ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TREATMENT FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL 2013
Written on the 21 August 2014
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Thank you, President, for the opportunity of talking about the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Further Amendment Bill 2013 and the very important issues in the rights framework of the Victorian Parliament in terms of protecting the rights of our citizens who were born as a consequence of assisted reproductive technology.
At the moment they do not have equal access to information that provides them with confidence and certainty about their lives because of the different legislative regimes that have applied over the last three decades in Victoria.During that time Victoria set the lead internationally to establish a rights framework for assisted reproductive technology and the children who were born as a result of that technology. From a situation where Victoria was seen as a world leader, not only in the science but in terms of the legislative framework, there have been a number of occasions when the Parliament of Victoria has tried to catch up with contemporary thinking and the downstream consequences of that legislation.
In terms of what we could describe as the gestation of this piece of legislation before the house -- to mix a metaphor -- I suggest that the journey that has led us here was a consequence of a discussion that took place in 2008 during the committee stage of the substantive act. In this place on 2 December 2008 there was a lengthy exchange between Ms Pennicuik and me about the circumstances of donor-conceived people in Victoria who believed their rights had not been protected by the act.As I remember, during the committee stage Ms Pennicuik, at great length, took me to task as representing a government that was making amendments to the legislation in the name of opening up the scope, scale and opportunity for citizens in Victoria to use assisted reproductive technology.
At that time Ms Pennicuik and I were in total agreement about the value of opening up access and the rights framework for Victorian citizens in terms of their ability to use the technology to create family structures by being assisted to bring a child into life in the state of Victoria. We shared a huge scope of agreement during that committee stage. On behalf of people who felt they were disenfranchised by the three-tiered system that had been created for access to information about their biological heritage Ms Pennicuik argued that it was unfair, inequitable and warranted further work. On behalf of the government at that time I gave undertakings during the course of the committee stage that further work would be undertaken.We are talking about the journey leading to this legislation. On behalf of the Victorian government in this iteration, that journey started on the public record on 2 December 2008.
During the second-reading debate on this bill there has also been commentary about how long that process has taken, which is now almost six years. The key stepping stone in that journey was that on 23 June 2010 -- a little over four years ago -- a reference was given, in accordance with the commitment that I made on behalf of the then government, for a process to review the law in Victoria and to find ways in which those inequalities could be remedied. On 23 June 2010 the Legislative Council adopted a reference to enable that work to commence.
Within three months the Parliament of Victoria had an interim report. That was tabled on 15 September 2010. It gave an indication about where the thinking was in terms of opening up the provisions of the legislation to enable greater access and equity before the law. Before the final report the parliamentary inquiry had to endure the rigours of the change of government at the end of 2010, and with that change came different priorities and different procedures. It was then a further year and a half after the interim report was tabled in September 2010 before a final report was tabled in the Parliament on 28 March 2012.The extraordinary thing that the Parliament has to grapple with today is that in the report of 28 March 2012 the parliamentary committee had adopted a unanimous position on opening up the legislative framework to enable people born prior to 1988 to receive equitable and fair access to information about their biological heritage, their pedigree and their family connections, and opportunities to seek that information and to locate the donors of the biological material that ultimately, through the use of assisted reproductive technology, led to their birth.
Despite the fact that the committee determined as far back as 28 March 2012, in a report tabled in the Parliament, that there would be open access and limitations would not be placed on it, here we are some two and a half years later debating a bill that has been introduced by the current government and that falls short of what the committee's recommendations were.The journey of the consideration has been, I suggest, tortuous for the people who want their rights afforded to them and protected in Victorian legislation. It has been a tortuous journey. Since 2008 this Parliament has been constantly considering how to deal with these matters that are to be amended today. It has taken six years for us to get here.
