I would be most surprised if the Government did anything at all to give legislative effect to such an expression by the House. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) as good as admitted earlier tonight in his contribution to the debate that the Government will do little about the problem. His solution, in the event of the Lusher or Cadman proposals being accepted, will be to remove item 6469 from the medical benefits schedule. That item relates to the following:
Evacuation of the gravid uterus by curettage or suction curettage not covered by items 6460/6464 from the medical benefits schedule and to leave doctors and patients to a benefit under 6460 which is a curette of uterus, with or without dilation including curettage or incomplete miscarriage.
The difference in cost to a patient between the two is $28. An abortion can just as easily be effected under item 6460 with item 6469 removed. I see the issue here as being primarily one of funding. It is more about money than morality. The responsibility rests with those opposed to free abortions- that includes me- to have the States enact new statutes dealing with abortions or to test the Menhennitt and Levine rulings in the Supreme Courts of the various States to establish in good law the rights of the foetus. Then and only then will any definitive view of what is legal be determined. Thus, Parliament can then decide which medical services should be funded and which, if any, should be at private cost.
It is for those reasons that I believe that the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) is more appropriate at this stage than the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume or, for that matter, the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell or other honourable members. Apparently the honourable member for Hume sees no moral distinction between a woman having an abortion as a privately insured person and a woman having an abortion as a standard ward patient in a public hospital. This neglect to the public ward abortion alone destroys the credibility of the Lusher proposal. The honourable member for Hume argued that there is no nexus between State legality and the obligation of the Commonwealth to pay benefits. What nexus does he see between privately insured abortion and publicly funded abortion? Apparently he sees no nexus.
No mention was made by the honourable member for Hume of the funding of expectant mothers during pregnancy and the financing of a mother and child after birth. There is no incentive for a doubting mother to maintain her pregnancy in the calculations of the honourable member for Hume. His approach is to penalise them- to make them pay and to give them nothing if they keep their babies. What a selective, unworthy approach that is. Removing a subsidy of some $50-odd will not stop the abortion practice. Abortion is an attitude problem and those with a moral objection to it need to do more to persuade women away from it.
Yesterday it was pointed out that there has not been one conviction for abortion in Australia in the last 20 years. Courts are not likely to be locking women up because they have aborted their children. The penal approach is very limited, probably useless. What is needed is an educative, supportive approach to encourage women away from this tragic option.
The Government worked a con trick on mothers by removing the breadwinner’s dependent deduction and lumping it together with the child endowment. Child endowment has rarely been increased. As a component of the family allowance it is not indexed and is pathetically inadequate. The Government has taken no positive steps to reduce the incidence of abortion. It has done nothing that represents any additional costs to itself to support and encourage family growth and cohesion. The Government leaves it to its back benchers to prick the public consciousness, albeit in a clumsy, inappropriate way. Regrettably, Australia is losing the impulse for social advance. Instead of maintaining the family it is killing it off to maintain living standards and what is deemed to be a desirable lifestyle. Abortion threatens the nation through the destruction of its children. Many people who have no moral yardstick look to the law for guidance. The stand of the law must be on the sanctity of human life. It is a standard that has to be reestablished in Australia. The law can and should make the correct declaration without resorting to an approach which is either monetary or purely penal.
-At 5.35 this afternoon the Treasurer (Mr Howard), accompanied by a number of other Ministers and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), came into the House and read a statement to the House on behalf of this Government scarifying the New South Wales Government for wanting to introduce a 3714-hour week for certain electrical power workers in that State. He made a number of very important statements. He stated that appropriate reparative action would be taken and that there would be reprisals on account of that action. What he did had important implications for this debate, too. The New South Wales Government has taken action, rightly or wrongly, which is within its legislative competence. It is within its industrial powers so to do. A statement was made by one of its Ministers about something applicable to its workers. The Commonwealth Government has made it quite clear that it will do everything it can to make the consequences of that action known, not only to electricity users in New South Wales but also to the rest of Australia.
This Government did not hold to the principle outlined in the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) and the amendment moved by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) to the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), namely, that whatever is legal in a State will be sanctified by the Commonwealth. Two of the amendments proposed to the original motion state that there will not be support for certain procedures unless those procedures are performed in accordance with the law of a State or territory. It was appropriate for the Commonwealth to make clear its intention to take reprisals or to take appropriate action in order that the cost of electricity was made known to the people of New South Wales but not in order to protect the lives of the unborn in some of the States of Australia. That is a magnificent example of double standards. Those double standards are inherent in a number of amendments that have been proposed in this debate and in a number of the speeches which have been made in support of the present law as it operates, in fact, in New South Wales and Victoria.
– That is nonsense.
– That is not nonsense because I read from the latter part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Macarthur, and his amendment seeks to have it both ways. So it is a schizophrenic attitude; it is one of double standards, and it ought to be seen as being one of double standards. If I need no other reason for doing so, I make it clear to the House that I will not be supporting the amendment of the honourable member for McMillan or the amendment of the honourable member for Macarthur. They are totally inappropriate.
When did all this start? I propose to have a look at the law. This started in August 1970. On that occasion Mr Whitlam, later to be Prime Minister, when speaking to the Federal Labor Women’s Conference in Brisbane, made it clear that he supported abortion on request. I do not argue with that. He pinned his flag to the mast. He made it clear what his beliefs were, and he did that before he got into power as well as after he was in power. But others did not pin their flags to the mast. We now know from the compendium of evidence which has been produced in this Parliament today and yesterday that in some States of Australia there is effective abortion on demand and abortion on request. We should not look at the hard cases; we should look at the 20,000 or so people who have abortions in Victoria. At least I can say that Mr Whitlam, the former Prime Minister, was honest. We knew his beliefs. Others have perpetrated the same actions by stealth, and it ought to be known that they have done it by stealth. Abortions on demand have certainly operated in New South Wales and in Victoria, and South Australia was honest enough to indicate what its actions were 10 years ago.
All that is proposed effectively by the Lusher motion is to say that this Parliament in 1973 said that it did not support and it would not support abortion on demand or on request. His motion asks that that resolution accompany the moral example which this Parliament must set in relation to the transfer of funds for which this Parliament is responsible. That is a fair and reasonable proposition.
I was fascinated by the fact that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart), who was the third speaker in this debate, tabled a joint opinion from counsel in Sydney. Mr Traill and Mr McCarthy are two respected counsel. Not one lawyer who has spoken in this debate has sought to dispute that opinion, and that opinion went to the heart of the doctrine of necessity. The honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) who spoke a little earlier this evening did not for one moment dispute the opinion of counsel which he has had for a day and a half. I ask: Why have no lawyers disputed that opinion? I can only come to the conclusion that it is indisputable. But what does it say and what does the doctrine of necessity on which the so-called Menhennitt rule rests actually say? In his ruling Menhennitt made his view on the doctrine of necessity quite clear. He said:
It appears to me that necessity is the appropriate principle to apply, which means that justification for the action rests on principles other than that of the precise law to which it pertains.
That goes to the heart of the matter. In other words, if I take out what I see as the heart of that ruling, he was saying this: The person committing the abortion is ‘innocent if he honestly believed on reasonable grounds that the act done by him was, in the circumstances, proportionate to the need to preserve the woman from danger to her physical and mental health’. The first part of the ruling is proportionate to the second part, but where the first part refers to the death of an unborn child, nothing that has been proposed should be put on the scales opposite that. I have listened to the debate for a day and a half and I have noticed that not one person who has indicated support for the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan- that is the important one- has said that there are circumstances in which an abortion will not occur. Nobody has said that the abortion will be illegal if the woman is wealthy, or if she is in the situation of having very few children, no children or one child. By a series of pin-pricking measures and by the outlining of a series of extraordinary situations, honourable members have sought to open the gateway and to allow total abortion on demand.
At least there are people who have always held that point of view. I respect my good friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), who has always held that point of view, and he has held it honestly. The former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, held that view, and held it honestly. Other honourable members who have spoken in the debate hold that view, and hold it honestly. However, I ask those honourable members who have not said that they support that view to examine what they are doing. We know what this doctrine of necessity means as it applies in Victoria. Victoria is an abortion on demand State. It is more liberal than South Australia. But what would be the situation were that doctrine to apply? Let us go back in time to some of the famous events which have occurred since World War II. If that doctrine were to apply, there would have been no Nuremburg war crimes trials; it would have been an implicit defence for a person who perpetrated some of those crimes to point to the proportionate and serious disadvantage to be visited upon him were he not to obey his superior commanders. That was not accepted. There would have been no Japanese war crimes trials if the doctrine of necessity, the doctrine of proportionate disadvantage, applied.
Let us go to an appropriate homely example. Let us take the case of a half a dozen young men joining in a gang rape and their being arraigned before the court. One of them says: ‘Your Honour, if I had not joined in what was being done I would have suffered serious disadvantage at the hands of my colleagues’. In his own terminology, he would have said: ‘I may have been belted up’. That is the doctrine of necessity. Would that doctrine be held seriously by any fair minded man? Of course it would not, and no court would hold it to be so; courts do not hold it to be so. But that is the doctrine which has been sanctified by those who say that the present situation deserves the financial and moral support of the Commonwealth. The Levine ruling in New South Wales has merely widened the application of the Menhennitt doctrine. So I ask the House to consider the multitude of social and sociological facts that have been put before it in the last day and a half, but also to consider the validity of the so-called ruling which has brought about the whole present unhappy situation.
I turn to one or two of the matters contained in the amendments which have been proposed. First of all, I turn to the amendment of the honourable member for Mitchell. I cannot support it and I will not support it. I ask honourable members to look at the last several lines of that amendment.
– That is quite hypocritical.
-To use the word ‘hypocritical’ is putting a frame of mind. It may be a genuine mistake, but I say it is wrong. It makes the point that the abortion will occur and can occur. The amendment reads in part: . . (b) the mother has been subject to disease or physical conditions which could reasonably be expected to result in serious deformity . . .
What do the words ‘physical conditions’ really mean? They are not denned. This is a gateway through which one could drive anything one liked. Many houses in Queensland are infested with cockroaches. Insecticides are used to control this pest which breeds rapidly in a tropical climate. A woman in the second month of pregnancy could use a strong insecticide on these pests. She could inhale the insecticide for a considerable time in a saturation atmosphere. Some would claim that these physical conditions could result in a deformity.
I will give another example. Insecticides are often sprayed by air on cane farms. People on the ground are often covered by this insecticide. According to evidence from some people at southern universities as well as the Queensland Institute of Technology the unborn babies of women who are subjected to the insecticide are liable to deformity. Although they may wash as soon as possible after contact with the spray, the risk still remains. Both of these conditions would apply to the physical conditions nominated in the amendment. The absurdity of the amendment has only to be stated to be immediately evident. I turn now to the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), which states: 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’.
Nowhere else does the Commonwealth hand over resources unless it has determined the conditions under which the resources will be used. This is the position in respect of education, health, hospitals and so on, but in this case there is to be an exception. This practice can be open slather in some States and not in others. There is a curious wedding to the principles of a quite distorted federalism- and it is a distorted federalism. I am afraid I find myself unwilling to support either motion. I do not intend to support either motion. The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) has circulated an amendment which incorporates a number of other amendments.
During the minute left to me in this debate I want to make it quite clear that in principle I will support the Lusher motion. I will support the amendment of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde). I will vote accordingly. I will vote against those amendments that I have indicated deserve to be voted against. I ask the House in considering the rest of the debate to go to the heart of the matter which is the validity of the Menhennitt ruling because that is the reason for this whole debate.
– Before I call the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) I would like to suggest to the House that at 10.30 p.m. the automatic adjournment be negated and that this debate continue until 1 1 p.m. I think at 1 1 p.m. we should proceed to the voting and do so without the necessity for a division. I have 20 names on my list. I also have indications from some honourable members who have moved amendments that they would like a short period to sum up or to express a view. If possible I will allow that course to be followed. I point out to all honourable members who have yet to speak that if they exceed a speaking time of five minutes the other honourable members who wish to speak will not have the opportunity to do so. However, if they restrict their remarks to five minutes we will be able to accommodate all of the remaining members who wish to speak as well as one or two honourable members who moved motions and who wish to make a point.
-There are 124 members of this House, all of whom are male, all of whom have their personal view of this issue, be it based on religious, moral or personal grounds. Here we sit, 124 men deliberating on what I see is essentially an issue between a woman and her doctor, a husband and wife and their doctor, a woman and boyfriend and a doctor or a teenager, her parents and their doctor. A lot has been said over the past weeks about the breaking of medical confidentiality or the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship. A lot has also been said about the effect that this motion, if passed, could have on a doctor’s judgment. A doctor’s judgment in my view should not be subject to the scrutiny of public servants. This motion, if passed, will discriminate against the less fortunate. It will force them once again into the hands of the backyard abortionist. It will make safe, sterile abortions inaccessible to women who so desperately need them- women on low incomes, women who have been raped, women with large families and women to whom an unwanted pregnancy threatens physical and mental health.
