Surrogacy Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:00): I rise to speak to the Surrogacy Bill 2019. I note that it is a conscience vote on our side of the house and from what I understand it is a conscience vote for the opposition, so I will be very interested in the debate in regard to the Surrogacy Bill. I find this a very interesting debate because I was part of the Social Development Committee after I was elected to this place in 2006. On the reference made by the Hon. John Dawkins from the other place, we investigated surrogacy.

I will speak in broad terms before I go to my notes in a minute and reflect on more detail. People here would know generally how I vote on matters of conscience, but I have found that this one takes me down another direction, especially after being part of that committee and listening to the cases where people looking to have a child—we were basically talking about heterosexual couples at the time—were having to spend up to $50,000 to travel interstate, mainly to Victoria, from this state to access surrogacy arrangements.

We had some very emotional testimony to the committee. It is a little while ago now, but it still rings in my ears. We saw the people present on what they saw as their need and their right to have children and how they wanted to access it. You have to take your hat off to people who were willing to mortgage their house so that they could have the right to have children.

I know some people argue that if a couple, for whatever reason, cannot have a child, especially in the religious way—I was brought up in the Uniting Church, so I have had plenty of input on the religious side of things, my father having been a lay preacher in the Uniting Church for 60 years—they can express the fact that, 'Well, that's life, and that's God's will.' Man, however, has always found a way to interfere with God's will, if you like. We have fertilisation clinics and a whole range of ways in which people can have children if they need some assistance. The current legal arrangements for families to have children have brought much joy to those families being able to have children.

I am the father of a couple of healthy young footballers. They happen to be boys, but there are plenty of good young lady footballers as well. In fact, one young lady at Peake on the weekend got the best and fairest in the junior netball and the best and fairest in the junior football. It was a bit of a struggle when they changed the times around for her one day at the MCG—the Murrayville cricket ground—and she had to choose which one to play. I think on the day she ran with the netball, so the footy lost their best player for the day. That is young Ruby Ballard. Her sister Abbie is on the Crows list. I think they are both on the Crows list somewhere or at least on the West Adelaide list.

Abbie was, I believe, the best player for West Adelaide in the women's league this year. She played right through from under 16s for the Peake club in the Mallee Football League. She played with the boys—my boys were part of that team—and everyone respected that. There are other girls who do that as well and it works fantastically out in that league, but I digress.

As I note from my contribution reflecting on the committee report in regard to surrogacy—back in my first term, I think it was, between 2006 and 2010—I do not know if there is any greater joy than having children, watching them grow up, nurturing them as young ones, taking them through, always hoping you point them in the right direction and making sure they are safe. Obviously, the conversations seem to become stronger the older they get, but that is good in a way, too; it is a great thing.

Some people naturally think I would not vote in support of this legislation. I have had some people from my electorate communicate with me who want me not to support it, probably for the reasons I have already explained, but I do have some previous knowledge of this issue and I am happy to have those discussions with those constituents who wrote to me with the other view.

Certainly, there are constituents who have the view that this should be supported. It will be difficult for some, and there are some parts of this legislation that I am not 100 per cent comfortable with, but we have to look at how society has changed over time, even since we did the Social Development Committee report into surrogacy way back when.

In regard to some of my reflections at that time and the reference undertaken by the Social Development Committee, some of my comments were around this being one of the tougher topics before the committee. It was a diverse committee of members, as I indicated back then. When I say that it was diverse, I mean that its members had many opinions on which way we should go with gestational surrogacy, and conflicting views were held right to the end.

I also note that this was about the Statutes Amendment (Surrogacy) Bill 2006, a bill introduced by the Hon. John Dawkins from the other place. Going into some of the detail of what we found during that committee's discussion, there was quite a range of people seeking to be surrogates or going interstate to have their children through a surrogate. As I have already indicated, there were some very emotional stories of not just the travel but the cost involved. As I have already indicated, it usually cost up to around $50,000 to go through this process.

What I am saying is that people will find a way if they want to experience the beauty of having children. We know that they will travel interstate or even overseas, and I note there have been some issues with overseas surrogacy. I think some of that stems from the fact that these were, in the main, commercial arrangements that are outlawed under this legislation, and I am going to make it perfectly clear that I certainly would not be supporting commercial surrogacy.

I have already talked about how people will borrow against the family home or find other ways to find the money. I note that one of the recommendations—and I will go through some of them—is about getting the commonwealth on board to review Medicare arrangements to make gestational surrogacy more accessible for people right across the spectrum. There were divergent views about who should have access to this technology. I note that life moves on, but I do have a personal view that it should be limited to heterosexual couples. As I stated at the time, that is my view; there were plenty of divergent views across the committee.

I note that in this legislation there will be the ability for same-sex parents to have a surrogate child. I guess when you look at the way the world has moved since then, and whether you fully agree with it or not, the federal government has legalised same-sex marriage in this country. I have had strong debates, mainly within my family more often than not, about who should, could or would have children in their care. It is an interesting discussion when you go through that process. Certainly, in this role, you sadly come across issues of child protection. Thankfully, I have not had too many come through my door as a member of parliament, but we do have them come to us.

