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«Pair Hon Simon O'Brien Hon Tom Stephens Amendment thus negatived. Motion Resumed Debate adjourned, on motion by Hon Bruce Donaldson. STANDING ...»

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[Wednesday, 20 March 2002] 8547

Ayes (15)

Hon Alan Cadby Hon John Fischer Hon Barry House Hon Bill Stretch

Hon George Cash Hon Peter Foss Hon Robyn McSweeney Hon Derrick Tomlinson

Hon Murray Criddle Hon Ray Halligan Hon Norman Moore Hon Bruce Donaldson (Teller)

Hon Paddy Embry Hon Frank Hough Hon Barbara Scott

Noes (16)

Hon Kim Chance Hon Adele Farina Hon Dee Margetts Hon Christine Sharp Hon Robin Chapple Hon Jon Ford Hon Louise Pratt Hon Ken Travers Hon Kate Doust Hon Graham Giffard Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich Hon Giz Watson Hon Sue Ellery Hon N.D. Griffiths Hon J.A. Scott Hon E.R.J. Dermer (Teller) Pair Hon Simon O'Brien Hon Tom Stephens Amendment thus negatived.

Motion Resumed Debate adjourned, on motion by Hon Bruce Donaldson.


Planning Appeals Amendment Bill 2001 - Extension of Time HON BARRY HOUSE (South West) [3.27 pm]: I present a report of the Public Administration and Finance Committee seeking an extension of time to 28 March 2002 in which to report on the Planning Appeals Amendment Bill

2001. I move - That the report do lie upon the Table and be adopted and agreed to.

Although the committee has sought several extensions, it is well advanced in its deliberation on the report. At least one further meeting is required and it is not possible to fit that in before the conclusion of business in this House tomorrow.

The committee seeks an extra few days to complete its deliberations.

Question put and passed.

[See paper No 1297.]


Committee Resumed from 19 March. The Chairman of Committees (Hon George Cash) in the Chair; Hon N.D. Griffiths (Minister for Racing and Gaming) in charge of the Bill.

New clause 54 - Progress was reported after Hon Peter Foss had moved the following amendment - 73A. Religious or moral beliefs or principles Nothing in this Act renders it unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person on any one or more of the grounds of discrimination referred to in this Act if the discrimination is necessary for the first-mentioned person to comply with the person’s genuine religious or moral beliefs or principles.

Hon PETER FOSS: I have said all I need to say on this clause and we can now vote on it. A difficulty arises because whenever antidiscrimination legislation is introduced there are always competing interests. However, the bizarre issue here is that the competing interest is between an interest that is being protected under the Act and another interest that would be protected under the Act. Whether members accept their objections or not, it is clear that persons of strong religious persuasions have some difficulties with the discrimination if it forces them to do things they regard as being against their religious convictions. It is hard to say how we get around it. We appear at the moment to be giving paramount importance to discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference. The Equal Opportunity Act gives paramount importance to the grounds of religious conviction. One or other must be given paramountcy. The one to which we should give paramountcy is the one that was first accepted, which is religious conviction, and not the later one that is being now proposed. It would be quite unfortunate if as a result of this amendment we were to violate the principles of another antidiscrimination provision that was passed at a much earlier date.

8548 [COUNCIL] Hon N.D. GRIFFITHS: The Government opposes the amendment, which seeks to put in place a blanket exemption.

The Equal Opportunity Act deals with exceptions for matters to do with religion. I refer to sections 72, 73 and 74 of that Act. The Government is of the view that it is not good public policy to put in place a blanket exemption. I note the Victorian precedent which came into being in the mid 1990s and the political character of Victoria at the time. The Victorian precedent does not go as far as this proposed amendment in any event.

New clause put and passed.

New clause 55 Hon PETER FOSS: Section 74 of the Equal Opportunity Act, as mentioned by the minister, provides one of the general exceptions under the Act. Section 74(2) reads Nothing in this Act affects a) any rule or practice of an institution which restricts admission thereto to applicants of any class, type, sex, race, age or religious or political conviction;

The Act goes on to state that in the case of an institution, it means an establishment that provides housing, accommodation and ancillary services for aged persons whether under statute or otherwise. It is a general exemption.

The Act contains an exemption for every other kind of discrimination, including sex, age or religious or political conviction. We believe that we should add sexual orientation as one of the other grounds that should be included in the Act. I move Page 34, after line 6 - To insert the following new clause Section 74 amended Section 74(2)(a) is amended by inserting after “sex,” sexual orientation ” Hon N.D. GRIFFITHS: The Government does not agree to the proposed amendment. I note that Hon Peter Foss said that other areas of discrimination in the Equal Opportunity Act are not included in the exemption. I refer to marital status, pregnancy and family responsibility or status. The Government is not of the view that this area should be added to the exemption.

New clause put and a division taken with the following result Ayes (14) <

–  –  –

Clause 61: Section 7 amended Hon PETER FOSS: This clause contains the part that is consequential on the amendments to which we objected. The Family Court Act is amended in another Act as well, but that is another Act with which we have very substantial problems. We will oppose this clause on the voices but we will not divide.

Clause put and passed.

Clauses 62 to 66 put and passed.

Clause 67: Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 amended Hon PETER FOSS: Problems exist in this area, and they are multiplied because they are complicated. For instance, because a number of people fall within the definition of a “de facto partner”, many difficulties have arisen and have not been easily resolved. Will the minister tell the Committee whether problems have arisen under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 because the definition of “spouse” includes a single de facto spouse? Has there been any difficulty in the administration of this Act because of multiple claims?