In 1970 a World Health Organisation report showed Australia to have the highest death rate due to abortion of all countries studied, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and West Germany. Do we want a return to this situation? Who stands to gain if this motion is passed and legislation is enacted? A few years ago I spoke in this House about those who had benefited from the system as it then existed, those who gained financially from the misfortune of others. In my 19 years in this House I have exposed a few rackets and have named a few individuals who have taken advantage of others. Some of these people were medical practitioners who were supposedly possessed of humanitarian qualities and were concerned about the health of their patients. The Commissioner of Taxation knows them well, and so do I.
There was a medical practitioner in Melbourne who under-estimated his income by $260,000 in two years. He was a Dr Heath who was prominent in the Kaye inquiry. An amount of $38,098 was involved in respect of Daphine Colbourne. There were those connected with the Heatherbrae Clinic in Bondi, Sydney, who were also charged with under-estimation of income. I exposed them to the House. People connected with the Heatherbrae Clinic were ultimately charged before the Sydney criminal courts. Out of that came Mr Justice Levine’s interpretation of the existing abortion law in Sydney which has been referred to on many occasions in this debate. The Heatherbrae Clinic was the largest professional illegal abortion clinic in the whole of Australia. The clinic virtually had the reputation of a willingness to abort a cat if it had an assurance that its nails were cut and its owner had $200 in cash. It was one of the most wicked rackets that had ever existed in this country. As I see it, the Lusher motion virtually wants to revert to this situation.
There are many more cases. One has to go only to the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation to find them. I will name a few. Dr Wall was charged in connection with his extensive practice at the Heatherbrae Clinic. He was mentioned in the 1970-71 report of the Commissioner of Taxation’s report as having an under-estimated income from abortion for the years 1962-63 and 1967-68 of $24,471. Dr Louis Wald who operated with him at the clinic also appears for understatement of income. Other medical practitioners prominent in the Kaye inquiry include a Dr James Gavin Troup who is mentioned as having an under-estimated taxable income of $105,534 for the years 1959-60 and 1965-66. Dr Fink is also featured. This professional abortionist under-estimated his income by $17,484. Mrs Molly Hearty operated as a receptionist in Sydney for two professional abortionists. According to the Commissioner of Taxation she under-estimated her income by $47,260. We all know of old Dr George Smart who is regarded as a lone operator in the illegal professional abortionist field. According to the Commissioner of Taxation he under-estimated his income by $29,368. Tonight I have mentioned but a few.
Do we want to see a return to the days of parasites such as these? I believe that the clinics run by Dr Wainer in Melbourne and Dr Davis in Sydney are run for the benefit of women who honestly believe, after a great deal of soulsearching, that a termination is the only answer. I do not believe that these clinics are operated so that those who administer them can enhance their own financial situations. I do not believe that women lightly take the decision to have an abortion, especially those of the Catholic faith. We know that the Church regards abortion as a grave sin. Recent reports in the Press tell us that each year between 10,000 and 15,000 Catholic women in Australia have abortions. Let us consider these statistics. A recent survey commissioned by the Catholic Church shows that of 200 Catholic women surveyed nearly all believed that abortion was morally wrong. However, they were firmly resolved to terminate their pregnancies. Only 3 per cent said that they would continue their pregnancies if no safe legal abortions were available. Eleven per cent said that they would be willing to abort themselves. Four per cent said that they would threaten suicide. Sixty-six per cent said that they would seek help for an abortion elsewhere, even from untrained people.
The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has said that one in four pregnancies ends in abortion. It is not true that included in the figures for abortions are those which occur by natural miscarriage. It is not true that hospitals classify and list a miscarriage as an abortion. I ask: How many abortions really are carried out in our hospitals? It often has been said in this House that I am the mouthpiece of Moscow; in recent weeks it often has been said around the House that the honourable member for Hume is the voice of the Vatican. On contemplation I often wish that a group of people with such dedication as the Right to Life group had been organised to protest at the killing of innocent humans in the so-called justifiable war in Vietnam. It is so easy to uphold the sanctity of life when the child is but a foetus and then later, so convenient to send that child to war to kill fellow human beings.
Last night when I sat in this chamber I was particularly moved by the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) when he said:
There is not one who has not released his passion upon the body of some woman.
In saying that he was referring to honourable members. I was surprised to note the reaction of the honourable member for Hume at that time. It was not embarrassment. There was an anxiety and a fleeting panic. I think the skeletons were rattling in the closet and if they rattle loud and long enough they will come tumbling out. In my 19 years in this place I have always tried to echo the feelings of the people in my electorate, the people of Hunter. Today I feel that in taking this stance I am doing as the majority would wish me to do. This subject is not one for decision by politicians and cardinals. Mr Claude Forell mirrors my view with the words he expressed in yesterday’s Melbourne Age. He said:
This foolish, futile and mischievous motion should be thrown out with the contempt it deserves. It is no substitute for a serious and constructive examination of a sensitive social problem.
- Mr Speaker, I will abide by your request earlier that honourable members minimise their contributions to allow as many honourable members as possible to contribute to the remaining portion of this debate. I have moved an amendment because when one studies the core of the Lusher motion, as it has become known, one sees that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) summed up the matter ably when he said:
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.
The honourable member for Hume intentionally restricts the matter to the medical benefit that is available and the circumstances under which it should be payable. I am quite sure that if he really believes in the words which he used he will accept that honourable members of this Parliament can have different views in relation to the phrase ‘under what circumstances ‘.
The honourable member for Hume believes that a medical benefit should be available only when the woman’s life is endangered. In 1973 some members now in this House indicated that they believed in abortion on demand; other members opposed abortion on demand. There are other members of this House who, whilst they opposed abortion on demand in 1973, simply cannot buy the terms of what is known as the Lusher motion. The variety of amendments which have been moved to this motion indicate the different views which really exist. Honourable members do not need to be reminded, in any case, of their personal traumas in deciding which amendment they are going to support or which they are going to oppose in the hope that the amendment in which they really believe will, to use the vernacular, get up.
I do not believe that any woman would allow herself to be aborted without seriously contemplating not only what would happen to her but also how she would feel for the rest of her life. That is one thing that no man in this Parliament, including me, can really understand. How does a woman feel about tomorrow as she places herself on that table? Tomorrow is the day after, the year after and the decade after. That is something that we really do not understand. Yet I do not condemn, as some have, the fact that men are passing judgment on this subject. I believe that we have a particular responsibility really to consider this subject. I defend the right of the honourable member for Hume to hold the views that he holds, but I do not defend any person who looks upon a person who will not support the Lusher motion as being a murderer. That has been said and honourable members on both sides of this House perhaps have been subject to that accusation- ‘You either support the Lusher motion or you are a murderer’.
I am proposing that there be a number of avenues whereby Commonwealth benefit would still be payable, including a situation where the mother’s fife has to be protected. That is in accordance with the Lusher view. However, I go on further to say that benefits should be payable where three medical practitioners certify that her mental health would otherwise be seriously endangered. Since I proposed this amendment some people have said: ‘You are opening a gate ‘. I believe that a mental attitude in some cases is ample reason. What this Parliament frequently forgets when considering a subject such as this is that it is not we here in Canberra who decide the State laws. They are decided away from here. The only power that we have- and this is questionable- is in relation to the payment of medical benefits. My amendment goes further and says that benefits should be payable in the case of a pregnancy which results from incest or rape. That view is supported by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) and others. My amendment concludes with a reference to deformed children. I realise that six minutes have passed since I commenced my speech and in order that others may speak I conclude my remarks.
-Before I call the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) I would like to indicate to the House a matter of importance as to the manner in which I suggest we should vote. When the cognate debate on the motion of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and the amendments to that motion concludes, I shall be required to put questions to the House on those amendments in an order which I determine. After considering the speeches and examining the amendments I have concluded that the House has before it two main propositions. At one end of the spectrum is the motion of the honourable member for Hume; at the other end of the spectrum is the amendment of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). Between these views is a series of amendments which depart from the Lusher proposition in varying degrees from one end to the other. It is my duty to obtain a majority decision of the House, and this I should do as quickly as possible. After listening to the views of the movers of the various amendments I have concluded that I should first put to the House the amendment of the honourable member for McMillan. If it gains a majority of votes it will be unnecessary for me to determine the priority of other amendments. If it fails to receive a majority, I will decide from the numbers disclosed an order for the presentations of the other amendments.
-The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) has ensured that I am able to take part in this debate by swapping his place with mine in the speakers list and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) has surrendered to me some of his speaking time. I thank them both; I am certainly very grateful.
I cannot escape the fact that the fundamental issue underlying this debate on the motion and the various amendments is the issue of abortion itself. I do not want to be selfish with respect to time but I want to use this occasion to state adequately where I stand on this issue and to explain as clearly and as succinctly as I am able the beliefs and reasoning upon which I base my stance. Simply, I hold what I refer to as a conceptionist or genetic view. I believe that conception marks the beginning of human life and that the unborn are human beings. As human beings, the unborn are of us; beings of intrinsic worth, of the sort of worth we ascribe to ourselves. The unborn have human status and human value. They have rights and other human beings have responsibilities towards them.
Necessarily, then, abortion is the destruction of a human life and the death of a human being. I believe it should be understood as such and proscribed by society, as is the death of any human being. My view is supported by a moral intuition which is shared by many much of the time. For example, when we hear of conception we do not regard it and we do not respond to it as if it were mere biological data. We react in ways which show that this is the beginning of something important and special. We are reacting to a human being who is one of us and who has intrinsic human value. Such intuitions about the nature and the value of new human life are shared by both those who welcome and those who would turn away from the unborn. In our better and gladder moments we rejoice at conception and celebrate the good news. Our responses are akin to those elicited by birth itself. Obversely, when conception is unwelcome we still respond to it as involving a human being. When pregnancy is regarded as a burden rather than a joy it is felt as oppressive precisely because the bearer cannot or will not assume the responsibilities that the unborn, let alone the born, dependent human being calls for.
However, for those in this place who would question the validity of moral intuition, my view is also supported by fact and I believe it can be sustained by rational argument. There are those who are happy to support abortion because they do not accept that conception marks the beginning of human life. I believe this view is easily refuted because it is simply contrary to indisputable scientific fact. The fertilised ovum is a different type of life form from either the sperm or the ovum from which it is formed. It has its own new, individual, identifiable chromosomes and genetic make-up different from either the mother or the father. The test tube conception which, when transferred to the womb of the mother ultimately led to the birth of Louise Brown in the United Kingdom in July last year, is further easily understood and manifest proof that conception marks the beginning of human life. That birth can be explained in no other way. Thus, at least it must be accepted that abortion is the destruction of human life. However, there are still other people who, whilst accepting that conception marks the beginning of human life, maintain support for abortion because they do not agree that the unborn are human beings. Such people make the distinction that conception marks the beginning of biological life but they do not accept that human status can be given to this life. They say it is less than human and that on that basis termination can be justified.
Normally accepted precepts of justice would require such people empirically to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt. They are unable to do so and, further, I believe it can be shown that their arguments are defective. As a group, people who hold such a view can be labelled developmentalists. It will be remembered that conceptionalists insist on the humanity of the unborn. On the other hand, developmentalists argue that becoming human is a matter of time and of maturation. They say it does not all happen at once in a magic moment; one becomes a human being gradually and the value of the developing life, as well as our responsibilities to it, also change with time. The argument, then, between the conceptionists and the developmentalists revolves around the question of what it is to be human and who may belong to that special class. Conceptionists, of course, hold a view but there is an inherent difficulty with the developmentalists position in even determining where one draws the line beyond which the unborn is to be considered a human being and abortion therefore is no longer accepted. The more conservative the developmentalist, the earlier he draws the line- for example, at the incidence of heartbeat or brain activity. But, one may ask, what makes brain activity or heartbeat a more acceptable defining essence of what it is to be a human being than the existence of the 46 chromosomes and genetic completeness.
Moderates draw the line at the point where the foetus is capable of viable existence outside the womb. Does this mean that advances in medical science and technology can determine what it is to be a human being? Does that mean that premature babies should be allowed to die because they are not capable of viable existence outside the womb but need the womb-like conditions of the humicrib? Finally, extremist developmentalists stipulate that post-natal ability to reason and to act socially is a minimum for human status. They insist on the prerequisite that to be considered human the unborn must also act like us rather than merely function like us. Does this mean the killing of infants who are born mentally retarded? Is euthenasia to be the case when people suffer severe brain damage because of accident? Out of this confusing picture of the developmentalists position the question arises of whether all life forms are equal but some are more equal than others. Developmentalists are responsible for the question but they cannot agree on an answer. Conceptionists do have an answer, and it is this: Certainly there is a great difference between a fertilised human egg and a viable foetus, and certainly it is more serious to abort the latter than to destroy a few cells or an embryo. However, is this not encompassed by the ready admission that one can regret the death of one life or one person more than another?