From 28 March 2012 how has the government responded? The government responded in the first instance by issuing an interim report on 11 October 2012. In terms of the timeliness of this process, that was not too slow. In fact, at a rhetorical level the government gave every impression that it was going to give a fulsome response in consideration of the committee's recommendations. But it took 10 months after tabling the interim response for the government to come back with a final response to the Law Reform Committee's report, which started to wind back its response.Because of the delay in that response by the government, and in accordance with the ongoing and unswerving desire of the now adults who were born through assisted reproductive technology for access to greater information and to be able to make connections with their biological parents, the Labor Party responded in the intervening period.
In June 2013, about a year and a quarter ago, I had the opportunity, on behalf of the opposition, on behalf of those citizens of Victoria who are most concerned about this matter and in effect on behalf of the parliamentary committee that had made the recommendations, to table, support and seek to get the support of this chamber for a private members bill to implement the integrity of the recommendations that had come from the parliamentary committee and the integrity of the promise that had been made as far back as 2008.I am very disappointed to say that the connection that had been created between Ms Pennicuik and me and our various parties as far back as 2008 was not enough to enable the private members bill that was in my name to pass the Legislative Council and to become Victorian law.
It was very disappointing that the government did not take up that opportunity to embrace the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on which it had the majority and held the chair. The member for Prahran in the Legislative Assembly, on behalf of the committee, tabled quite eloquently and with a rhetorical flourish an endorsement of those recommendations. I do not dispute his philosophical and compassionate approach in this regard. Unfortunately his ability to provide the after-care of those recommendations has fallen short and continues to fall short, because the government bill that we are currently debating is again a reflection of the enthusiasm and momentum that has been established within the Napthine government to deal with this matter.
After defeating Labor's bill in June 2013, the government introduced this legislation into the Parliament of Victoria on 11 December 2013, and we are debating it nine months later. For nine months this piece of legislation has sat dormant on the notice paper. When I started my contribution a few minutes ago I described this as the gestation period of this piece of legislation. This bill has been in the Parliament for nine months. It has gone full term, but it has gone full term in the context of commitments and undertakings that were made -- admittedly by a Labor government -- in 2008. It falls short of what those expectations were.
This bill does respond to heart-wrenching issues in our community and does improve the legislative framework and the support for Victorian citizens.It does move what had been a three-tiered system to a two-tiered system in terms of equity before Victorian law in accessing information about the biological parents of people who have been born in Victoria using assisted reproductive technology, which still is an unfortunate and I think an undesirable outcome. It still does not satisfy the guiding principles, the outline and the objectives of the original piece of legislation, which has been maintained all the way through the legislative reform and which is to keep the interests of the child paramount. It is the interests of the child who is born through the use of assisted reproductive technology that are supposed to be paramount.
If anyone wants to know my views on the subject at length, they are well documented. I will not go through and recast my position on these matters now, because there is a substantial body of evidence on my view, right back to 2008. It is possible to tell from 2 December 2008 pretty much what my view on this subject is.People can read Hansard of June 2013 which reveals what my view was in supporting the private members bill I introduced to fulfil those undertakings I made in 2008 that were consistent with the recommendations of the committee. They were my views then; they continue to be my views now.
I have travelled with many members of our community in terms of trying to address their heartfelt, intellectual and biological need to have some closure to these issues and some certainty so that they can plan their futures, can have familial connections, can feel better grounded in the community and can find loved ones who may touch their lives. Those motivations continue to this day. By and large those needs have two centres of gravity. One is the emotional wellbeing, stability and confidence that an individual may have in terms of knowing who they are, where they have come from, how they are connected and feeling grounded in their daily life.Emotional stability in our community and the ability of citizens in our state to have confidence about who they are and who they are connected to is a profound emotional issue. None of us should underestimate its significance in its own right.
