31st May 2018
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:36): I rise to support this bill. I have, I suppose, the unique opportunity to once again support a Supply Bill presented to this house by the Hon. Rob Lucas as Treasurer. I am the only person who has ever had that privilege before and I am delighted to once again have that privilege, even though it has been a long time between drinks, so to speak.
As members would be aware, in the absence of special arrangements in the performance of supply acts there would be no parliamentary authority for expenditure between the commencement of the new financial year and the day on which assent is given to the main Appropriation Bill. Obviously that is going to be longer this year because of a later budget, which also results from the changeover of government at the March election. I remember such delayed budgets when the Labor Party was first elected; in fact, on one occasion they had a much later budget in midstream of their tenure. I cannot remember the reason given, but the opposition whip is nodding his head so I think his memory and mine coincide, even if we cannot remember the reason for the delayed budget.
This bill is for a figure of $6.631 billion, necessary for the continuation of funds to ensure the work of the government and its agencies and, of course, the employment of the staff of all those bodies. It is also crucial to the ability of the government to advance its relationships with many other groups in the community, including non-government organisations as well as many others.
With that in mind, I am pleased to note a media release issued by the South Australian Law Reform Institute last Friday. It is entitled ‘Law Reform Institute to probe surrogacy laws’. I quote:
The South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) is seeking feedback from the community as part of its comprehensive review of the state’s surrogacy laws. The independent law reform body, which is based at the University of Adelaide Law School, had been asked to consider an appropriate regulatory framework for surrogacy arrangements in South Australia by former attorney-general John Rau, with current Attorney-General Vickie Chapman also supporting the review.
‘This is an area of great interest to many South Australians—especially those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to have a child,’ Ms Chapman said.
‘SALRI is considering how South Australia’s surrogacy laws work in practice, and any future reforms which may be required.
‘Given the strong views this can elicit in the community, I am pleased to see SALRI take the initiative and seek feedback from all South Australians with a view on this important subject.
Professor John Williams and Senior Policy Officer Sarah Moulds, from SALRI based at the University of Adelaide, encouraged South Australians to have their say.
‘We’re pleased to be undertaking this topical and important reference, to consider the role and operation of the current law in South Australia,’ Professor Williams said.
‘It’s a complex area of law, which raises difficult ethical and legal questions. SALRI looks forward to hearing the views and comments of all with an interest in this area,’ Ms Moulds said.
Professor Williams said commercial surrogacy is illegal in South Australia, and SALRI would not be considering any change to that aspect of the law.
Both Professor Williams and Ms Chapman thanked Legislative Council Member John Dawkins for his ongoing commitment to pursuing reform to the state’s surrogacy laws, saying he had been instrumental in driving the debate.
The institute has prepared a range of fact sheets on key issues relating to South Australia’s surrogacy laws, as well as an online survey that interested South Australians can take part in.
To review these materials, take part in the survey, or make a written submission, go to the YourSay website.
As the person who has previously done all the work, with support from many in this chamber and across the parliament, as well as my very small staff and parliamentary counsel, for well over a decade, I am delighted that the South Australian Law Reform Institute will be doing this work. As it says in the media release, it is a complex area of law which raises difficult ethical and legal questions. There is no doubt that in more recent times more of those legal questions have been raised, and they are questions that need to be addressed across the whole of this commonwealth, as well as by state legislation.
I think many of us are keen that that can be dealt with nationally. I have been told for many years about things that the then standing committee of attorneys-general and, subsequently, the Council of Australian Governments were going to do in this area. I have not seen much progress from either, I must say, but I think generally governments are starting to turn their minds towards this very important issue. It is an issue that, in just about every other jurisdiction that I am aware of, has been handled by a government rather than a mug backbencher who has very few resources.
I welcome the fact that this is happening. I welcome it as long as it brings back legislation that we get through this year, because the delays for those who wish to access surrogacy have been very long and very frustrating. The Hon. Mr Hunter chaired the Social Development Committee that looked at the first bill that I brought in, which I think was in about 2007, so we have been dealing with this stuff for a long time. We passed the first bill in 2009 after a very long delay of 14 months in the House of Assembly.
Subsequently, I brought in further legislation in 2015 as a response to the baby Gammy issue and the reports of baby factories in India. That act, which actually passed the parliament without division, unfortunately was never operated by the previous attorney-general and there are differing views about why that was the case. I still believe very strongly that the bill was one that would operate—that the act that still sits there today would operate. However, there were enough naysayers—and some of those, I would say, came out of the Attorney-General’s Department—that the attorney-general of the day did not operate the act.
After some delays, the Hon. Mr Hunter was of great assistance to me in getting the attorney-general of the day to the table to agree to a compromise, so we did come up with a compromise bill. The attorney-general allowed some resources to assist me in the preparation of that bill. He was very keen that we got it through this ‘terrible chamber, which caused a lot of difficulty’. He worried that I would not get it through quickly enough and I said, ‘You leave this chamber to me. We are actually pretty sensible on these sorts of issues.’ And we did get it through quickly and we got it through without any division or opposition.
Unfortunately, it was the old story in the House of Assembly, where I was promised faithfully that it would go through. I was promised that by the then attorney and the then premier who, of course, was very proud of what had been done with the addition of same-sex couples to the surrogacy legislation, as it was to many other pieces of legislation. He was so proud about that and I said, ‘Well, you do realise that it’s actually not happening because the act hasn’t been operated. People are not prepared to take a chance on that.’
