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The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (17:47): I, too, today would like to put my views into Hansard so that my electorate understands the reason for the way I intend to discuss this bill, the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020. Firstly, let me state right from the very start that this is a very emotional bill that has been brought to this house. It has passed the other place with a small majority. Let me say that the right to have a child is a right for every woman in this world, and there are times when there are complications with a woman’s carrying of the baby to the birth date. This has been the case over many years. My late wife and I suffered the loss of a child a couple of times due to medical complications, but both these times were very, very early in the pregnancy. However, the loss of the child on both occasions was very hard to overcome. In reality, it took us a long time to come to the understanding that it was not an abortion but a necessity for the health of my wife and the baby. But it was hard to overcome and hard to accept for many years to come.
Every baby is entitled to be born and to enjoy a life, in whatever situation. The joy of seeing a child grow is one that some people are not able to experience, due to complications with the woman, and in many cases the man also cannot produce a child. As I indicated, we thought we would never, ever be able to have a child.
This bill has been presented under government time and is classified as a conscience vote. However, even though the people across my electorate know that this bill is a conscience vote, I have gone out to my constituents to get their views on the original bill that has been passed in the Legislative Council and is with us today. As other members have mentioned, I respect the views of my constituents. I have attended numerous forums across my electorate, outside my electorate and also in Adelaide and I have had many occasions on which to get a far better understanding of the views of those people who have had experience of the very subject that we are talking about today.
I have listened to all the views from the supporting sectors of this bill and also from those who are opposed to the bill and gathered their views to get a far better understanding of the issues. I have been inundated with hundreds of emails and letters from those within my electorate, and also from people outside my electorate, giving me their views and their suggestions on the bill. I have mentioned this to people across the whole of my electorate when I have come across them and there has been an overwhelmingly large percentage who have indicated their views to me. This is a majority well in excess of 80 per cent in one direction and that direction is not to support the bill in its current form. From discussions this morning with the government’s spokesperson, related not only to me but also from our regular meeting the day before parliament with the Leader of Government Business, we were advised that the government would like all second reading speeches finished today, and I understand that, and for the committee stage to be undertaken tomorrow with a view to hopefully reaching a final vote by the end of the sitting week.
My frustration is that I have been able to get the views of my constituents in regard to the bill that was with us before the amendments. However, with the amendments, some of which we only received late last night and some today, I question how I would be able to get to my community with these amendments to gather their views, their ideas and suggestions. I was advised I would have from the close of second reading speeches until the start of the committee stage to be able to get whatever information I required. I understand all that, but the point is I am one of those people who likes to communicate with my electorate as much as I can, especially with a bill that has been going on for many months.
Unfortunately, with the amendments that are coming through I will have to do the best I can and take those into consideration. In my opinion, this is not a real democratic proposal but more of a statement that I am making. I feel I am not able to consult with my community and I feel very frustrated about
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that. However, as I said, I will do the best I can with those amendments and take them on board and perhaps make a few phone calls tonight. Whilst this is not sitting well with me, I will do the best I can with the very short notice and try to consider these amendments prior to voting.
I go back to my late wife. We were considering having a family and as she did not get pregnant after a couple of years we started looking at adopting a child. In our vision, if we were successful in adopting a child who may have been admitted to a state facility, that child would be given a strong, constant and loving environment. If a child is born and the mother does not want to care for the child, for whatever reason, then that child has every right to be able to continue their life in a happy and loving environment.
From my information I am led to believe that currently these children who are born and put into foster care come under the guardianship of the minister and are able to be looked after by the relevant government departments and/or fostered out to foster-parents. I have numerous contacts with foster-parents and these people do a really great job caring and loving these children. However, there are incidents where the baby may be under care for a period and then transferred to another family, or, as in many instances, families may be separated and the children placed with different foster-parents, sometimes not even in the same town or community.
This gets back to my late wife and our desire to adopt which, according to my information, is basically non-existent in this state. The member for Mount Gambier indicated that we should be looking more at encouraging adoption and making it easier because from my information there are only two or three children per year, maybe a few more, who are adopted. I have spoken to people who want to adopt and they are saying that it is very hard. I would encourage the government to look at opportunities to make it easier to adopt a child. It takes them away from the foster-parents, it takes them away from the care of the minister and it gives them an everlasting relationship.
The other concern I have is if a child is with a foster-parent they may be there for a period of time, then that child may be transferred somewhere else, then transferred somewhere else and somewhere else. As that child grows up, does that child understand the reason for it or do they believe they are not loved and, as a consequence, as they get older and reach adolescence may have chips on their shoulders?
Getting back to the bill, I cannot agree to it in its current form; however, there is a section I believe is long overdue, and that is that the issue currently comes under the criminal code. I believe it should be under the health act, and this has been mentioned by many people I have come across, including those who are strongly against the bill in its current form. They say that section should be changed. I have no issues with the current legislation—even the church and other organisations I confer with say it has been working very well—but let’s take it out of the criminal section and put it under health.
As I have mentioned previously, I have canvassed my electorate and there has been an overwhelming indication that they do not want me to support this bill in its current form. Like other members in this house, I have also received copies of emails that have been sent to other MPs, but it is the views of the people I represent that I have taken into account in my statement.
In closing, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the information I have been able to gather, as well as the people who look after the women who have had to go through the experience of having an abortion, experiencing the loss of a child. It has to be very traumatic.
In some of my discussions it has been indicated that if a child is born and is not going to survive they wrap up the child in a blanket and put that child on the mother’s chest for bonding. I cannot understand that. My daughter lost a little son, my grandson, 18 months old. On the day of the funeral she was in the parlour. She had the child in a blanket and she was saying, ‘Dad, dad, he’s not waking up.’ That is a traumatic issue, and it has been with us for 12 or 13 years now.
If they do that with a mother, and that child is not going to make it, does that mother then say, ‘By heck, I’ve made a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone through with this abortion. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone through with the procedure’? We have to think about the long-term impact on that woman, on her mental health for years to come.
I would also like to thank Mackenzie, the trainee in my office. We have acknowledged all callers and correspondence. I must admit that I was in my office one Sunday and the phone kept ringing, so I answered it, thinking was my partner, Lyn, asking where the hell I was on a Sunday. However, it was someone leaving a message about the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, and after 20 minutes I got off the phone. I did not answer any more phones, but there were more calls in. When I came in the next morning we had had over 180 calls on the answering system and 130 emails, so the general public has certainly taken this issue into great consideration. This is an issue about which we, as legislators—and this has been mentioned before by the members for Narungga, Mount Gambier and others—have to very careful. Once legislation is in, where does it lead to?
I want to thank everyone. I know this is an emotional issue, and we have to show respect to people who believe in this bill and to people who do not believe in this bill. Everybody has a right to their view on this, and I ask everyone to respect their consideration of the way they are going to vote. Let’s make certain we look after our children and make certain they grow up to have a healthy life. I have to say that I cannot support the bill in its current form.