Surrogacy Bill

29th October 2019

Second Reading 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (16:32): It would come as no surprise to most people in this chamber that I rise to support this bill and support it very strongly. Members in this place will understand, I think, that I have been working on these issues since 2005 and that my initial legislation in the Legislative Council was well reviewed by the Social Development Committee of the day, led by the Hon. Mr Hunter. While I did not agree with everything in that report, the reality was that we got, I think, a better bill, which went through this place relatively quickly. It took some time, however, to get it through the other place, but we finally got that legislation through late in 2009. 

In 2015, I decided to bring in another bill to respond to the baby Gammy issues and other issues relating to the suitability of some would-be commissioning parents and also the issue of baby factories in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, despite the fact that that act as it stands today was agreed to in both places without division, the attorney-general of the day decided to take a very long time to get around to consulting on regulations and then did not agree with some parts of the act, although, I might add, his office had actively worked with me in the preparation of that bill which became the act. 

I do acknowledge the Hon. Mr Hunter’s efforts in helping me to get a compromise bill up in this place, which was promised to go through the assembly but of course failed to do so in the last moments of the last parliament in that chamber. It is ironic, given what we have just been discussing, that the urgency of that issue and I think one to do with genetically modified crops, which we will be dealing with tomorrow, were part of the reason that my private member’s legislation and I think other private members’ legislation was delayed in the lower house. It is ironic that these things are all coming to us again at the same time. 

I certainly do not intend to delay the chamber. I will refer to the work of the South Australian Law Reform Institute in a moment, but I think Madeleine Thompson, from that organisation, who has done a lot of the work that SALRI was charged to do by the current Attorney-General, have read every word I have ever said in this place about surrogacy, and I feel sorry for her, because there have been a few. But it has been an issue that I have been passionate about since the days that Kerry Faggotter first came to see me when her little boy was one year old—he is now 15. 

I commend the Attorney for providing urgency to SALRI to examine this matter. Of course, that report was brought down in November last year. I appreciate the work of Madeleine Thompson but also, obviously, Professor John Williams and David Plater for the very broad way they examined all of the complex issues that are related to surrogacy. I am also very grateful to parliamentary counsel and particularly Mark Herbst for the assistance he gave me as a private member in a number of pieces of legislation to do with surrogacy. 

There has been significant consultation—in fact, I think it is probably greater than significant. I think the SALRI consultation was very comprehensive not only in this jurisdiction but in other parts of this country. The Attorney-General has also, I think, undertaken great consultation since the development of the draft bill which accompanied the SALRI report late last year. I would also give great credit for a lot of the work that has been done in that consultation and the development of the current bill to another Madeleine, Madeleine Church, from the office of the Attorney-General, whose work on this issue has been terrific. 

We do have a standalone bill, and I think that is a great advancement. In my first attempt it was something I wanted to do, but I think advice came that it was probably easier, as a private member, to amend the various other pieces of legislation that were relevant to surrogacy. So I think that at one stage at least we were amending three acts. I think it is a particular advantage that we now have one bill. There were a number of debates in the lower house recently about some issues that had never been raised with me and were raised by people that had never shown any interest in this topic whatsoever, but if members want to raise those issues again in the future, I think it will be easier to do so. I say that for members of both houses. 

It is a conscience matter. We have always been very pleased with the way it has been dealt with in this council on every occasion, in that there has never been a division. I am very proud of the way in which this council has dealt with this matter. I think that, generally, the way we deal with conscience issues is of a significantly higher level than perhaps other examples nearby. 

As a private member who has worked very hard on this, it is a great delight that we have a government now that has put some resources into this legislation. I am very keen that this legislation goes through very soon. It is not perfect; there have been one or two issues that I would probably have liked to have retained from the act that is currently there. I think the compromise the Hon. Mr Hunter and I sought from the previous attorney showed that the bottom line is that we get relevant legislation in place, which I know will lead the country. There are one or two small issues I am prepared to set aside for another day. It might be another person who does it; who knows? 

I think it is important that we get this legislation through and that we get the surrogacy scene in South Australia settled. As much as we have had some, in my view, very good legislation, the fact that the current act has never been operated in its current form is a great shame. I think that has put some uncertainty into the sector, and that goes right across the whole community. 

I will indicate my concern that it was only at 10 minutes to two this afternoon that I became aware of any amendments to this bill in this place. Obviously, after that, the Hon. Ms Bonaros, who I have great regard for, also moved the contingent notice of motion. I suppose I was dealing blind in that, and I will examine those amendments between now and when we deal with this in the committee stage. 

As I said to many colleagues in the lower house when they were debating the recent amendments in that chamber: please do not delay this bill, because it has been a long time coming and we have many biological clocks ticking. Only in this parliament today has someone who has worked here for some time said, ‘This is a very good bill. I wish this had been around because my wife and I would have utilised it. We have adopted, but if we had had this ability we would have used it.’ Those words really reinforce why I have spent a very long part of my time here on these matters. 

I am also very keen that we get clarity on this whole situation because, while there is uncertainty, there are people who are going overseas. They are going overseas to some places in Europe and in Asia where the practices are not as we would expect in this country. I am aware that there are some countries where, if you have enough money, you can not only have a child through a surrogate but you can actually get a doctored birth certificate to say that the commissioning mother is actually the birth mother. That is appalling and we need to avoid those things. 

While there has been some uncertainty in the way things happen in this state, we have had more people who have been attracted to take up surrogacy options in other parts of the world. We have some of the best reproductive technology in the world in this state and it has always baffled me as to why we do not give South Australians the very best opportunity to have a surrogacy in South Australia. I commend this bill to members and reiterate that I am very supportive of it. I am also very keen that we do not delay this issue any further. I support the bill.