There is something additional in the more developed foetus that makes the killing of it worse than the destruction of the fertilised egg. Equally, we all find the untimely death of a talented and promising young person is worse than the death of someone who has reached old age. Equally, we all grieve more for one we have known and loved than for a stranger. But in each of these examples it is not imagined for a moment that our different responses imply different levels of humanity, that the elderly are less human than the young and talented, that loved ones are human beings whilst strangers are not. The conceptionists claim about the unborn is similar to that regarding all other human beings, whether they stand near conception or near death, whether they are healthy or diseased, whether they are able and rational or incapacitated and retarded and whether they do things for us or we must do things for them. Unborn human life has unique value simply because it exists.
To this point I have dealt with what I believe to be the fundamental issue of this debate, which is the issue of abortion itself. Scientific fact demonstrates that conception marks the beginning of human life, and by moral intuition and logic of argument I believe that it can be shown that the unborn are human beings. Abortion necessarily is the destruction of a human life and the death of a human being. Why then is abortion accepted so readily and practised so widely? I believe that it is so because most popular support in favour of abortion attempts either to deny the humanity of the unborn or ignore it. Attempt at denial is simply an example of an effort to change the definition of a human being to support whatever moral responsibilities one wishes to advocate or assume. A self-deceiving rationalisation is employed to justify the death of another human being. We do the same in wartime. We typify the human enemy in terms less than human so that we may with easy conscience destroy him. On the other hand, the most popular example of a abortion stance which ignores the humanity of the unborn is that promoted by the so-called women’s movement. It simply falls flat in terms of any classic liberalism because it fails to face up to and resolve the fact that another person is involved in this question of choice- the unborn child. I readily recognise that pregnancy, birth and child rearing may cause enormous difficulty and hardship for the mother, either emotionally, psychologically, socially or economically. I simply want to close with this point. They are human problems which can be solved by human, humane means, and the destruction of one of the participants in that problem- the unborn childdoes nothing to solve the root problem and in fact is inhuman and unjust. In conclusion, I support the Lusher motion and will be voting for it.
-I will be voting for the Simon motion and against the Lusher motion. According to the census returns, the electoral division of Lalor is the most Catholic in Australia, with the highest proportion of migrant families from Europe. Lalor has an unusually high average number of children per family- nearly double the national average. I have received from my constituents hundreds of cards in favour of the Lusher motion and almost none against it. I am a Christian but not a Catholic. Nevertheless, I share the Catholic abhorrence of abortion. I would do all that I could to dissuade individual women from having abortions and to provide all possible servicesmedical, counselling, home help- so that they could go ahead with their pregnancies without fear. I hate all violence and killing. I am close to the absolute pacifist position. Much of my time and energy has been devoted to securing the abolition of the death penalty in Australia and, as many people have put to me, I should also act to protect ‘innocent lives within the womb’.
Those are compelling reasons, and I have sympathy and respect for many people in the RighttoLife organisation. It is paradoxical, of course, that many ‘Right-to-Lifers’ are also supporters of the death penalty. It is a matter of conscience for ‘Right-to-Lifers’ and it is a matter of conscience for me too. All of us are impaled on the horns of the abortion dilemma. Just as I respect the right of others to their conscientious position, I expect others to grant me the same right. I have agonised over the question for many years. I intend to vote against the Lusher motion and, in addressing my own electors, I adopt the words of Edmund Burke:
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment: and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
If my electors disagree with my exercise of judgment and conscience, the remedy is in their own hands.
The House of Represenatative is the only allmale lower House in any democratic national parliament throughout the world. I believe that it is preposterous and pretentious for us to be pontificating about what rights the other sex should have over their reproductive capacity. The only certain thing is that not one of us will ever be pregnant. If an all-female assembly were to pass laws, Lysistrata-like, determining the sexual rights of males there would be considerable consternation among men.
The male role in bringing about a pregnancy is short and usually easy, and after that brief moment he may refuse to take any further moral or physical responsibility. He certainly has no further physiological role. The female role is long, protracted, and may last for years. There is an utter inequality of responsibility and sacrifice so far as pregnancy is concerned, and it is extraordinary to find that there are members of an allmale parliament who say: ‘Let us vote to sustain that imbalance’. It would be a moral outrage if women who did not want to abort were forced, cajoled or coerced into doing so. But I am also concerned about a situation where girls and women are told by some bureaucrat that they are compelled to go through with a pregnancy that they fear and hate. I do not ignore the rights of the foetus, but I cannot concede that a 3-week foetus has equivalent rights to those of a 16 yearold girl.
The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) gave an example illustrating how the use of language can be strained beyond its natural limits. Honourable members will remember the words of Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty: Words mean what we want them to mean, nothing more or less’. The honourable member for Tangney asked the question: Are all life forms equal but some are more equal than others? The answer is unequivocally yes, from my point of view. There was a major logical flaw in what was said by the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) last night, and I quote him:
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:
To protect the life of the mother from a physical pathological condition and that the life could be protected in no other way.
But the exception constitutes a complete reversal of the general principle. In logic, it is exactly the same as saying that two is always greater than one, but in cases of emergency one becomes greater than two. So the honourable member for Perth makes an absolute 180 degree turn in the middle. This illustrates the problem on which we are all impaled. We naturally argue all the time in terms of analogy and that is a problem. Abortion is a peculiarly difficult subject to debate, largely because the life of the foetus has such a limited range of experience that it is hard to equate with our own and we are forced to use analogies in argument. For example, the honourable member for Tangney mentioned the case of the English test tube baby. I thought that was a revealing case. Supposing that in the case of the test tube baby, Louise Brown, Dr Steptoe had overturned the test tube so that the impregnated cells fell out. Would that constitute an abortion? In the honourable member’s view, yes. In my own view, it would be preposterous to see it as being an abortion.
Many of the letters I have received, mostly from men demanding that I vote for the Lusher motion, reveal an astonishing confidence in their own judgment. Obviously infallibility is not confined to His Holiness the Pope. I am not certain about my own judgment in this matter and it is because I am uncertain that I am voting to maintain the status quo. However, the letters have produced an effect entirely opposite to what their writers intended. I have been appalled by the arrogance and exaggeration of their arguments; for example, the logical slide which goes: Foetus equals human being, therefore abortion equals murder equals genocide; therefore, as one correspondent wrote abortion clinic equals Hitler’s death camps. Some, of course, equate abortion with euthanasia. I certainly do not. I am not a euthanasia supporter and I am even an unhappy supporter of the status quo. I also take some exception to the question-begging in using the phrase ‘unborn child’ that we have heard so often. The term ‘unborn child’ is an absolute contradiction in terms but it illustrates the prevailing moral and verbal confusion. A child is by definition born and independent, and the phrase unborn child’ or even ‘pre-bora child’ has as much meaning as the phrase ‘living corpse’ or post-death person’. The Lusher motion attempts to link a moral imperative ‘Thou shalt not abort’, with an economic sanction ‘Do it at your own cost’. That means in practice that the rich can do it but the poor get stuck, a position which is as morally obnoxious to me as the prospect of publicly funded abortion is to others. It is an attempt to regulate morality by using market forces.
I should like to speak as long as the previous speaker, because I think I am covering new ground, but in order to cut the length of what I am saying I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the first part of an extremely well-balanced article called ‘The Predicament’ by Mary Gordon, which appeared in the New York Review of Books on 20 July 1 978.
The document read as follows-
Abortion is, of all moral issues, peculiarly conducive to displays of bad taste. Anti-abortionists write autobiographies of week-old fetuses for Readers’ Digest and show slides of queerly inhuman creatures in sacs like spaceships. But their pro-abortion counterparts are little betten they wear T-shirts with coat-hangers printed on top of the word NO! and carry photos of botched abortionionees, naked in motel rooms. The very language of both sides suggests the unease of the campaigners. Almost no one mentions the word abortion; one is pro-life or pro-choice. And this jargon is effective, as all jargon is meant to be, in obscuring the issue, in bringing to one side or another the shy, befuddled partisan, unhappy with words that make the issue clear. Life and choice are, after all, not concepts anyone is likely to be anti.
These features, the excessively concrete image, the excessively abstract word, are both the result of abortion’s peculiar nature: it is a specifically physical issue which calls into question the most general moral issues. And so both physical and moral terms fall short in speaking to the questions. Is the fetus a human person or a bunch of cells with no particular significance? Is the act of abortion an act of selfdetermination or a crime? The terms are impossible because we have no way of thinking that describes the issue well.
The physicality of the fetus is perplexing because it is hidden; the unborn are invisible. One philosopher wonders what would happen to people ‘s positions on abortion if a mutation or technology made it possible for them to see a developing fetus in the womb, even perhaps to observe and to fondle it. The idea creates the sort of unease we feel when a beggar threatens to unwrap his ulcerated leg, and the discomfort points to the uniqueness of the issue. In what other context must one decide upon the very existence of a victim one cannot see, upon whose nature one can only speculate, whose value may be calculated only as potential.
Invisibility is not the only odd aspect of the abortion issue; there is, in addition, the question of time. In. what other moral issue is time so crucial? The period of gestation is short, from beginning to end less than three hundred days. And the period in which a woman can get a safe abortion is even shorter. The decision to abort is made under doomsday pressure; there is a certain point after which it will simply be too late. Moreover, many moralists judge the seriousness of the crime by the advancement of the pregnancy; it is considered by some to be more heinous to have an abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy, most unspeakable of all to have one after the fetus is ‘viable.’ The concept of ‘viability’ or ‘quickening’ has always been an important issue in the discussion of abortion. ‘Quickening’ is the point at which the mother feels the fetus moving, and it usually occurs in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. For some thinkers, it is only after this point that the fetus is human. For them, abortion is murder after quickening, a therapeutic procedure before.
Time is an issue because we are talking about an organism in a state of rapid development; for some moralists the nature of the organism can change entirely at one quickly approached, irreversible point. One cannot think of any other putative crime in which time plays such an odd role: a theft is no more or less a theft in August than in May, nor is a lie, nor is kidnapping. The only possible exception is torture; it is clearly worse to torture someone for five months than for two. But you can see the extremes of thinking to which one is led when looking for analogies, extremes which anyone who speaks about abortion in moral terms has difficulty avoiding.
Yet whatever moralists have said or lawyers have decreed, women have always aborted simply because they have always had unwanted pregnancies. And the reason for that is largely connected to another odd physical fact: sex makes babies. There are few other casual relationships so oblique: an act of physical passion occurs and nearly a year later a child is born. The connection is, at best, extremely tentative. What genius discovered it first? How did he make anyone believe him? Anthropologists have reported the difficulty of convincing modern primitives of the link between intercourse and binh, but the casual relationship is so peculiar that even sophisticated women with ready access to contraception forget it. Linda Francke, author of The Ambivalence of Abortion, a Newsweek editor and graduate of Miss Porter’s, had an abortion as a result of a pregnancy she incurred by failing to use any birth control at all. And the testimony of the women who speak in her book indicates that her case is far from rare.
Once again, abortion is unique among moral situations. One stabs a man and he dies; the surprise is not great. One lights the dynamite fuse and the building blows up: the astonishment would occur if the sequence did not follow. But in fact most people do not have sex because they want a baby; they have sex for pleasure. ‘It is the future generation that presses into being by means of these exuberant feelings and supersensible soapbubbles of ours’, says the pessimist Schopenhauer, indicating the badness of the arrangement.
The invisibility of the fetus, the odd relationship of time and cause that make the nature of pregnancy and abortion so puzzling, create difficulties when one tries to make comparisons with other moral issues. Part of the difficulty lies in the terms of the discussion-‘ Life, “Human ‘: they are so impossible to define that the only definitions that seem secure are the crudest ones; life begins at conception, a human being is a human being from that moment; therefore, to do away with this human life is a simple murder. But we do not habitually think of life as only biological existence; the problem for supporters of abortion is that the criterion of biological existence is so inexorable that it makes others (quality of life, rights of the individual) seem only vague by comparison. And anti-abortionists stress the vagueness of their opponents ideas, digging in their entrenching tools of syllogism and empirical data with the energy of the marginally secure.
But it is the comparison of abortion to other acts that is unsatisfactory, and it is because of the physical circumstances that the comparisons do not work. Most commonly, abortion is compared to murder; but one has no doubt that the victim of a murder is an independent person, and it is hard to believe that one created a murder victim in one’s own body when one thought one was doing something entirely different And it is probably never true that the victim of a murder could not survive unless he were fed by blood and protected by the body of the murderer; or that it would be precisely the refusal of this protection that would constitute the murderous act To compare abortion to murder is at best naive. And yet there is no other human act to which it comes closer.
If one wants to think clearly about abortion as a crime, one must understand that it has been practiced and continues to be practiced by women who are in no other aspect of their lives criminal. It is estimated that over 1.2 million abortions are performed annually in the United States. The number of murders in the United States in 1976 was only a little over 1 7,000. Although it is not a good rule to judge the morality of an act by the number of people who commit it, the wide disparity between the number of abortions and the number of murders indicates, among other things, that at least in the minds of most people the acts are qualitatively different.
