Statutes Amendment (Surrogacy) Bill

02 Apr 2008 speecharchive

This speech indicates support for the Statutes Amendment (Surrogacy) Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:57): I rise to speak in support of this private member's bill and to commend its mover for his persistence in seeking to get this baby through the parliament, so to speak. It has had a long gestation and we do not even know whether we are there yet; indeed, he introduced the original bill on 21 June 2006 and, as we know, then it was referred to the Social Development Committee, which reported last year in November. That has been at least 18 months since the proposal first came before us. I think that the Social Development Committee report is quite a useful reference in that—

The Hon. Sandra Kanck: It was regarded as brilliant.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Regarded as brilliant by whom?

The Hon. Sandra Kanck interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Okay, that is good. The two main issues have arisen from the report: first, the inequality for the status of children who have been born to South Australian parents as a result of gestational surrogacy procedures performed interstate; and, secondly, a far more complex issue which relates to whether South Australia will enable gestational surrogacy to take place.

On that first issue, I note that the committee described as totally unnecessary the requirement for couples to go through the adoption process and that children who have been conceived through this procedure should not be discriminated against or disadvantaged. I think we would all share those concerns; indeed, in my contribution on the previous bill, I read into Hansard comments from Kerry Faggotter, who would be well known to most of us these days. She is also to be commended for her work in presenting this issue to parliament and for exposing elements of her personal life which must be quite a difficult thing to go through. She spoke on radio about how she has been through difficulties even in enrolling her son in swimming classes. Other people have had trouble when they have taken their child on a plane. I will read that again because I think it is worth mentioning, even though I will be repeating what I said in September 2006. She said on radio:

Although my husband is registered on the birth certificate of our son, if he was to die I, as Ethan's mother have no legal entitlement to him as the law stands today. These restrictions also prohibit me from enrolling him at schools, opening a bank account and obtaining a passport for him. The list is endless. My husband is the only one besides the surrogate, my cousin Yasmin, who can do all of the above as the law stands now.

I think that is a bit of a no-brainer really. Those aspects of existing legislation ought to be closed as soon as possible.

I note, too, that the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has been looking at this issue. I urge this government not to delay progressing any moves. There are already five jurisdictions in Australia which allow this in some way, as I understand it, and Western Australia has a bill before its parliament. If the aim of that exercise is to unify legislation between all of the states I think that will slow things down significantly because, ultimately, it is the parliaments of each of those jurisdictions which will determine what form it will take. Trying to get unity through every parliament across Australia, I think, would be very fraught with difficulty indeed.

I note that in relation to whether we enable surrogacy to take place in South Australia some have stated—indeed, I think, the report of the Social Development Committee noted—that surrogacy itself is not illegal but that it is almost impossible to perform because of the particular criteria. In his contribution the chairman of that committee, the Hon. Ian Hunter stated:

The bizarre part of this is that many procedures are undertaken in South Australia but when it comes to the embryo transfer the couple were sent interstate for this part of the process.

I think if that is the case it is all the more reason to enact some form of legislation in South Australia to close that off. These issues can be difficult. There are obviously moral issues and, as the report itself notes in its executive summary, there are very divergent views about this issue and it is difficult to reach a consensus. I think we all understand that, but the fact that this may be seen as uncharted waters is no reason not to seek a solution.

There have been countless times throughout history when there have been different advancements and scientific breakthroughs and so forth where parliaments have had to come up with some solution to the situation. I urge the government to progress this issue and bring in some legislation. I commend the Hon. John Dawkins for being so persistent in driving this issue for the benefit of South Australian families.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. B.V. Finnigan.