Beyond that there is the question of what the biological need is. What is the need for modern science and medicine to be well informed in relation to the very DNA that makes up our physical being and what frailties that may have? What knowledge do we need to have to make sure that medicine can be tailored to meet the needs of every citizen in our community? Whether it be a simple thing, such as blood transfusions, or an issue about genetic defects which may lead to major and degenerative illnesses in a person's life, it is DNA that basically predetermines those things. To have confident knowledge about that is very important for the individual concerned.There is also a heart-rending story that relates to Narelle Grech. Her story straddles both those emotional issues and biological issues. Narelle has been referred to in terms of the presentation of the private members bill that I introduced, and some people have come to remember that private members bill as 'Narelle's law'. Some people would know of Narelle's circumstances because she featured prominently in an ABC program that aired just recently, Australian Story, where her story in part was told. In contributions to debate on this legislation in the other place Narelle's story has also be mentioned.
The reason it is heart rending and profound and has an effect on us all -- and in this case I even mean politicians, as sometimes we are removed from human connection, human frailty and human need, although in this instance I do not think we are -- is that it is quite extraordinary how Narelle, a young woman, was driven for a number of years to find her biological father on the basis of her emotional need and her sense of psychological wellbeing.That was the original driver of the need she felt to discover her biological father, so her journey commenced well and truly along that path before she discovered that she had a terminal illness.
On her journey to discover who her biological father was she gathered information that enabled her to know that she had a number of siblings who had similarly been born through assisted reproductive technology. Those siblings shared the same father, and the biological defect that led to her cancer could have been prevalent in seven others in Victoria. She had a remarkable commitment to find the information required and share that information with those siblings so they could be well armed to deal with their medical circumstances. As most informed people understand, the sooner cancers are detected, prevented and treated, the greater the likelihood of survival for any person. Narelle was driven not only by her huge desire to be better grounded and connected but also in the name of those seven siblings. It is a remarkable story of the determination of that young woman.In many ways Narelle's story has a tragic ending, but in many ways it has a triumphant ending, with an emotional upwelling of desire, enthusiasm, attachment, connection and peace being generated by making a connection. But it is an extraordinary ending in that when she finally made that connection with her biological father, Ray Tonna, it was made by what was technically -- and I do not want to make too much of a point about this -- an unlawful intervention by the executive in Victoria.
The executive acted out of compassion and for all the right emotional reasons -- philosophically the moral, correct and right reasons -- but in breach of Victorian law. It is an extraordinary thing that the decent, appropriate and moving outcome was only achieved in breach of Victorian law. The law should be remedied so that that degree of compassion and wisdom can be shown and that the correct thing, which occurred in this case, is not dependent upon the interventions of political figures. It should happen by default under the law.That is something I will continue to try to achieve through my contribution today and in the amendments I will seek to make to this piece of legislation, because the difference between what the government has introduced to the Parliament of Victoria and what I introduced as a private members bill effectively boils down to the vigour, the determination and the default settings that apply to whose rights are protected first, whether it be the child who has been born or the donor who provided their information in accordance with the law. There is no dispute about the fact that the donor made their donation of biological material believing that it would always be shrouded in confidentiality and secrecy; that was the mutual undertaking entered into when that material was provided. Ultimately, in terms of the emotional, biological and medical needs I outlined and the contemporary thinking about the rights of the child, it is about whether that is an appropriate framework today. My argument is that it is not.
My argument is that we should establish a rights-based approach to elevate the rights of the child for all the reasons I have described. The unfortunate consequence of that is that the rights of the person who donated the material and the undertakings made to that person are relegated. I am not shying away from that; it is the logical consequence of what I am advocating for. I would be disappointed if that caused great distress to anybody in Victoria, but that is clearly what I am advocating. That is clearly the difference between the legislative framework I proposed and what is being proposed by the government. The amendments I will seek to make to the government's legislation will try to remedy that. The default setting should address whose rights come first under the law, the child's or the donor's. In the committee stage I will be attempting again to establish default settings that insert the rights of the child ahead of the rights of the donor.The fundamental difference between the government's proposal and what was in my private members bill, and what I will again be advocating for when I put forward amendments to this legislation today, relates to the obligation of the clinic, the doctor or whoever is the holder of the original records to provide information. The government has made some moves in terms of trying to be more rigorous and develop better practices around the compilation, distribution and availability of information relating to this important register of who donated biological material that led to a child being born. We need to ensure greater confidence in that registration scheme. The government is endeavouring to do its best. The legislative framework says that that information may be provided, and I would suggest that the requirement should be that if that material exists, then it must be provided. That is a fundamental difference between what the government is proposing and what I will be seeking to do by amendment.