Anti-abortionists say that permissive abortion laws will lead to a devaluation of human life. But as Daniel Callahan points out, this is almost impossible to demonstrate since there is no evidence that societies which have liberal or permissive abortion laws are societies in which the meaning and value of life in general are demonstrably more threatened than in societies which do not have such laws.’ And there is another complication if one is examining the problem of abortion from the point of view of society as a whole. It is, after all, quite possible to argue that abortion is beneficial for society. It is difficult to imagine that the world would be a better place if the 40 million to SO million fetuses legally aborted each year grew up to reproduce themselves at the frightening rate that adult humans seem to do.
-I remind the honourable member for Lalor that the will of the House was that members would voluntarily restrict themselves to six minutes.
-The previous speaker, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), voluntarily restricted himself to 11 minutes.
– There was an arrangement.
-Was there an arrangement? I just say this in passing: There are very grave dangers in arguing from analogy. However, I will take the risk and say that to me the nearest comparison to abortion is suicide. Both involve the destruction of life, both are products of stress, both are examples of inner directed violence, both involve women of child-bearing years and both involve women who have a sense of being overwhelmed by events. Just as I abhor abortion, so I abhor suicide, and I would do all that I could to prevent it. I would decriminalise attempted suicide just as I would decriminalise abortion. Both laws have proved singularly ineffective in preventing abortion or suicide, and any attempt to drag every woman who had an abortion, or every failed suicide, into court to face a possible gaol term, would cause such revulsion in this country that both laws would become dead letters. Both laws only add to the sense of isolation and outlawry felt by the people involved. But the mother who aborts and the failed suicide have much in common. They need our sympathy and support, however much we may deplore what they have done.
After suicide attempts, women and men routinely go to hospital for treatment. They can claim medical benefits. No doubt the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) in his next step towards raising the nation’s moral standards by rigorous economy would say: ‘Suicide is a very bad thing. Attempted suicides add to the nation’s medical bill. Medical costs for attempted suicide should be at a person’s own expense. If you can afford a suicide, have it. If you can’t, you can’t.’ If a desperate woman finds herself in the hands of the backyarders because she cannot find a hospital abortion, or if she attempts suicide for the same reason and has to go to the hospital to be patched up, would the compassion of the honourable member for Hume allow her to claim medical benefits, or would he say: ‘If she can’t pay for treatment, she can’t hope for hospital benefits’.
What is this argument about treatment having to be certified as medically necessary in order to qualify for medical benefits? Who is to make the decision? Should it be the doctor involved, a panel of doctors who do not know the woman in question, a gaggle of public servants, a stipendiary magistrate or a jury of matrons? The qualification is an absurdity. This is a shallow, mean-spirited resolution, and I trust the House will reject it.
-In this matter of individual responsibility and personal conscience, my support is directed towards the Lusher motion and I reject the personal criticisms that have been directed towards the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). It was most unworthy of those who offered the criticism. Indeed, I believe that the Australian nation as a whole owes a singular debt of gratitude to the honourable member for Hume for displaying something that is rather lacking in this forum, and that is simply raw courage. I believe it is appropriate to say something in response to criticism of my attaching support to the Lusher motion. As a matter of conscience, I believe that in politics one does not always achieve what is one’s own personal opinion; rather, politics is the art of the possible. I would much prefer that all funding for any abortion procedures at all be abolished by the national Parliament. I hold strongly to that view.
I believe the situation in America is worthy of note. The Supreme Court in that country held that whilst State laws might provide for abortions to be legal, there was no legal obligation on the national parliament to fund such medical procedures. I repeat that the United States Supreme Court found that there was no legal obligation on the national parliament to fund any abortion procedure.
I want to take to task those who have criticised this national Parliament for being an all-male Parliament and, have said that as such it should not interfere in womens’ affairs. I point out that the honourable member for Hume in his speech last night itemised quite clearly and quite succinctly the fact that this motion was not about the principle of abortion but about the distribution of national finance. It is abhorrent to me to find that at this late stage of the debate people are talking about the fundamentals of abortion which, under our Constitution, are the prerogatives of the various State parliaments. We are talking about funding, and I reject in its totality the consensus that has permeated the debate that because we are a male chamber we are not fit to husband and allocate the resources of this Nation. How utterly ridiculous it would be if someone followed the same line of thought which has been expressed and said that we could not fund such things as a girl’s high school or a women’s refuge because we males do not have the know-all, and do not have the right to interfere. I reject the totality of the opinion that seems to be inherent in most of the speeches which have been made and that is that this is a completely medical problem. I submit on behalf of the Australian people that we are talking about a problem of society, of which doctors are only a part. Does not the family have a responsibility? Does society not have a responsibility to look after those who cannot look after themselves? I hope that something positive will come out of this debate. I am bitterly disappointed that we have talked about the pros and cons of abortion rather than getting to the real nitty-gritty of the problem. I suggest that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) take the opportunity and call together all the State Attorneys-General for the purpose of implementing a universal and uniform abortion law in Australia consistent with the principles espoused by the honourable member for Hume. Those principles are based on the preservation of human life and dignity, and are consistent with the principle that it is not unlawful to perform an operation to terminate a pregnancy if it is carried out to protect the life of the mother from a specified physical pathological condition, and if the life can be protected in no other way. That is a problem for the States. I believe it is appropriate to use this debate here as the nucleus. We should get the AttorneysGeneral together to look at the law as it stands and to make it uniform in order to ensure that we have no disagreements- whether it is the Menhennitt rule or the Levine rule- so that the matter will be looked at in its totality and according to principles which will make Australia a great nation and so that it will not be eroded from within. I believe it is appropriate to be positive in the other sense, wherein criticism has been levelled that abortions will only be the prerogative of the rich under the Lusher amendment. This is not true. This has been categorised, debated and commented upon. I hope that we will give emphasis to family support and to helping those women and those young people who are under threat, by ensuring that the conditions are favourable for them to rear their children, and to have the children who have been commenced.
Last night the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) in an emotional speech- I appreciate his particular point of view- drew the attention of honourable members to the great traumas associated with a certain instance. Might I, as an alternative to that, say that that trauma could not equal the joy that is experienced when even a person such as a humble back bench member of the national Parliament can persuade someone to have a child rather than an abortion. The joy that will occur in a few months time when that woman brings the little babe in and says: ‘Here he is’ equals any trauma commented on by the honourable member for Scullin. I submit that abortion must never ever be granted the mantle of legality, of respectability and of acceptance because, in the final analysis, I hold very dearly the consensus and the point of view that man can only protect his own rights by conceding the same rights to everyone else, particularly to those unable to defend themselves.
– I find it abhorrent and an indictment on society that 50,000-odd women annually in Australia have need to seek an abortion for whatever reason. For the public record, may I at the outset make my view on the moral aspects of abortion crystal clear. As a Catholic, I share the view expressed so eloquently by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I believe that life begins at the moment of conception. However, my moral beliefs also lead me to have ultimate respect for other people who have a different view on this matter than I do. Surely this tolerance is the basis not only of democracy, but also the whole human creation, kindness, compassion and understanding of another’s views which must be exercised in the balance of one’s moral standpoint.
One of my interests in Sydney is to have a close association with a home for unmarried mothers run by Catholic nuns. If only every pregnant girl or woman desperate for help could share from society generally the love and assistance which these girls receive from these nuns, both in their pregnancy and at the birth of their child, this problem would not be in its present proportion. But such is not the case and society is to blame. The problem in most cases of abortion is in my view a matter of society’s mores rather than evil intent on the woman’s part. However, my overriding belief is that I have no right to impose my views on another or on the community as a whole.
The Lusher motion is based on economic rather than ethical or human grounds. The cost figure is quoted at $3.4m which the Government provides in the way of medical funds towards abortion in a total health bill of something like $7,000m. That is but a drop in the ocean. On this motion’s logic medical benefits should also be denied for pre-natal care and child birth as pregnancy is neither a pathological condition nor a medical necessity unless the services are essential to save the life of a mother or a child. If a reduction in health care costs is the aim of this motion and if medical necessity is the criterion to be used, the honourable member could have sought tighter controls over a whole range of questionable medical tests, operations and procedures. The economic logic on which the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) has based his case is plainly fallacious. I am thus led to believe that the reason for this motion is to cause a situation whereby women on the lower economic levels would find it relatively more difficult to obtain an abortion than their more affluent sisters.
Any member who thinks that women desperate enough to seek an abortion would resile from that decision because of the non availability of medical benefit fund support or the pious statements of well meaning churchmen or politicians, in my opinion is grievously misjudging the grounds on which the great bulk of women need an abortion service. In my view, and on the historical record, the denial of medical benefits is unlikely to diminish significantly the number of abortions sought and performed. My respect for Australian womanhood at large leads me to believe that the great bulk of women who seek abortions would rather not. They seek abortions because a whole series of circumstances has evolved in their lives which causes them not to want but to need a termination of pregnancy.
I know that there are militant feminists who destroy this theory somewhat by trumpeting aloud, as some individuals do, about their five or six abortions, but I do not think that the average woman seeking termination parallels that scenario. The range of possible patients is very wide, as has been spelt out by other speakers- incest cases, rape cases, cancer victims, desperate women all. A survey shows that Catholic women with three or four children make up a high percentage of women who seek abortion because of their moral beliefs abour contraception. Abortion is not a pretty procedure. I believe that most of the women who are forced to abort would also describe it as such. However, if the passing of this motion caused desperate women, few or many, to revert for whatever personal reason to seeking cheaper, more hazardous procedures, even self inflicted abortion, then I think that result would be more hideous than abortion itself.
If this or any other motion could lead to a Utopian state such as I have described at the Catholic home I know of where girls who are pregnant can go around in peaceful surroundings with love and support and go on with their pregnancy, I would support it. But I do not think this is the case. I find it repugnant that 124 men in this House- no women- are passing judgment on women’s rights. I would not seek to impose my moral judgment on these women. Women endure abortion, men cause the need. If we in this Parliament were genuinely concerned in this area we would be better advised to press for more generous family allowances and increased support for single mothers. I would like to point out to the people on the other side of the House that support this motion that the Labor Party when in Government introduced the supporting mothers’ benefit. This Government has done nothing to improve it. We have been thinking of providing an allowance for pregnant girls before their child is born, to provide them with more enlightened sex education and better family planning.
What the honourable member for Hume is doing is degrading a serious moral, legal, social and human question that is largely beyond the Federal jurisdiction, to a petty squabble over public finance. If members on the other side were genuinely concerned about ensuring that women went on with their pregnancies and had babies, why did not some of them come over and vote against the Budget that took away the lousy $32 maternity allowance?
– Too far to walk.
-It was too far to walk. You can sit there and pontificate but what would you do in a practical sense to encourage a woman to go on with her pregnancy? Nothing, but you will sit there like moral hypocrites that you are and support this motion. In conclusion I pay tribute to the members of my party who have had the courage to support this motion. While I disagree with their assessment of the motion’s ramifications, my own moral view roughly parallels theirs. Their support is based on a sincere premise born out of an honest moral objection. I doubt if that is the case for all the Government members who will support this motion, including the prime mover. I oppose the motion.
-I support the motion of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). There is no doubt that life exists in the woman’s womb from the time of conception. No speaker here today or yesterday has been able to disprove this. No speaker has been able to say that life does not exist after conception. None of the speakers opposed to the Lusher motion can say that abortion does not destroy a life. Those in favour of abortion are prepared to kill an unborn child and they console themselves by saying: ‘Okay, but it’s not a very big life’. It is significant that the speakers in favour of abortion are not able to speak about the live foetus. They put it out of their minds. They speak only of mother and child. They speak of doctors’ opinions, of the mother’s mental or physical needs and the stress on the family. They do not speak of the live foetus. They speak of women’s rights. They speak of the rights of women to control their bodies. Those women have no right to have their unborn children murdered.
The number of abortions is not really significant. It is no better to kill 10,000 than it is to kill 60,000. Because of the changed circumstances figures quoted by various members do not stand any meaningful comparison with even last year or the year before. If an unwanted child is born it is much better to have it adopted by those thousands of people crying out for children and who are unable to have them. The proabortionists use the small number of extreme cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or disease, to justify the murder of a foetus. They ignore the thousands of healthy children who would have otherwise be born to healthy mothers. The mother does not have the right to destroy a life just as no man has the right.
The Lusher motion is not about the rights or wrongs of abortion, it is about whether the Commonwealth Government should use taxpayers’ money to pay for these abortions. The Government should use these funds to assist people to a better standard of living and to help a live foetus to mature and live a full life. By using taxpayers’ money to pay for abortion the Government is taking a step in the direction of making a judgment on who lives and who dies. Once we do that we are entering the fields trampled by Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin who took unto themselves the right of life or death over thousands of human beings. Surely the ultimate obligation of the Government is to protect the lives of those people including the unborn. It is not its duty to help to destroy lives.
I reject the motion by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) as it will give tacit approval to open slather for abortion on demand. The motion by the honourable member for Hume would bring some respect into this whole sordid business. The good old fashioned values upon which we have based our whole civilisation, our whole existence, should not be jettisoned because some women believe they have the right over life and death. They do not have the right to kill an unborn child, an old person or a cripple. Respect for lives of other people and the unborn foetus distinguishes us from animals. I support the amendment of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and endorse his remarks made earlier today. I support the motion by the honourable member for Hume and will vote accordingly.