Once again, people in this state who were very keen to make use of our legislation were not able to because—and it was not at five minutes to midnight; it was well after midnight, I think, on the last sitting day late in November last year—despite my entreaties to make sure that this got through, other initiatives of the then government got in the way. Those other initiatives got in the way of a lot of other good legislation that had come out of this place, and my compromise surrogacy bill was one such piece of legislation.
Certain members of the then government withdrew their numbers from the House of Assembly to ensure that the debate could not happen in the early hours of that Friday morning. I think that was a disgrace. I certainly do not blame many members of the Labor Party, who have supported me very strongly with surrogacy, but there were certainly some members who were mischievous in their intent in delaying and trying to stop surrogacy at every level.
However, we have moved on. I have probably provided more history on that than I intended to. I am delighted that, given the changing nature of legal procedures in relation to family law and other matters, it is appropriate that SALRI put their shoulder to the wheel on this, and I support them. I am sure that any other members of this chamber who have views about the development of further legislation should provide that to SALRI in the manner that has been indicated.
I have made it clear to the Attorney and to Professor Williams that I am very happy to support that as long as we get some legislation back into this chamber. I think it is going to start in the other chamber, and I have asked for that. The Attorney will introduce it. It will be a conscience matter, but it will be introduced and will be handled in government time. Let us hope that we get something back through the parliament and that we do not see another Christmas with this in limbo land for people who just want to access something that is part of South Australian law and is available to people in most parts of this country and the world. With great respect, there are a lot of women who want to access that because their biological clock is ticking. The people who have delayed this for so long should take note of that.
On another issue that is close to my heart, I was delighted that the federal member for Grey, Mr Rowan Ramsey, who is also the Government Whip—as a past whip, I will always have great respect for anybody who holds that position—moved a motion in the House of Representatives on 21 May this year. I will read it in part:
That this House:
(1) expresses its support for continued trials into suicide prevention in rural and regional Australia;
(a) the huge toll suicide takes on regional communities;
It also goes on further:
(4) supports funding into mental health research and trials in electoral divisions across regional Australia, such as those conducted in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln and Yorke Peninsula, in the electoral division of Grey.
In speaking to his motion, the member for Grey said this:
Through the Country SA Primary Health Care Network, the ‘question, persuade and refer’ training program is being offered to around 1,000 community members within the National Suicide Prevention Trial regions, including Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and the Yorke Peninsula. The program is designed to equip everyday people with three simple steps to help save a life: ask a question, try to persuade the person to seek help and then refer that person to the appropriate assistance. Like all pilot programs, we can never be sure of the results, but it’s fair to say that we have not arrived at this point by accident. The program is being implemented on the best advice. We recognise the value of the community knowing how to assist and hopefully one day save a life.
Five suicide prevention groups in Grey have been awarded grants through the National Suicide Prevention Strategy to continue to work to reduce the number of suicides. These are the Empowering Lower Eyre Suicide Prevention Network, the Port Lincoln’s suicide prevention network—
which I interpose is known as Lincoln Alive—
Stamp Out Suicide Copper Coast, Stamp Out Suicide Yorke Peninsula and the Whyalla Suicide Prevention Network. As part of this strategy, the government is also extending support for Roses in the Ocean training for community members with a lived experience of suicide, which has been accessing data from regional community suicide prevention forums and the online survey to help identify the key priorities in the trial region. Strong themes have emerged during the regional suicide prevention networks’ work.
I am also pleased to report that John Dawkins, MLC, has been appointed as chair of the Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention, a state government initiative tasked with reducing SA’s suicide rate. Mr Dawkins, who has for more than a decade been a passionate advocate for suicide prevention, will act as the Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention. I have already spoken to John about the links between the SA and federal governments, and I look forward to working closely with him.
I welcome that cooperation with the federal programs. There is not necessarily a difference of politics between governments. I think that over a lot of my lifetime I have seen, sometimes, federal programs and state programs operating without talking to each other or communicating with each other as well as they could.
There are obviously differences and, generally, as the Hon. Mr Hunter and others would know, the feds have a lot more money in their pocket than do state programs, but there is a benefit in this work that is being done in South Australia now working with those state-run or state-initiated networks. I have seen great value.
In the last six days, I have had the privilege of speaking at three significant suicide prevention/mental health events, ranging from Glencoe in the South-East last Thursday to Port Lincoln yesterday, and in between one that was conducted at the University of South Australia’s east campus in Adelaide on Tuesday. Certainly, I think the collaboration between state and federal, between universities and a lot of other community groups, is important in this mental health space, particularly with suicide prevention. So I commend all these bodies for that work.
As I move forward in my work as the Premier’s Advocate in Suicide Prevention, I see that one of the key roles is in harvesting the opportunities that we can get from working, particularly in this state, with the primary health network, Country SA, which is doing really good work in the area.
I welcome the fact that I have great support in this role from right across the political divide. That was highlighted the other night when I did an interview with Paul and Laureen Newsham on 1079 Life on their program called Sunday Night Talk. The fact is that the awareness is there, but the community is growing in its capability and its ability to say, ‘Let’s do stuff in this area, and let’s not let the stigma get in the way, as it has over many generations.’
So they are just a couple of areas in which I think the money provided through this Supply Bill can aid state government agencies. All of us who are paid from the state coffers can do more in the areas of both suicide prevention and reform of surrogacy legislation. With those remarks, I support the bill.