One of the extraordinary things in trying to get a balance in the legislation is trying to understand how the rights and obligations and the connections work. It would be worthwhile for people in the community, and certainly people in the Parliament, to have a look at the episode of the ABC's Australian Story program which considered the case study of Lauren Burns. It shows how Lauren's search for her biological father was facilitated not in breach of the law but through the support of her treating doctor, David de Kretser, in an elegant case of goodwill. Professor de Kretser subsequently moved on to become a world-leading scientist and the Governor of Victoria. He is a man of great humanity and compassion. Through his records he found a connection between Lauren and her biological father which facilitated their meeting.
Australian Story showed Lauren's passionate, emotional and quite appropriate need to find that connection to her biological father, whereas her biological father, Benedict Clark, whilst open to engaging with Lauren, had a more dispassionate view.
He donated biological material as a student at Monash University. It was clear that he believed it was for good scientific reasons, and it also assisted his income security. He did not think there was going to be any longstanding relationship formed as a result of his donation of biological material. To this day, even though he has met Lauren and developed a relationship with her, he is always, as he described it, one step removed from describing her as his daughter. He does not become confused about that. From Lauren's perspective, she does not become confused either. She does not overreach and refer to him as 'Dad' even though she understands him to be her biological father. There has been quite a dispassionate, reasonable, rational and yet familial connection created between the two of them. It was not distressing for Ben to have this connection made in his life some 25 years later.
To me the extraordinary thing about that program was not so much the connection Lauren made with her biological father -- it is perhaps one step removed from an enduringly intimate father-daughter relationship, and her relationship with the mother who raised her is as strong and unswerving as ever -- but rather the very moving connections she made with her siblings and extended paternal biological family. The sense of connection is not necessarily limited to the link between the donor and the child; the relationship with the donor may be the linchpin for broader connections that are nonetheless extremely familial, close, intimate and rewarding. If you consider this alongside the concern Narelle had about the biological defect that led to her cancer, it is all the more reason for those familial connections to be made -- not only is there an emotional grounding for these connections, but they also have a biological and potentially medical validation.Those are very powerful stories for the Victorian Parliament and community to understand as we try to work our way towards the desired outcomes. We are trying to achieve better connections. We are trying to insert a rights-based framework that, for the first time since 1988, creates as level a playing field as possible in relation to who has access to information fundamental to their sense of self, their sense of justice and their emotional and medical wellbeing. I know some of the members of the committee, particularly the Labor members for Brunswick and Ivanhoe in the other place and Ms Pennicuik and others across this chamber, have made very strong connections and friendships with those who did contribute and are greatly committed to the rights of those people, their families and their loved ones, and thus have a great desire to make this piece of legislation go as far as it possibly can.
It is on their advice that, though it is flawed and yet again places limits on their rights, the opposition will support the bill because it makes incremental and ongoing positive change. If the bill is amended in the form I will be putting to the committee, Labor will wholeheartedly and fulsomely support the bill for the reasons I have described and the basic humanity that is reflected in our position. That is the nature of my commitment and the commitment of my colleagues in the Labor Party. We want to go as far as we can to satisfy the undertakings we made as far back as 2 December 2008 and which we have consistently pursued through parliamentary inquiries, the tabling of private members bills and our amendments today. We encourage government members to join with us.Opposition amendments circulated by Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) pursuant to standing orders.
