Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (21:26): I also am very pleased to rise to speak to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2021. I was pleased to speak to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment (Consent) Bill 2019 and the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2020, so this has been an ongoing process to consider in particular the Gorton review.
I am particularly happy—as I was back in 2020—that, as Mr Meddick mentioned, we amended the legislation to remove police checks for people seeking assisted reproductive treatment. That was an amendment that I had put up in the 2019 bill. I think this goes further to the point that Dr Kieu and Mr Meddick and Ms Crozier have also mentioned—that this actually has this sort of normalising effect so that assisted reproductive treatment is not seen as ‘other’. It is not test-tube babies, it is not some sort of mad science; it is actually really part of our society and part of our community, and thousands and thousands of people have been through this process—sadly sometimes unsuccessfully, but happily successfully for many others.
I think the changing of language that this bill brings forward is the normalising of that language. Instead of talking, as Dr Kieu said, of ‘commissioning’ parents, we talk about intended parents—exactly as we should. And we do not talk about ‘donors’ when we are talking about two people in a relationship; we talk about partners now. This is what this bill goes to, and I am very pleased that we are implementing these further amendments.
I will not repeat all of the other measures of this bill because other people have done that before me, but I certainly do like seeing that this enables reproductive treatment assistance to become available far more easily in regional areas. When we allow for registered nurses to provide this treatment and we allow for doctors outside a clinic to provide this treatment, again, this makes it easier. As I say, this further normalises this wonderful treatment that assists so many people to have the families that they dream of.
I think we should again recognise the great work of Michael Gorton, AM, in doing the really considerable review that he did of this industry. His report was thorough, and his recommendations were all sensible and they were excellent. I sometimes wonder why we have not just adopted them all and why we have been going through this sort of cycling and rolling adoption of them. To that end, this bill has my complete support. But also to that end, I would like to table some further amendments to this legislation.
Fiona Patten’s Reason Party amendments circulated by Ms PATTEN pursuant to standing orders.
Ms PATTEN: Before I speak to these amendments, I would really like to extend my gratitude and thanks to the Victorian Pride Lobby for their really terrific work and dedication to this issue over the many years, and I would particularly like to recognise my former colleague Nevena Spirovska for her diligent leadership in these issues.
The amendments that I have circulated and that I am tabling today and that I hope will be supported today just very much go to the Gorton review, and they are in line with Mr Gorton’s recommendations. The first amendment is simply replacing the wording ‘intersex status’ that exists in the legislation now to ‘sex characteristics’. This is modern, best practice language, and it is consistent with language within our Equal Opportunity Act 2010. And I am pleased to see that this is the type of language that is considered best practice by Intersex Human Rights Australia. I understand that this is something that has been considered favourably by the government.
The next amendments are around the counselling. Now, we do not actually ask parents or women who are planning to get pregnant or who get pregnant to seek counselling, so why should we insist on some form of compulsory counselling for women seeking access to assisted reproductive treatment? As I say, we do not ask that for any other women seeking to get pregnant. We only ask it of these women, and I think that that is discriminatory. It is discriminatory. It should be optional, and we are the only state in Australia to mandate counselling for women. In fact I would suggest that this would actually interfere with our charter of human rights to treat women differently when they are seeking reproductive treatment as opposed to women who are becoming pregnant through other measures. Now, again, Mr Gorton recommended that counselling become offered but not mandatory and it become part of a patient’s individual plan of support, and if that patient needed counselling, well then it should be provided in that plan.
My amendments 4 and 5 remove the requirement for same-sex couples to obtain a letter from a doctor stating that they are unable to become pregnant. This is because that is absolutely pointless and also can be quite demeaning. It can feel quite offensive to those couples to have to go and seek a letter from a doctor to say that because of the biology of that relationship, because of the biology of the two people in that relationship, they cannot get pregnant. So I think, again, this is in line with the Gorton review. Mr Gorton certainly agreed that this type of approval should not be necessary for same-sex couples and that, as I said, it was demeaning and quite often offensive.
Amendment 6 that I have circulated will soften the ban on surrogacy advertising to permit advertising of altruistic surrogacy, and that is while maintaining a ban on advertising for commercial surrogacy arrangements. I think that this is something that probably, ultimately, we would like to see changed as well. But right now, just putting out a Facebook notice, making some sort of reach-out to say, ‘I am looking for a surrogate’, could be deemed an offence under this legislation, and I do not think that is right and I do not think that is the intention. I think the intention is to ensure that people are not exploited through surrogacy. What we do not want to stop is people actually finding surrogates. Right now this prohibition creates unnecessarily hard barriers for same-sex couples who want to have a family. I think it is an issue that we should consider today. Again, I think the community is with us. I think the community is very relaxed about these treatments, and I think they are fully supportive of people’s access to them—almost everyone.
So my amendments are all about equality for our LGBTIQ friends, and I see no reason why we would not support them today in this house.
As I say, they are in line with the Gorton review. They follow on from the excellent work that is within this bill, the excellent work that was in the 2020 bill and the excellent work that was in the 2019 bill. Again, I commend this bill, but I also commend my amendments.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech 7/10/21