-I wish to join many other members of this House in expressing my concern at the number of abortions being performed in this country. This issue should not be seen only in moral terms but equally as a matter of major social and economic importance. No country with the’ manifest resources of Australia can indulge itself in a de facto policy of zero population growth and expect to have the luxury of deciding indefinitely its own destiny in a world where the availability of space and resources will play an even greater part in deciding the affairs of nations. Perhaps it is a truism, but Australia as we know it must populate or perish.
This debate is centred around two major arguments. One relates to the right of the individual woman to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy. The contrary argument, expressed by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), which I support, is that a pregnant woman in fact must consider not only her welfare but also that of the child to be. Both have rights. It is a subject of contention, however, as to which right should be supported by the State in those circumstances where the termination of a pregnancy is considered to be warranted. Unfortunately the law has not denned the rights of the unborn child, the least of which, surely, is the right to live. The honourable member for Hume, in his opening remarks, pointed out:
I agree with that observation. However, it is my belief that the Menhennitt and Levine judgments, which have formed the basis of State law in Victoria and New South Wales respectively, have been interpreted so liberally in recent years that, for all intent and purposes, there is abortion on demand. I cannot support this position as I am a Catholic by choice and family tradition. Nevertheless, I believe that the existence of State law, even if not applied to my satisfaction, is a fact. State governments regard the judgments as a basis for the judicial interpretation of their respective legislation. It is the law, even if we do not approve of the methods by which it is being applied.
This debate has brought the Parliament face to face with the age-old problem of the place of law in administering the affairs of man. To what extent should moral judgment be used as a basis for the determination of law? The House should recall that some centuries ago, burning at the stake was regarded as a legally justifiable death for a person who dared to have different religious beliefs to others. Abortion in all its manifestations faces us with the problem of the absolute view. The taking of life under any circumstance is wrong, although legally justified under certain conditions such as war. For this reason, those who do not wish to support the Lusher motion but have some sympathy with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) should also not run away from the fact that, if they wish to apply an absolute rule, they must find some problems with that amendment for it also suggests that a pregnancy may be terminated in cases involving incest, rape or disease of the mother. Nevertheless, this amendment at least attempts to relate to members of this Parliament the fact that we live in a practical world in which, in every day of our lives, we have to make value judgments, hopefully based on sound moral principles, as to what is permissible in the interests of the individual and of society and what is not permissible. Time after time we are faced with the choice of the lesser evil.
Statistics have been quoted to demonstrate that on a per capita basis we have a higher rate of abortion than either the United States of America or the United Kingdom. Why is this so? Is it simply the fault of the law, of governments, of the courts, or is it a sickness of society, corrupted by the belief that there is no such thing as personal responsibility for anything? Having identified the abortion problem, however, it is entirely another thing to find adequate solutions. We have every reason to be concerned about the present rate of abortions and we must seek at the levels of both Federal and State governments to understand better the significance of this trend and the reasons for it. I am firmly of the view that the course embarked upon by the honourable member for Hume and his supporters will not reduce the rate of abortions, but probably will create a host of ancillary problems if legislation of the type he suggests is introduced.
Apart from the evidence contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and various statistics of questionable value submitted in this debate by organisations which run abortion clinics and by others, we are faced with an essential problem in that we cannot say categorically why so many thousands of women apparently feel that regardless of cost they have no available alternative but to seek a termination, whatever their reasons may be. It is encumbent upon this Parliament, as well as the State parliaments, to be prepared to develop and apply pre-natal and post-natal policies which would give women to a much greater extent than at present, a reasonable chance to work through their problems with the full support of the community in an atmosphere of understanding and genuine compassion. Obviously, that is not the position at present. I mentioned earlier the lack of viable statistics relating to abortions. The preterm foundation survey of some 1,000 women conducted in 1975 stated that of those women obtaining abortions, 52.5 per cent had never been married, 55.4 per cent were young adolescents and 61.4 per cent stated that the reason for their situation was that they had not used contraception. A further 28 per cent stated that they had used contraception but that it had failed. Statistics provided to the Royal Commission by the Crown Street Women’s Hospital in 1974 stated that 80 per cent of women seeking abortion gave inability to cope emotionally as their main reasons for terminating a pregnancy. Sixty-two per cent gave inability to cope financially as their reason, 47 per cent did not want an unwanted child and 12 per cent could not face adoption.
If the honourable member for Hume and his supporters find difficulty in spending $3m or $6m on funding for abortions they must be prepared to ask the citizens of this country to approve higher taxation and new legislation which will involve the spending of many millions of dollars in supporting not only unwed mothers but often their unwanted and unloved children and one-parent families. At present the Commonwealth Government is paying approximately $ 1,000m for family allowances. Obviously that sum would be increased if anywhere near 60,000 additional births took place each year. I have estimated that the additional cost of supporting single mothers alone would be in the region of $1 14m to $120m annually. Nevertheless I believe that this is a cost we, as a society, must be prepared to bear. In the areas of better support for mothers, and in the provision of contraceptive advice and education- in the whole range of socio-economic area- we have no alternative but to improve the present system which quite obviously has not been satisfactory. We are not educating our young people sufficiently to appreciate their responsibilities as individuals and their capacity to so dramatically affect the lives of others.
It is worth noting also that in fact there are only seven pregnancy support services in Australia. Principally they are organised and run by the Catholic Church and are directed specifically at encouraging women to have their children and not to seek abortions. The entire country is catered for by a mere 77 government funded clinics- of which only 14 are in country areas- staffed by no less than 400 trained doctors and nurses. For too long there has been a current view in our community, supported by the courts, that somehow or other pregnancy is the fault of the woman alone and that the young buck, for example, must be excused for doing what comes naturally. He may sow his wild oats free from any effective legal restraint on the results of his actions. While abortion remains such an accessible option for women, the recognition of paternity and the attendant responsibilities are being avoided. I ask this House: Are we prepared to change community attitudes and insist that the laws be applied on these essential points? If we are not, then this whole debate is pointless. It is so much easier for people to throw up their hands in dismay and turn to the Government for action to overcome problems which are absolutely the responsibility of individuals and of our community as well as of our governments.
-I will try to do the right thing and be brief. There are one or two matters which I feel should be repeated. After all, I suppose we have reached a point where this debate is all repetition. We people who are of the Catholic faith rather resent the fact that we have been described in the Press and by the media as ‘the Catholic member for so and so’. I am also the Mt Isa member for so and so. Several other names could be applied to me, I am sure. The most vigorous opponent of abortion in this House I ever had the great privilege of knowing was a former honourable member for Hume, a man named Ian Pettitt, who was a very devout Presbyterian. The reason why he was so devout and so devoted to his antiabortion attitude was that his wife was a matron in a hospital and became sick to death of seeing the foetus in the bucket.
Another aspect that penetrated the arguments today and yesterday is the aspect of population growth. If we are going to slaughter 60,000 people a year that will not help the situation one little bit. Another matter is adoption. Each of us, I am sure, has many fine young couples in his electorate, and some who are not quite so young, who willingly would provide a home for these young people. But not many babies are now available for adoption. There is a three or four year wait.
There is also the matter of the feelings of the mother. A lot of sanctimonious statements have been made here today. Can any of us who have been through the experience of seeing the reaction of a mother when her baby is born and is in her arms possibly compare those feelings with the recrimination which any girl, of whatever circumstances, must feel after she has been subjected to an abortion? How could any honourable member compare those feelings- again, in whatever circumstances- with the joy and delight of a mother when she holds her new-born baby in her arms.
I conclude with a case history. There was a woman who had two diseased valves of the heart- the aorta and the mitral. She was told she would never have a child as she could not possibly survive childbirth. She did survive childbirth. She had two healthy sons and one healthy daughter. She lived 1 1 years longer than she was expected to live. Those were 1 1 years of gifted life. I know all about that case because that woman was my wife.
-In the time at my disposal I wish simply to make six points rather than to develop six arguments. The first point relates to the moral issue. I think it is true that, of all the issues of private morality which impinge upon the legislative sphere, this issue of abortion is morally the most difficult. Certain of the extremist feminist slogans about women having control over their own bodies seem to me morally to be question begging and the analogies treating the foetus as equivalent to a limb or an appendix are clearly morally vacuous. On the other hand, the concept of the foetus, particularly in its early stages, as being somehow morally equivalent to a person I find to be a difficult- indeed, a dubious- notion. The contention that a fertilised egg is a person, or even a potential person, which is giving away much of the argument, involves stretching the word ‘person’ beyond its usual boundaries. As one writer put it, it is a morally motivated piece of conceptual revisionism.
For this reason I find the comparison between abortion and murder to be, at best, naive. It certainly is a rather odd notion. First of all, it is odd in the sense that usually the victim of a murder is an independent person and it is hard to believe that one created a murder victim in one’s body when one thought that morally one was doing something quite different. It is odd, too, in that the victim of a murder in this case could not survive unless he were fed by the blood and pro,tected by the body of the murderer. It is odd also in that it is precisely the refusal of this type of protection that is claimed somehow to constitute the murder. Certainly there is no consensus in this society that abortion is analogous to murder. There is virtually a complete consensus that the few hundred murders committed each year in Australia are murders. There is no consensus that that is how abortion is treated in this society.
No member of this House who has spoken in this debate in fact has treated the foetus as morally equivalent in status to the mother. Even by voting for the Lusher motion, a distinction is made between the status of the foetus and the status of the mother. Whilst there has been much moral inflation in this debate, we are divided essentially by notions of degree. I do not believe that any honourable member believes that abortion is morally a good thing. Where we differ is that many of us believe that, over a varying range of issues, abortion is the lesser of two evils.
Secondly, I find it difficult to understand how, on issues of private morality such as this, we as legislators can simply impose our own moral prejudices on these kinds of private morality issues. Indeed, I think I would go further. In many ways I find it arrogant and audacious. We have all claimed for ourselves the right to make a conscience decision, yet in much of what we have said we have indicated that, if we could prevent it, women would not be able to make this decision in terms of their own conscience. We have claimed a conscience right which we are endeavouring, by financial means, to limit and in fact, in the case of many of the speeches, to prohibit altogether. What we should be doing as legislators is performing a much more complex and difficult task. We should not simply be imposing our moral views or posturing morally; we should be trying to solve the social problems which give rise to the problem of abortion. We should not be doing away with maternity allowances. We should be worrying much more about education in terms of contraception and in terms of preparing young people for the problems ahead. That is the task that we should perform as legislators.
The third reason I bring up is the suggestion that we as legislators should not simply sit here and make these moral claims without consideration of the very real society in which we live and for which we are making laws. We are making laws for a morally pluralistic society, a society in which there are enormously widespread moral views and differing moral views on the issue of abortion. Are we simply to impose a particular moral view on a morally pluralistic society? For instance, the latest national Gallup poll on abortion, which was held in 1978, showed that 76 per cent of those interviewed favoured abortion on grounds which would be ruled out for funding by the passage of the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). That is the sort of society for which we are making rules. I think it is very important that we consider that.
Again, whatever laws we make about abortion we have to recognise the realism of the society in which we live. The one true fact about abortion is that it is certain that abortion is here and there is no effective way of stopping it. We have to live with that problem and adapt and make our rules in relation to the society. When we try to make these moral rules, we will not remove the reality of the problem in this society which has run right through all societies. It is, of course, changed today because of changes in technology. If we were to pass the Lusher motion it would, at best, have a marginal impact on the rate of abortion. We certainly would make it emotionally tougher for a number of women, particularly poorer women, to have an abortion. We would add greater financial burdens to emotional burdens, particularly for the poorer sections of society. We would probably increase the number of late abortions by pushing people into the public hospitals and we might well remove a number of abortions from medically hygienic situations to backyard situations. But we would have little impact on the actual rate of abortion in society.
The fifth point I make briefly is that it would not be unfair to caricature the Lusher motion as an attempt to use the financial power of the Commonwealth to influence the criminal law of the States. What the Lusher motion is saying to the States is: ‘Whatever you think are the appropriate abortion laws, we will fund only those abortion laws which the Commonwealth thinks are legally appropriate’. There has been much talk about the Levine and Menhennitt rulings and much touting of various legal opinions on whether those rulings are valid or proper. All I can say about the Menhennitt ruling is that it was given 10 years ago and has not been effectively challenged. All I can say about the Levine ruling is that it was given five years ago and has not been effectively challenged.
I bring up the case of the situation in South Australia, about which most of the proponents of the Lusher motion have avoided talking. The people of South Australia went through a fully democratic process to determine their abortion laws. A full select committee interviewed people with a wide range of opinion. The legislation was passed by the lower House of the State Parliament and passed by the upper House of the State Parliament. It became the law of that State. If we pass the Lusher motion we are saying that that is an inappropriate law, even though it was passed by those completely proper democratic processes. We are saying that we do not regard that law as proper and that we are not going to fund many of the abortions which are legally correct under the democratic processes of South Australia. To give other honourable members an opportunity to speak, I finish by arguing again that the motion before us should be rejected because it avoids facing up to the real problems that we have as legislators and simply seeks to impose a particular moral view on a morally divided community. It neglects the real problems our community faces with reference to abortion and the moral pluralism of that community. As we have been told by one of the Government’s Ministers, this proposal is essentially moral posturing.