Mr JENNINGS -- The government and Ms Pennicuik have had some degree of warning about these amendments, but they have had significant warning as to the subject matter that underpins them and the effect they are seeking. They are totally consistent with the journey that has been embarked upon by the parliamentary committee and the private members bill for which I sought the support of the Victorian Parliament 14 months ago.Today the Victorian Parliament has an opportunity to do something that is profound, but I think it will probably fall short of that, just as it has fallen short on one or two occasions in the past. If I am proved wrong, I will congratulate anybody in the chamber for seeing the sense and humanity in pushing this scheme as far as we possibly can. I thank those who step up in anticipation of any cross-chamber support. If that does not occur, I cannot say that I wholeheartedly congratulate and support the government, because in my view the legislative framework is a diluted version of what it should be.
Nonetheless, the bill will ultimately be supported by the Labor Party.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to contribute to this very important debate on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Further Amendment Bill 2013. As I listened to Mr Jennings contribution, it was obvious to me that he has had a long-term interest in these matters, which are also of interest to many Victorians. It is an important debate for us to have.
The bill amends the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, which was enacted by the previous government. The purpose of the bill is to provide that information relating to treatment procedures using gametes donated prior to 1 July 1988 be included in a central register and to enable persons conceived from donations prior to 1 July 1988 to obtain information where available from the central register with the consent of the donor. The bill expands the functions of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) to provide support, counselling and donor-linking intermediary services to persons seeking information and to subjects responding to requests for information. VARTA is an important authority in relation to these matters.The bill has come about partly as a result of the work of the last Parliament's Law Reform Committee, as mentioned by Mr Jennings in his contribution to the debate, and through other discussions and debates, as he also indicated. At the outset I acknowledge the work of the former Law Reform Committee on its inquiry into access by donor-conceived people to information about donors.
In particular I congratulate the committee's chair, Clem Newton-Brown, the member for Prahran in the Assembly; its deputy chair, Jane Garrett, the member for Brunswick in the Assembly; Russell Northe, the member for Morwell in the Assembly; Anthony Carbines, the member for Ivanhoe in the Assembly; and my former colleague Donna Petrovich, who was a member of this chamber for some time.In its report the Law Reform Committee makes a number of recommendations for establishing a mechanism for donor-conceived individuals to access information about their donors. The issues addressed by the committee were very complex and have raised challenges from legal, ethical and practical aspects. The chair's foreword states:
While the committee considered many issues during the course of this inquiry, the key questions that emerged were essentially ethical: should a donor-conceived person have the right to access information about his or her donor?Currently, people who were conceived from gametes donated after 1998 are entitled under legislation to obtain identifying information about their donors when they reach adulthood. People conceived from gametes donated between 1988 and 1997 can only access identifying information about their donors with the donor's consent. However, people conceived from gametes donated prior to 1988 have no legislated right to obtain identifying information.As has been mentioned, there is a three-tiered regime for this process. I acknowledge the many people involved in the inquiry, including individuals who gave evidence, particularly donor-conceived individuals and their families, and those persons who have been supporting donor-conceived people in their pursuit of highlighting these issues to the Victorian community. Those people highlighted many issues for the committee, and the committee's work and processes have been well documented. In his contribution to the debate on this bill in the other place, the committee's chair, Clem Newton-Brown, said:
I am sure I speak on behalf of my colleagues on the committee when I say that Narelle Grech touched our lives and highlighted the humanity that is behind the dry business of law reform in this place.Many Victorians are now aware of the story of Narelle Grech, particularly due to the airing of a documentary on Australian Story over the last two weeks.
It is an excellent documentary about this issue and highlights the many emotions experienced by people who are affected by this issue, including some of the tragic circumstances surrounding them. However, as Mr Jennings said, what Narelle achieved during her time and through meeting up with her biological father, Ray Tonna, after the intervention of former Premier Ted Baillieu to allow her to access information, is very profound. Her story touched many Victorians and Australians who watched that program. Unfortunately I did not see the first part of the documentary -- I only saw this week's part -- but I too was touched by her story and that of Lauren Burns, who has been unyielding in her determination to pursue the right of donor-conceived people to have access to information regarding their genetic heritage. The two women in that documentary highlighted this complex issue, which is of paramount importance.I note that in the program Lauren's biological father stated that Lauren was not his child socially.