Hon N.D. GRIFFITHS: I have been advised that no difficulties have arisen.

Clause put and passed.

Clauses 68 to 70 put and passed.

Clause 71: Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 amended Hon PETER FOSS: This is a matter with which the Opposition has serious moral concerns including the legal consequences after the human reproductive technology has taken place. The Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 has a preamble, and it is fair to say that laws usually contain preambles only when they contain interesting moral or political problems. Preambles are not usually included as a matter of course. However, they often provide a sense of why Parliament is enacting a certain law. The preamble of the Human Reproductive Technology Act states In enacting this legislation Parliament is seeking to give help and encouragement to those eligible couples who are unable to conceive children naturally or whose children may be affected by a genetic disease.

It goes on Parliament considers that the primary purpose and only justification for the creation of a human egg in the process of fertilisation or embryo in vitro is to so assist these couples to have children, and this legislation should respect the life created by this process by giving an egg in the process of fertilisation or embryo all reasonable opportunity for implanting.

This is a major area of dispute, and the Labor Party should allow for a conscience vote because the questions involved are those of life and death. The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church states that life begins with the fertilisation of an ovary, and to treat a fertilised egg in any way other than as a human being, is inconsistent with its moral principles.

Many people share this view even though it might not be a doctrine of the church to which they belong. This legislation is not inconsequential in the minds of members on both sides of the House. When we deal with this area, we stray dangerously into the concerns about the propriety of what is being done. I am not keen on fertilisation procedures, and one of the reasons for this is the work carried out by Professor Fiona Stanley. She has carried out world-renowned research into the consequences of a low birth weight. She stated that a baby under 1 000 grams has many degrees of increased likelihood of developing cerebral palsy. It is her belief - she has yet to prove her claims - that a child may experience other problems because of a low birth weight. There is no doubt that we have the technical expertise to keep alive babies who are born with a birth rate of under 1 000 grams. However, while the life of that baby is maintained, we also run the risk of condemning that baby to a lifetime of misery because he or she might suffer from cerebral palsy, social problems, and so on. I have a slightly different view from the Roman Catholic Church because I do not support this legislation at all. Although I have enormous sympathy for those who are unable to have children, I believe that we are playing with fire, and with the lives of children.

That is my personal view - it is not the view of the Liberal Party - but it characterises the previous treatment of this legislation. It has always been treated as a matter in which people have the capacity to express their personal views, and that has been a good thing. Some issues in Parliament must be dealt with according to personal conviction and beliefs, and not along party lines. I might support one particular provision on the basis of my personal beliefs, but another member will support a different provision. That will lead to the passing of a Bill that is not necessarily supported by anybody as a whole. That is one of the consequences of using a conscience vote. It is not an ideal situation. Winston Churchill once stated that democracy is not ideal, but that it is the best system we have. I have been very concerned about the departure from the principle that we not deal with such a matter along party lines. We have not dealt with it in a way that has sought to obtain consensus views or to reach a compromise of some type. When this happens we end up with indignation, concern, and general bloody-mindedness, and that is unfortunate.

My views are not necessarily the views of the Parliament, or of the people in my party. They do not necessarily represent the majority view of those in my party. However, they fit within this area, and this is an area of the law in which members should be allowed to vote according to their personal views. Quite apart from anything else, the 8550 [COUNCIL] Liberal Party objects to this area of law being amended along party lines. The Opposition believes that it is an unfortunate precedent and an unfortunate departure from the practice of this Parliament and is, therefore, ill-advised.

We will in government repeal these unacceptable amendments. In particular, the process by which they were brought into the Parliament was unacceptable. I draw the Chamber’s attention to this amendment and the earlier one under the Artificial Conception Act, which dealt with the legal consequences. This amendment deals with whether we can or cannot disallow the process. I do not believe that in government we will repeal retrospectively the Artificial Conception Act; therefore, anything that occurred under that Act would be legitimate. However, we will repeal the Human Reproductive Technology Act, as it should not have been dealt with in this way. Some fundamental amendments to that Act are reflected in this Bill. As I said, in clause 72(a) the words “couples who are unable to conceive children naturally or whose children may be affected by a genetic disease” in the preamble to the Human Reproductive Technology Act will be deleted and substituted with “persons who wish to be parents”. I am against the idea of human reproductive technology, whether or not it is within marriage. It is tampering with nature and is running a huge risk, driven by a wish to be a parent. I can only sympathise with that wish because I have never had a problem having children of my own. I know of people who have problems having children and whose wish to be a parent has become almost obsessive. It is fair to say, and I freely admit, that I have never had that experience and therefore cannot understand it. It is a fault that I do not have the insight into what it is like not to have children. I am very thankful for that, but in lacking that insight I have a serious concern about the Act, however it is drafted. When the basis of the Bill is amended to say “we want to have children”, it becomes about self. The Bill is so selfish that I am concerned about what it says about society when people say that they want to be a parent without being part of a couple. There is no concern in this Bill about children. The Bill is all about wanting to be a parent.

Paragraph B of the preamble to the Human Reproductive Technology Act states Parliament considers that the primary purpose and only justification for the creation of a human egg in the process of fertilisation or embryo in vitro is to so assist these couples to have children...

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