– I think I can help the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett). It does seem to me that the law as we know it was designed principally to protect the weak from the strong. The most helpless innocent person- it is a person- that we know in this life is the unborn. The honourable member can be sure of one thing: No matter how sophisticated his argument, at the end of what he proposed there would be a dead human being. If I followed the reasoning of the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), it seems to me that his idea is that all these questions are too hard to deal with; we should leave things as they are and try not to improve them. The real question before the House today is: What is this Parliament’s attitude to abortion? Are we a proabortion parliament or are we a pro-life parliament? The burden of most of the amendments, as far as they go, is that we believe that this Parliament is for a huie bit of abortion, not a lot of abortion as is the present position. I am in a difficult situation. I wanted to support the Lusher motion totally. I must say that I was not entirely happy with the qualification in the Lusher motion about the danger of death to the mother. To my knowledge there has been no case in the last 20 years of that particular dilemma, namely, of the mother or the baby being in danger of death. It does not occur in good gynaecology. It seems to me that the Lusher motion was perhaps a little weak in that respect. I am forced to support the Lusher motion because nothing better has been put forward. If this Parliament does not accept the Lusher motion, I will probably be forced to support the Hyde amendment. I am less than enthusiastic about any of the other amendments. The burden of the Simon amendment is to leave things exactly as they are. That is to me somewhat hypocritical in the sense that it tries to get this Parliament off the hook and tries to make us look like anti-abortionists. Many honourable members on the other side and some on this side of the House have tried to look like antiabortionists, yet the effect of the motion in support of which they are speaking seeks, at the worst, to allow for more abortions or to maintain the present situation. There is no way in which this Parliament can get off the hook. When this debate has concluded we will be seen either as a pro-abortion parliament or as an anti-abortion parliament. I hope that we look as though we are an anti-abortion parliament.
It is vitally important to emphasise that the original motion which is before the House does not make abortions illegal. That is a matter for State laws, and it is to the eternal shame of this country that most of the States, through default of enforcement of pro-abortion laws, permit unborn babies to be killed virtually on demand. I hope that by our setting a reasonable example something will be done. The Lusher motion is carefully constructed. It aims to protect the unborn child, not from being killed, unfortunately, but from being killed at public expense. Honourable members should remember that, although we are arguing the moral issues, that is the matter on which we are supposed to be voting tonight. It is important to be quite clear on the fact that the only change is to the funding of the operation, not to its legality.
Why then is the Australian Medical Association so fierce in its condemnation of the Lusher motion? The answer is not far to seek: It is money. The AMA knows that if women demanding abortions have to pay for them out of their own pockets there will be some slackening of demand for the operation and the doctors performing it will suffer cuts in income. In the long run there will be two courses open to the doctors if they want to continue milking the greatest possible amount of cold hard cash out of these patients for killing their babies. They will have to charge more for each operation, or they will have to charge much less and hope to make up their incomes by sheer bulk of business. The reality of the filthy abortion trade will be exposed for what it is. A doctor who wants to make money out of killing will have to go into open competition with others of his kind. I find the attitude of the AMA sickening. No one knows better than the doctors that they are killing unborn babies every time they perform this operation. They know that life begins at conception.
Let me cut a long story short. I will tell honourable members what is happening in Australia today. We in this Parliament and those who preceded us have evaded our responsibilities, and other members of other parliaments have done the same thing. Because of that we have had developed in this country slaughter by stealth. We have evaded our responsibilities. We in this country have allowed some judges whom I regard as being completely foolish to assume the responsibilities of parliaments. They have then passed those responsibilities on to doctors. This is a very serious situation. The raising of this issue started because parliaments have not accepted their responsibilities. I believe that the Simon amendment and others- I do not include the Hyde amendment- are just a recapitulation of the old scare arguments. They are very bad in the sense that they take up the hard cases which make bad laws. If we in this Parliament take up those few hard scare cases and make bad lawsthat has been done in other parliaments- we will rue the day; we will pay the penalty. I ask this House to support the Lusher motion. Failing that motion receiving support, I ask the House to support the Hyde amendment and to reject all other amendments.
-My comments should be seen quite clearly to be within the context of my own beliefs. The abortion procedure is absolutely abhorrent to me. I support all proper attempts to educate the community in order to ensure that abortions are unnecessary in our society. I support the family unit. I support the concept of loved and loving children within that unit. Nevertheless, I cannot support the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). Let us be certain that the Lusher motion is not really about Commonwealth medical benefit funding. I draw the attention of honourable members to the beginning of that motion which reads:
Clearly, that proposition is based on a certain premise, and that premise can only be that abortions are wrong. No other reason is given in the Lusher motion or in the Lusher speech. Consequently, we have to consider that issue of abortion, not simply the issue of medical benefits. If we think that the simple question of medical benefits is necessary then we must think about the Baume amendment which I have seconded. If we think that the principle of paying benefits for elective procedures is wrong then we must extend that principle to procedures other than the abortion procedure. If that be the case, we must think about other elective procedures such as corrective or cosmetic procedures. We must extend the principle beyond the simple question of funding abortions.
However, that is not what the Lusher motion sets out to do. It does not worry about other elective procedures. Thus honourable members must work on the basis that the Lusher motion rests on the premise that abortion is wrong. My own view is that abortion on demand is certainly wrong. But I am concerned about the women whose long term mental health is at risk because of an unwanted or traumatic pregnancy, whose pregnancy arises as a result of rape or incest, whose foetus is doomed to tragic abnormality. As I am concerned about all those issues, if the Baume amendment is rejected I must vote for the Simon amendment.
The honourable member for Hume conceded that his motion is based on the concept that abortions are wrong in law. He did this by trying to suggest that the Victorian Menhennitt law, among others, is wrong or bad law. His comments in that regard and those of other honourable members are really quite irresponsible. The law is not a plaything of the people to be debunked will nilly. The Menhennitt decision is law and remains law until it is changed by the decision of some superior court- that has not happened- or until it is changed by statute, which has not happened. So it is law within our concept of law which is the constitutional concept of the rule of law. That cannot be debunked. That is the very basis of our existence in this Parliament. The Menhennitt law cannot be written off by any honourable member of this House in order to support the Lusher motion. Further, and more regrettably, some honourable members have tried to debunk the Menhennitt decision because, they allege, it interferes with the longstanding proposition that necessity is no defence to a crime. That allegation is quite untrue. The Menhennitt decision does not say that necessity is a defence to abortion. It simply refers to the necessary standards which must apply in determining whether or not an abortion is necessary in accordance with the exceptions allowed to the absolute prohibition which otherwise applies.
A further problem arises for those people who wish to debunk the Menhennitt law. They say it is no good because it is abused. Many laws in society are abused. That does not make them wrong or bad laws. They are still the laws of the land, they should be upheld and where evidence exists that they are being abused let that evidence come forward and let a prosecution follow. So it is that the Lusher motion must fail in its attempts to debunk Victorian and similar laws. It must fail as a simple discussion on the provision of medical benefits. It must follow that a reasoned approach to the question of abortion has to be adopted. Because the motion and many of the amendments fail to take account of the long term physical and mental welfare of the potential mother I can support only the Baume and Simon amendments and nothing else.
– At the outset I think it is important to make my position very clear. I totally support the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), known as the Lusher motion. I do this after a great deal of thought and many years of standing up and being counted as one of those people who totally oppose abortion. What is happening in Australia today when we as a Commonwealth government can allow funding to over 60,000 people for abortions? Under item 6469 last year some 50,900 abortions were performed and paid for with taxpayers ‘ money. Under items 6460 and 6464 1 17,600 operations were performed. If we take a certain number of those operations which terminated a pregnancy- say 30 per cent- we would be looking in respect of item 6469 at somewhere in the vicinity of 80,000 people whom we are killing each year in our hospitals and clinics around Australia.
What is wrong with Australia when we fail to remember that honourable members in this House in 1973 rejected by 98 votes to 23 a motion which would give abortion funding on demand? I believe the time has come when we have to revert to some of the very principles of our life. We have to look for the reverence of human life- To talk about the quality of life instead of the intrinsic sanctity of every life, especially a defenceless baby, is to descend to the level of Hitler’s superiority-inferiority complex. The unborn child is just as much a human being as any other child. Birth is merely a change of residence. Any civilisation worthy of the name has always held human life as something to be cherished above any material object.
Christian and Australian reverence for human life cannot long survive in a society that surrenders to doctors, mothers or anyone else a choice to determine who shall live and who shall die. The unborn child is at a disadvantage in a world where adults have all the power. That poor little child is small and naked, without a voice or even a name. It has no one to defend it except sympathetic adults, just as it has no one to attack it and condemn it to death except selfish calloused adults. As far as abortion is concerned, what is good for the doctor’s purse is bad for the mother, morally and mentally. It is lethal for the child.
The central issue is not primarily what we do to those little children, but what we do to ourselves by indefinitely letting little ones be killed. Such a situation cannot be continued without irreparable damage to the moral sensibilities of our people and to the most cherished principles of humanity, especially in our own Australian society. For centuries abortion was condemned throughout the western world as an outrageous moral and legal crime. Yet now it is presented to us as fitting, as a morally good and socially beneficial act. Christianity, which taught that we should lay down our life for our friend, is now interpreted by some people to mean taking another’s life for our own comfort and convenience. People who argue against taking the life of a convicted murderer are found the same day arguing in favour of killing innocent children in their mother’s womb. Doctors whose whole purpose heretofore was to maintain life, now use their skills to destroy our children. The powerful and guilty do away with the weak, the innocent and the defenceless.
We live in a country that encourages the protector of a child, his or her own mother, to become the very agent of his destruction. Australia must return to its senses. We must protect the lives of every human being, born and unborn not only for their sake but for the sake of all of us who may some day become victims of the new ethic’ adopted by a small minority of Australians. To pretend that the child is not alive until the moment of birth is to say that it all of a sudden becomes human. What was it a moment before birth- an animal?
I believe that the reverence of human life is something we must consider in this debate. I am also convinced that we must realise what our position should be in society. I come from a State which very fortunately enforces its anti-abortion laws. In Queensland abortions are not performed in clinics or public hospitals. The sensibility of that State and the way in which the problems have been approached are something that should be taken up in other States, particularly New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. I believe that the Government is falling down by not taking on these issues. We as a parliament and as a group of elected representatives of 14.2 million Australians must realise that we have been elected to this place to make decisions. I totally support the motion.
– I rise to support the Simon amendment and to oppose the Lusher motion. In doing so I first of all look to those occasions in the last six months when the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and his supporters, if they were sincere and wanted to affect the funding of abortions and to prevent that funding, had legislative opportunities in this Parliament to do so. In November and December of last year this Parliament had before it the National Health Amendment Bill which provided the legislative opportunity which was not availed of by the honourable member for Hume and his supporters. One is entitled to ask why when there was a legislative opportunity it was not acted upon. What we now have is a motion which at this stage of the debate is no longer the basis for a discussion about the propriety of funding abortion. We now have a debate on the issue of abortion itself.
I am not opposed to this Parliament debating the issue of abortion per se. I am opposed to this
Parliament debating the issue in the context of this mean and despicable motion. I believe it is a mean and despicable motion because there was a legislative opportunity which was not availed of. I believe it is a despicable motion because it tries through the back door to affect the laws that are essentially the responsibility of the States and the Territories and not the legal responsibility of this Parliament.
What have we been told? We have been told by the honourable member for Hume- and this is conceded by the honourable member- that if we adopt his motion the State laws will be not affected. He also concedes that his motion will not affect the ability of women who are financially well off to have abortions. They will go and have them. He hopes that the economically deprived and the poor, by virtue of their economic circumstances, by virtue of the fact that they will face a queue in the public hospitals or have to resort to the tender mercies of the backyarder, might think again and adopt his personal morality. I do not believe that this House or any other parliament in this Commonwealth can in fact legislate to enforce morality at any level.
In invoking legal arguments to support the motion an attack has been made not merely upon the legal efficacy of the Menhennitt judgment. I am concerned that an attack has been made on Mr Justice Menhennitt himself on a number of occasions. Let me as a former Victorian parliamentarian and a current member of the legal profession in Victoria say this: No judge in the Supreme Court of Victoria has a higher reputation amongst members of the Bar or members of the legal profession than Mr Justice Menhennitt. I believe it is totally unworthy of any member of this House, because he might not like the social consequences of a particular judgment, to attack -
-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.