I note that child protection is a huge issue wherever you are in the world. I would like to acknowledge that it is one of the toughest jobs that a minister could have and I commend minister Sanderson for the work she is doing in this field. It is a simple fact—and in the main it is heterosexual parents—that some parents literally do not know how to look after their children or children in their care. That raises the conversation about other levels of parenthood and, certainly, I have had those levels of conversation.

As I said, I am not perfectly excited about it, but I understand the point of view and I think, for the sake of getting this legislation through, giving people the right to have children probably rides above that. I only say that because already in this state there are ways that same-sex couples have their own foster children in their care. It is an interesting debate and I will be really interested in people's contributions throughout the debate.

In regard to some of the recommendations, and I know changes to legislation have been made in regard to surrogacy since this committee, these are some of the recommendations to the committee of that time. This was in 2007, I believe. They were as follows:

1. That the State Government introduce, as soon as possible, a bill to amend the Family Relationships Act 1975 and other relevant legislation to recognise the rights of children born through gestational surrogacy arrangements. The bill should, among other things, ensure that:

(a) all parties involved in the surrogacy arrangement, especially the surrogate mother, are fully informed about the personal and legal implications of the transfer of parenthood and freely consent to this transfer taking place;

(b) a process is developed to allow the legal transfer of parenthood to occur without the need for commissioning parents to adopt their own genetic child;

(c) in transferring the legal parentage from the surrogate mother to the commissioning parents, the best interests of the child should be paramount considerations;

(d) an appropriate time-frame is established during which the transfer of parenthood may occur;

(e) persons born through surrogacy arrangements have access to their genetic history and are provided with information about the circumstances of their birth;

(f) once the transfer of parentage has occurred, birth certificates be amended to appropriately reflect this transfer. The provisions contained in the Australian Capital Territory Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 should serve as a suitable example of the type of process that could be applied;

(g) an abridged birth certificate is issued for general use that records the commissioning parents as the parents of the child born through gestational surrogacy;

(h) a detailed birth certificate is issued and made available to the child upon request, listing the commissioning parents, the surrogate mother and, if applicable, the use of donor material;

(i) the legislation is drafted so that it applies to children already born through surrogacy arrangements; and

(j) appropriate training on the proposed operation of the Act is provided to all relevant individuals and agencies responsible for its administration.

In regard to the future of surrogacy in South Australia, recommendation 2 states:

2. That the State Government introduce a bill allowing the use of non-commercial, medically-indicated², gestational surrogacy³ in South Australia. In doing so, the bill should:

(a) provide for a set of clear standards, processes and principles to underpin the legislation and support the safety and wellbeing of all parties involved in the process;

(b) ensure that counselling, consistent with Australian and New Zealand Infertility Councillors Association (ANZICA) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines, is mandatory for all parties involved in a surrogacy arrangement;

(c) clarify the forms of surrogacy covered by the legislation and ensure those responsible for administering it are appropriately trained; and

(d) ensure that reproductive technology specialists and appropriate experts are consulted, and the views of all major stakeholders and interested parties are taken into consideration.

3. As part of the development of a bill pertaining to gestational surrogacy, the State Government should initiate a review of the Reproductive Technology (Clinical Practices) Act 1988 and other relevant legislation, to, among other things:

(a) amend current eligibility criteria to allow a fertile woman wishing to act as a gestational surrogate mother access to reproductive technology;

(b) examine whether regulatory reform is needed to enable individuals or couples who require assistance with fertility treatment, but prefer to remain outside the medical system, access to screening procedures for disease and counselling through accredited reproductive units;

(c) ensure that people conceived through donor conception have access to information about their genetic parentage should they request it; and

(d) wherever possible, incorporate all legislation pertaining to gestational surrogacy into one Act.

4. That the State Government ensure that it enacts legislation that is consistent with State and Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation.

5. That the State Government work closely with the Commonwealth and other States and Territories to ensure consistency of surrogacy laws across all Australian jurisdictions.

6. That the State Government encourage the Commonwealth to review Medicare arrangements to ensure that rebates are available to a fertile woman who is acting as a gestational surrogate mother and is consistent with any amendments made to South Australian legislation pertaining to gestational surrogacy.

² refer to Part One: Medical indications for gestational surrogacy.

³ I.e. the surrogate's ova are not used.

Just looking through the bill before us right now, it appears that most, if not all, of those recommendations are taking place in this bill to get it wound up in one piece of legislation. I know there has been legislation reform in the past with regard to surrogacy, but there has not been such a complete rounding up of this legislation as the legislation in front of us right now. I commend the Hon. John Dawkins from the other place for his advocacy in regard to surrogacy, and note his work and his support for this current bill before the house.

I will be very interested to hear what debate comes through. It was an interesting time when we discussed this in the Social Development Committee, especially as a new member to this place. As you have already heard me indicate to the house, with the effluxion of time and noting some things that have happened at both the federal and state levels perhaps it is time that we move on and make sure we get the right outcomes.

People will seek the use of surrogacy, and they will spend tens of thousands of dollars to do it elsewhere in this country, let alone anywhere else. I think we should do what we can as a legislature to give the joy of children to people where we can in the most appropriate way.