Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - I find this issue we have before us very difficult. I agree that the previous bill was poorly drafted and appreciate that this bill is stronger with the subsequent amendments from the committee. I must commend my fellow Legislative Councillors on this committee for their diligence and hard work in scrutinising this bill and attempting to improve it.
However, having said that, this is a very difficult decision as I accept that surrogacy is occurring now in some instances without the protection afforded by this bill. I know that this must be extremely painful for people, both male and female, who desperately want a child but I cannot support the bill as it stands. I believe the proposed legislation sets children as a commodity and a right of adults. Children are not seen as individuals whose rights are paramount. The rights of children should override the desires of adults. Children's rights need to be respected and protected.
It is important to note the major differences between the institution of adoption and surrogacy. Adoption is a child-centred social institution. Adoption exists to give children the mother and father they need. It does not exist to give adults the children they want. Adoption exists to help disadvantaged children, however this is not the purpose of surrogacy. Overall, adoption exists primarily to assist disadvantaged children whose birth parents have died or are incapable of providing them with the necessary care they deserve.
Adoption can alleviate the pain of infertile couples not having biological children while keeping the rights of children to have the care of a mother and a father and keeping open the option of knowing and having a relationship with their biological parents. I note the comments of the member for Elwick that last year there were no children in Tasmania available for adoption. Perhaps we should be looking at why children are not being given up for adoption.
It has been said that many children live in less than ideal circumstances. I am not contradicting that but these particular children that we are discussing are not children being taken from difficult circumstances or unwanted children. They are children that have been created solely for the purpose of altruistic surrogacy.
I do not believe we should be denying any child the right to a mother and a father. Of course, this is not to say that same-sex couples or single people are incapable of raising well-adjusted children. I am also concerned about the additional emotional burden on the birth mother knowing that she will have to relinquish a baby to whom she may have become emotionally attached.
There are many unanswered questions, I believe, with altruistic surrogacy. What if the child is born disabled? Will the intended parents still want him or her? Will the birth mother be prepared to keep him or her? What if the intended parents die by accident, illness or for some other reason cannot take the child and have no relatives to take the child? Does the birth mother want the baby? If she does not want the baby what will happen to the baby? It has been created and will it become a ward of the state? To me, it is a minefield and I would have liked to have seen this bill initially approved for a married couple incapable for medical reasons of having a child.
Having said that, as I mentioned before, I know this is extremely painful for people both male and female who desperately want a child but as it stands I cannot support the bill because I do not believe the interests of the child are paramount.