– I deplore the attacks upon the integrity of Mr Justice Menhennitt. I find it interesting that for many years after that judgment and its implications were known, at no stage in the Victorian Parliament were Mr Justice Menhennitt or that judgment attacked by any member from any party. The attack has had to come from the Commonwealth Parliament and we have had to drag in a legal opinion from a couple of barristers in New South Wales, who have no knowledge of the Victorian jurisdiction or of the reputation of Mr Justice Menhennitt, to try to destroy the efficacy of that decision.
I just want to say that this motion ought to be opposed because it attempts to use the financial power of the Commonwealth to affect the operation of State laws in a way which I believe is unsound constitutionally and which involves a principle which we will live to regret. Secondly, it seeks to superimpose the judgment of this House between the judgment of the medical practitioner and his patient. Patients are entitled to receive the treatment that their doctors recommend, not treatment based on the moral doctrines of the honourable member for Hume. The Lusher motion also endeavours to import moral precepts and judgments into the complex area of health benefits. If it were passed it would create a bureaucratic nightmare. Finally, it attacks the most vulnerable members of the community. Those women who are unable to afford an abortion could only hope to get into the queue at a public hospital or be at the mercy of the backyard abortionist.
Let me just deal with the question of conscience. It is all very well for members of this House to say that they are examining their consciences. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the conscience of any member of this House, including my own, on the issue of abortion is any more profound- and I believe it probably is less profound- than the conscience of the woman who, in a moment of agony and trauma, has to make what I believe to be a truly awful decision- to terminate her pregnancy. Who says that the conscience of the honourable member for Hume or the conscience of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports ought to be superimposed upon the woman who has to make that choice? We live in a pluralist and democratic community and ultimately we should never forget that religious freedom in this community rests upon the doctrine of the separation of the Church from the state. The Church has a right to impose its moral teachings and beliefs upon its members, but I believe grave dangers would be involved if it endeavoured to use the coercive powers of the State and the sanctions of the criminal law to enforce moral precepts and moral doctrines. If I have to choose between the consciences of members of this House and the conscience of the woman who has the right to make that decision, I believe that safety lies in saying that the average Australian woman will make that decision with more conscience than some of the consciences I have seen displayed in this House today.
-I rise to support the motion in regard to the termination of pregnancy. I will be brief in view of the large number of members of the House who have spoken already on this issue. I have listened with care and attention to all the honourable members who have spoken. Consequently, I am supporting the Lusher motion. The real issue is abortion. This Government should be providing the necessary funds to avoid the need for abortions. It is a hypocritical government. It even withdrew the maternity allowance of a mere $30. Like the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart), I am convinced philosophically, medically and intellectually that human life is continuous from conception. In regard to the scientific evidence, it is not my intention to add to what was said by the honourable member for Grayndler in his speech in this House yesterday. I believe that he has dealt adequately with the scientific evidence that human life commences at conception.
A large degree of emotionalism has been displayed by some honourable members during this debate. It is an emotive issue. The rights of women are involved. But are not the rights of a father also involved? There are also social implications. It is my intention to be logical rather than emotive. Until such time as scientists can establish that they can create human life with some substance other than the male sperm and the female ovum I will hold firmly to my belief that human life commences at conception. I believe that my reasoning is perfectly logical.
I would like to cite a few facts in regard to my own family. We have six children. Our first child was born normally and without any complications. Our second child also had a normal birth, but my wife received a blood transfusion which introduced the RH factor into her bloodstream. At that time, in 1 945, nothing was known medically about the RH factor. In 1951 my wife gave birth to a son, our third child. He was severely jaundiced and was not given much chance of living. However, he did live and he is this day a practising barrister. Each of our other three children, including twin boys, was born severely jaundiced with a probability of spasticity. It was a severe mental strain on both my wife and me. Undoubtedly it was a far greater mental strain on my wife as she was carrying the child or children in her womb, but she bore the strain willingly and cheerfully. After our third child was born we were told by our gynaecologist of the high probability of spasticity in any future children. Is there a member of this House of Representatives who would suggest that those three children should have been aborted merely because there was a high probability of spasticity which may have caused us parents a problem? Those three children were not affected and are today normal children, thank God. They have all been to university or are currently attending university. Had these three sons of ours been aborted my family and Australia would have been the losers.
I can also give examples of parents in my electorate who have mentally handicapped children. One family has three mentally handicapped children. The parents have faced trials and tribulations and borne great financial burdens, but they have accepted those burdens willingly. Would any members of this House suggest that these children should have been aborted? If they do, I suggest that they stand up and say so. I support the original motion.
-The Lusher motion is derisive of women and of this Parliament. In moving his reactionary and illconceived motion the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) lays himself open not only to contempt but also to a much more serious charge. He is using the motion in an attempt to accomplish what has failed previously. The legality of abortion, as has been said many times in this debate, in a State issue. The Federal Government has control over the Australian Capital Territory and the territories only. Throughout Australia abortions are legal in one form or another. In Victoria the Menhennitt decision ruled that abortion was lawful if it was necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health. In New South Wales the Levine decision went further and ruled that abortion was legal if there were reasonable grounds- economic, social or medical- for believing that the operation was necessary. In South Australia a woman must be hospitalised and two doctors must agree that an abortion is necessary.
So we all know that abortions happen and will continue to happen, whether legal or otherwise and whether or not health benefits are paid. The point is that abortions can be legal and, if they are, this House has an obligation to provide medical benefits to protect the woman’s health.
It has an obligation to provide medical benefits to protect any disadvantaged person’s health. The honourable member for Hume was reported in the Catholic Weekly of 29 October 1978 as saying that the legality of abortions is not at issue. He said that it was a State matter with which the Commonwealth Government cannot interfere. So why does he propose to interfere now? Is it because he knows that popular opinion is against him in the more liberated States and he must therefore resort to back door tactics in a feeble attempt to get his own way?
If the honourable member for Hume wants to change the law regarding legal abortions, why does he not say so? If he wants a debate on abortion and its legality, let us have a motion to that effect. If he wants a debate on whether abortion should be under total federal control or otherwise, let us have that debate. But let him cease these most devious, unscrupulous and unprincipled tactics. He wants abortions restricted so that women cannot receive benefits except if the abortion is made to protect the life of the mother from a physical or pathological condition. No consideration at all is given to a woman ‘s mental health: The suicidal tendencies to which pregnant women are prone and the extreme mental anguish perpetrated on a woman by social or economic circumstances. It is discrimination of the grossest kind to allow abortions for the rich but to condemn the poor to unwanted pregnancies or to send them to back yard abortionists or to public hospitals. The honourable member for Hume’s response to that kind of discrimination- which was mentioned by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson)- when challenged by the National Times was to say:
If you can afford to send your kids to Kings school, you can; if you can’t, you can’t. There will always be people who have more advantages than others. 1 don’t think you will ever get away from it.
We should ask ourselves whether we need politicians with that sort of mentality, people who are actively campaigning for a return to the old system of inequality. The honourable member for Hume now wishes to change his argument. He now says that the motion does not force women to go to back yard abortionists; nor does it disadvantage low income women. He points out that a woman can have her pregnancy terminated in a public hospital. That is true. But why have one scheme for the rich and another for the poor? What is the point of that? Poorer patients will be forced to enter a public hospital ward and the taxpayer will have to pay the total cost under the Commonwealth-State hospitals cost sharing agreement. The Royal Women’s Hospital of Victoria has already expressed concern about this matter. The hospital asserts that if medical benefits for the termination of pregnancy are denied, many privately insured patients will seek treatment in public hospitals. In correspondence the board of management said that it was concerned that the hospital would be unable to cope with the unexpected load. If the hospitals are to provide additional termination services to cope with the load they will do so at the expense of other hospital activities. So desperate women will be forced to seek out back yard abortionists.
The honourable member for Hume has decided to waste the time of the House because of the flexing of political muscles by minority groups such as the Right to Live organisation. This selfish, self-righteous group has no understanding of the issues involved. It is not for any religious or political group to determine what a women does with her own body. A woman can decide not to have an abortion. That is her right, as it is the right of every other woman to make her own decision. No parliament and no man has the right to impose on that woman’s right. The Right to Life movement talks a great deal about the right to life but it fails to consider the right of a woman to her own life. It advocates the births of unwanted children but does nothing to enhance the quality of life for all children. It does not campaign for a mother’s right to raise a child in decent socio-economic circumstances. Until a woman can raise her child in an acceptable environment and fully accept the responsibility parenthood entails, society has no right to condemn a child to the horror and misery of abuse. Until the Right to Life movement can guarantee a proper environment for a child it has no claim to its future. What is the movement doing about increasing family allowances, improving the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and so on? At present, family allowances are not available to mothers whose children are receiving TEAS payments. I have heard much from correspondents about their objections to health funds distributing their contributions as benefits to women who have undergone termination of pregnancy. What about the woman’s right to obtain benefits as a full legal member of a health fund? Are not her rights to be fully considered, as are the rights of others who interfere with her benefits? Mr Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence. I will now conclude my remarks. As I look around me I see the smug visage of the young fraud from Hume. I also see sad and bitter faces -
-Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will withdraw that remark.
– I think you should, too, you big galah.
-Order! The honourable member from Darling Downs will withdraw that remark.
– With the greatest respect to you, Mr Speaker, a person who would call a man of great compassion a big fraud deserves to be called a big galah. I refuse to withdraw.
-I propose to deal with the honourable member for Darling Downs at a later point. I indicate to the honourable member for Darling Downs that I am not going to take up the time of the House with the proceedings involved in naming him in case there is a need for a division. I want the honourable members who wish to speak to this motion to be able to conclude. I will then deal with the honourable member for Darling Downs. I call the honourable member for Cunningham.
– As I look around me I see the honourable member for Hume I also see the sad and bitter faces of many young, pregnant, working class girls who are afraid of their parents, their friends and even their futures. I can see young couples inadequately housed, paying high rents on low incomes and perhaps even lost in the unemployment statistics. If I have to choose between self righteousness and the exercise of power on behalf of those people, tonight I will vote against the motion of the honourable member for Hume.
-It seems to me that the Lusher motion is based on a moral judgment that abortion should not be allowed other than to protect the life of the mother from a physical, pathological condition and that that life could be protected in no other way. I wish to address myself to the moral issue, the cost effect of the removal of these items from the medical benefits schedule and to the practical results which could flow if the original motion is passed. The moral judgment concerns the question of when human life begins. I wish to quote excerpts from the report of the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion. The excerpts are contained in pages 184 to 189 of that report. The report states:
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 conception.
The report goes on:
The real point to which the arguments have been addressed to us is not as to when life begins, but as to the value which is to be attributed to that life, particularly in its incipient stages.
Later the report states:
Is the life of the unborn child to be regarded as being of the same value right throughout the duration of its development and pregnancy, and does its status differ from the status it has when it becomes a born child?
The report then goes on to outline the three schools of thought of how people considered the abortion question and the question of when human life begins. The genetic school of thought was of the view that at the moment of conception all the characteristics of the human being are determined genetically. The life is never part of the mother but is a distinct individual human life. The unborn child asserts a command over the pregnancy. The conceptus has the ability to satisfy the two qualities of an individual, unity and uniqueness. Also, the fact that a foetus under 20 weeks has never been capable of extra-uterine life and that it is unlikely to survive if born before 24 weeks, does not make it any the less an independent being. The second school of thought is the developmental school. I quote from the report:
Within this school are those who hold that, while conception establishes the genetic basis for an individual human being, some degree of development is required before one can legitimately speak of the life of an individual human being as being an issue in the abortion decision. The development school does not accept that the establishment of the genetic basis of itself will constitute an ‘individual human being’. Some degree of development of the embryo is required before full human status is assigned to it. Those who are persuaded to this line of thinking believe that life is a continual process with growing stages of significance deserving different degress of moral concern.
The report then went on to outline the third school of thought, which it called the social consequences school. The main views of this school, as stated by the report, were:
Biological facts do not directly dictate the definition of human’. The decision to call the conceptus a human being is to be made on the basis of the social consequences of the decision. People do not feel the same emotional response to the zygote and the embryo as they do to the unborn child in the later stages of pregnancy. Society has never regarded the foetus as a human being and no nation requires that a dead foetus be treated in the same way as a dead person.
I think it is important that the general schools of thought in that report are considered because it is clear from the number of abortions that are being carried out in Australia at present that varying values are placed on the unborn child. I refer to an article in the Herald of Saturday, 10 March of this year which details some of the findings in a report compiled by Dr J. A. Johnson, who was the research director of the
Family Planning Centre at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, and by Mr D. B. Roberts. The article says that the authors interviewed 200 women in clinics during what the women thought was part of the normal pre-abortion counselling. It states:
Most of the 200 believed that abortion was morally wrong, but they rationalised their own cases and were firmly resolved to terminate their pregnancy. Only 3 per cent said they would continue the pregnancy if no safe legal abortion service were available. Eleven per cent said they would be willing to abort themselves. Four per cent would threaten suicide and 66 per cent would seek help for an abortion elsewhere- even untrained people.
I realise that Dr Johnson’s bone fides have been questioned. But even if that report is only half correct, it presents an extremely disturbing situation. It seems that people are rationalising their morals along the lines of one the latter two schools of thought which are in the excerpts to which I referred. It seems that regardless of the moral judgment this Parliament makes, pregnant women, having consulted their doctor or doctors and wanting an abortion, while such an abortion is legally available to them, will in fact undertake that course if they can possibly do so.
It has been repeated many times in this debate that the legal regulation of abortions is within the power of the State Parliaments and not this Parliament. That being the case, the motion by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) suggests that whilst we cannot change the legal position, at least we should do what we can to show our concern on the moral aspect. For the honourable member for Hume, that means the removal of the benefits payable under the medical benefits schedule for such operations. Many other people who agree that the removal of such benefits is at least a step in the right direction suggest that the money could be better spent in other ways. Whilst I think that the question of money is the most peripheral and unimportant issue in this whole debate, I suggest that if the honourable member’s motion is passed it is doubtful whether there will be any saving at all to the Commonwealth. If women continue to exercise their legal rights to have abortions and some find that they cannot afford their own doctor or a private hospital without the assistance of the scheduled Commonwealth medical benefits, then, as many speakers have said, including the mover of the motion, they would have access to a public hospital. I believe that this could lead to delays, and for many women who are demanding an abortion certainly it will be a less satisfactory situation. In proposing the motion yesterday, the honourable member for Hume said that the legal situation regarding abortion had resulted in ‘the excessive use or over-use of public funds, and Parliament should see that it does not continue’. Whilst many may agree with that statement, I do not see how this motion will remedy the situation. If the motion has any effect, it will force lower income women into public hospitals where this Government, together with the State government, picks up the whole bill. In private hospitals there is at least the prospect of a contribution from a fund and/or the patient, and the period of stay in hospital is likely to be less. When government hospital bed costs are running at upwards of $80 a day, I cannot see that there will be any net saving to the Commonwealth. In fact, I would be very surprised if there were not an increase .in public funding if the motion is passed.
Finally, let me make it clear that I am deeply concerned at the results of the survey I have already quoted. Further, I find the number of abortions carried out in this country to be greatly disturbing. I believe that we should all support programs such as sex education and family planning which will assist in reducing the number of abortions sought. The motion and the amendments, with the exception of the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), aim to restrict the Commonwealth scheduled medical benefits, in the words of the right honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch): in order to remove the appearance of Commonwealth approval for abortions which are not required for physical/medical reasons.
In my opinion, while these operations are legally available in the States, the practical effect, if any, will be marginally to disadvantage low income women by forcing them into public hospitals. There is a good prospect that it will cost the Commonwealth more than at present because of the funding arrangements of our public hospitals. I find it difficult to accept that by spending as much if not more in money terms we will give the appearance of disapproval of abortions. Regardless of the decision that this House may make on the motion or the amendments, I believe that, if nothing else, the debate has served to remind and perhaps in some cases awaken the Australian population to the grave and continuing problem of the number of abortions in this country. I hope that the debate will enforce in the minds of honourable members the need for our continuing support of programs that will assist people to become better informed and, as a result, hopefully they will not find themselves in the position of having to seek an abortion.
-In rising to speak in this debate, I wish to make it clear at the outset that I support the Lusher motion and, if it is necessary to vote on it, I will support the Cadman amendment. It is interesting to note that during the speeches I listened to, and I admit that I have not been able to listen to every speaker, either yesterday or today, I do not recall anybody mentioning that this happens to be the International Year of the Child. That is a very appropriate point that we should all keep in mind when we are talking about this very important matter. Another important point that I came across when looking up some facts on this matter relates to the oath of Hippocrates. That oath, which I understand most doctors take when they succeed in their studies and go into practice, states in part: ‘I will not aid a woman to procure abortion. ‘ I think that is rather a significant statement considering some of the things that are happening throughout this country.
One of the things that have been raised constantly by speakers opposing the Lusher motion throughout this debate has been the fact that there is a legal facility for women to obtain an abortion. The honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) mentioned that a woman can demand to have an abortion. I seem to remember that we had a very extensive and, I thought, thorough debate on this subject in 1973. The decision of the Parliament following that debate was that abortions were not for people on demand. That is one of the reasons that I find myself supporting the Lusher motion. Another reason I support it is the fact that medical benefits are supposedly refunds for payments made for services rendered for an illness. I think it would be really stretching one ‘s imagination to suggest that the 50,000-odd abortions that occur every year are all necessary because of illness.
- Mr Speaker, I hope my six minutes have not expired.
-No, they have not.
– I wish they had.
-You might wish they had, but I am sure that quite a few people outside this place do not agree with you. The point is that whatever happens regarding this debate tonight, if one of the amendments to the motion is passed, to stop funding in some form, it is not going to change the legality of the situation regarding persons who properly require operations. What we are getting down to is the people opposing this motion simply say: ‘Well, look it is all right. We are acting within the law, therefore it is okay’. But if they honestly examined their consciences they could not really believe that those 50,000 abortions a year are all completely in conformity with the Menhennitt ruling or the other rulings that are accepted as fact. They are not and honourable members opposite know it; I know it and so do the people of Australia who are concerned about it. I am also concerned about it.
The point that I get back to is that health benefits are refunds for payments for the treatment of an illness. That is one of the reasons I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mitchell, on the basis that it clearly provides that an abortion legally because of illness or other factors equal to illness can of course be accepted. But in the existing situation in some Statesmany members on both sides of the argument have said this, and I could not agree more with them- the States should look at their own nests, they should look at the situation and take positive action. But that is not the point. We have no control over State governments. We cannot force State governments to tidy up their laws or to make sure that a law is enacted. What happens is that the States introduce a law and if they are slipshod in their methods and do not care what happens within the parameters of those laws it does not mean that we are doing the right thing by closing our eyes as well. I do not agree with that. I believe we have a moral duty as well as a political duty to look after this country. Anything that we can do to assist the standard of living in this country, to ensure that the people of this country have proper standards to live by, then that is the stance we should take in this Parliament. I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House except again to state that I will be supporting the Lusher motion in principle.
– I did not particularly wish to make any remarks in this debate. I felt that the matter was one on which I could exercise my judgment, having consulted all those whom I have seen. I think the debate in the House has been a long one. I think most honourable members fully understand their responsibilities and the vote which they wish to cast. Therefore I do not vote for the motion moved by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and I do not vote against it. I will be supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon).
-The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) who has moved this motion has requested from me a right to reply. I thank honourable members for their co-operation. I see that the clock is right on 1 1. We have reached the time to vote, except for the right of reply by the mover of the motion. I have also received requests from other honourable members such as the seconder of the motion, and from other honourable members who have moved amendments. I have decided that in the interests of the House I should permit only a reply by the honourable member for Hume who has undertaken to limit that reply to five minutes.
-There has been one major argument which has been regularly raised during this debate and it is that with which I wish to concern myself. The argument is that this Parliament has no right to interfere with or to influence the laws of the States and that we must be bound by the legal position of the States. Virtually every speaker opposed to my motion has raised this argument in one form or another. All but four members of the Australian Labor Party seem to forget that when in government they spent three years trying, and in some cases succeeding, in imposing the will of the Commonwealth on the States. To a greater or lesser extent coalition governments have done the same thing. What was the Treasurer (Mr Howard) doing when he interrupted the debate at 5.30 tonight to announce financial retaliation against what he called the irresponsible decision of New South Wales which wants to introduce a 371/2 hour week? Does anybody believe that the Treasurer, with impeccable timing, was doing anything other than trying to force the Commonwealth view on a State. It amazes me that members of this Parliament accept the view that the Commonwealth should be bound by laws of the States. Section 51 (xxiiiA) of the Constitution states:
The Parliament shall . . . have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: . . . sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription) . . .
There is no doubt that this Parliament has the power to set the terms and conditions that it may wish to attach to the disbursement of the public funds for which it has constitutional responsibility. What are we doing every time we legislate under section 96 of the Constitution? We are imposing the will of the Commonwealth on the States, whether they like it or not. What was the Treasurer doing tonight? But even though this is unarguably the case, I do not seek to impose any will- Commonwealth, mine, or otherwise- on the States. I ask the Parliament to do nothing more than exercise its undoubted power to restrict the application of funds for which the Parliament has responsibility in such a way that they will be available to pay for abortion only if there are good medical grounds for the abortion. I have made it clear that I do not agree with the way in which the State law is being administered in some of the States. But I have also acknowledged that that is a matter for the States. The House must equally acknowledge that there is no constitutional right to medical benefits. There is nothing in my motion which would impinge in any way on the rights Of any State or of any citizen of any State. If my motion passes, the laws that apply in the States tomorrow will be no different from the laws that apply in the States today, no one’s rights will be affected because no rights are under challenge. No one will be disadvantaged because the welfare system- in this case the public hospital system- guarantees that no one will be disadvantaged. That is what the system is there for.
No one will be forced to illegal abortionists because legal abortions will still be available free- as the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) acknowledges- to those who need them. At the end of the day my motion can only achieve one thing. Those who seek a legal abortion on demand and who have the capacity to pay will pay for the operation. If I can turn another argument which I have heard so many times in this debate, on its head and that is that it is only the better off who will pay. The poor or disadvantaged will not. But in agreeing to my proposition the House will have taken a giant step forward. It will have acknowledged that there is not an obligation on the Parliament to expend money for abortion on demand. The only contribution to abortion this Parliament will be authorising will be through the welfare system where the legality and administration is a State and not a Commonwealth responsibility, and is therefore beyond the control of this Parliament, or where there is a legitimate medical necessity through the medical benefits system. To reject my motion the House does one thing and only one thing. It establishes positively the liability of the public purse to meet the full cost of abortion on demand. To support the Simon amendment is to support that proposition. The Simon amendment positively, almost, de jure, commits this Parliament to a situation that to date has been only de facto. I reject it out of hand. The Hyde amendment is acceptable to me. It does nothing more than to leave the Government, rather than the House, at this time to work out how to implement the principle expressed in my motion. I will support the Hyde amendment and vote against the Cadman, Simon and other amendments. I ask my supporters to do the same.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired. I give the honourable member for Darling Downs an opportunity to withdraw a remark he made earlier tonight.
- Mr Speaker, I apologise most sincerely for a singular display of disrespect to you and to the House. I state in explanation that I was under severe provocation when my friend and colleague was so callously and unjustly criticised by another member of this Parliament.
– Does the honourable gentleman withdraw?
– I withdraw.
-The honourable member for Hume moved a motion which is within the knowledge of all honourable members. The House then adopted a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders which enabled any honourable member who chose to do so to submit an amendment which was circulated to all honourable members and notified to the House by the Clerk. The motion for the suspension of Standing Orders required that the Speaker select the manner in which the proposed amendments would be put to the House. I have earlier tonight indicated:
My duty is to obtain a majority decision of the House and this I should do as quickly as possible. After listening to the views of the movers of the various amendments, I have concluded that I should first put to the House the amendment of the honourable member for McMillan. If it gains a majority of votes it will be unnecessary for me to determine the priority of other amendments. If it fails I will decide from the numbers disclosed an order for presentation of other amendments.
The amendment proposed by the honourable member for McMillan is:
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’.
Therefore the question before the House is:
That the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan be agreed to. ‘
That the amendment moved by the honourable member for McMillan be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The question therefore is that the amendment of the honourable member for Ballarat be agreed to.
Item 6469 goes far beyond pregnancy. Therefore I say that it is not relevant to the question. I shall quote part of the services covered by item 6469, which include: evacuation of the contents of the gravid-
That is pregnant- uterus . . . where the foetus has already died from natural causes but has not been expelled by the uterus.
Therefore I argue that this item is not relevant to the motion and that it goes far beyond the question of pregnancy.
That the amendment (Mr Short’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m. until Tuesday next at 3 p.m. or such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair
The following notice was given:
Dr Everingham to move:
That the House of Representatives accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay and urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people then introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
-The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However the Department has a Technical Directive which governs Departmental operations which involve handling or use of asbestos or asbestos containing products. Topics covered include general information, uses of asbestos and safe working with asbestos.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) Commonwealth Record:
Vol. 1 (1976)-3,900-4,500 copies; Vol. 2 (1977) -3,400-4,200 copies; Vol. 3 (1978) - 3,000-3,400 copies.
Ministerial Document Service (Daily Collation):
1976-320 copies; 1977-325 copies; 1978-335 copies.
Clerk Class 7 ($17,013 p.a.)-Editing and administration.
Clerical Assistant Grade 4 ($9,953.00 p.a.)-Proof reading and general duties (50 per cent of time).
Clerical Assistant Grade 2 ($8,595.00 p.a.)-Proof reading assistance (20 percent of time).
The number of persons involved from time to time in production and distribution of the Commonwealth Record is considerable. I am not prepared to authorise the work which would be involved in preparing the list sought.
Ministerial Document Service (Daily Collation):
Printing of the Daily Collation involves a number of persons, whose wages range from $322.00 to $382.00 per fortnight, intermittently engaged for short varying periods of dme each day. I am not prepared to authorise the work which would be involved in preparing a detailed list.- °
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790322_reps_31_hor113/>.