That is a very profound statement to make after he discovered that he had another daughter. Those individuals achieved a very good outcome, as did Narelle, who was reunited with her biological father shortly before she sadly succumbed to bowel cancer.In his contribution to the debate Mr Jennings highlighted the issues of genetic traits, especially for people in similar circumstances to that of Narelle Grech. It is important to understand the need for donor-conceived people to find out about any genetic or hereditary disorders that may have dire health outcomes for them, as was the case with Narelle. The program highlighted that both Lauren and Narelle were born prior to 1988, and as we all know, people born prior to 1988 are currently not able to obtain identifying information about their biological parents or obtain information about hereditary or genetic traits or information about half siblings. This is a relevant matter to discuss because if a person were to enter into a relationship, especially a sexual relationship, with a half sibling, it is important to look at the consequences of that. This is a very difficult and complex issue and a reason we are looking at this law.
As I said there are currently three separate regimes which regulate donor-conceived people's access to information about their donors. Over time we have seen attitudes in our community change in relation to understanding these issues. That was very well demonstrated in the program that was screened on Monday night. Some people's attitudes have changed, but others do not share the same view. There are donors in our community who at the time of donating thought they had anonymity and that their donation would remain confidential forever. That was understood to be the law at the time, and many people have the view that this is the way it should remain. We know some who donated at the time could have had a number of children. They could have six, seven, eight or more children, and we need to be mindful of that when understanding this issue.We know that for Lauren and Narelle their reunions with their donors were very good, but when confronted with the knowledge that they have additional children out there some people may not share similar views.
That is why a comprehensive review was undertaken with a number of stakeholders including the donor-conceived individuals themselves, the recipients, parents, donors and their families. The findings of the Victorian Assisted Reproduction Treatment Authority consultation process with pre-1998 donors were taken into consideration when formulating this bill. Interviews with the 42 donors who donated gametes in Victoria before 1988 were also taken into consideration during the review process. Their views were mixed, with more than half of them rejecting the Law Reform Committee's main recommendation that access should be available. In formulating this bill and taking into consideration all those complex areas the government believes the bill strikes the right balance with the range of views I have just highlighted.This bill allows people who were born from donated gametes prior to 1988 to be able to request and receive information about their donor. This information, however, can only be obtained where their donor consents to its release. That is the important point to make. The release is done by an independent body that undertakes the request on behalf of the donor-conceived individual. In the case where a person's life may be in danger the bill allows for the release of relevant health information when deemed necessary. This information must be certified by a practising doctor to be disclosed in the event that it would save an individual's life. It may also be disclosed to alert a person to any genetic or hereditary trait that may have a significant health outcome or be harmful to that individual or to that person's descendants, as was highlighted in the case of Narelle Grech.
The bill does not allow for this information to be easily disclosed. That is quite deliberate.The safeguards within the bill in relation to having a certified practitioner undertake the process are absolutely necessary. Importantly, disclosure of the information is carefully undertaken by a registered assisted reproductive treatment provider. I reiterate to the chamber that this is a complex and difficult area in which to legislate, and the government has endeavoured to give it the consideration it deserves. The legislation needs to be formulated in a careful and considered manner in order to meet community expectations. As I have said, attitudes have changed, and we want to get this right for individuals who are seeking to have their information disclosed, but it has to be recognised that individuals donated material under quite a different law at the time and that there could be significant consequences for individuals who do not want information about themselves disclosed.
I think we are all in agreement that this is a very important debate that has been ongoing for some years.We sit in this place and have these debates to consider complex issues such as those we are discussing today and to look at the future needs of Victorians while recognising the circumstances that face Victorians today. I believe this is an important area, and I think the government has struck the right balance in suggesting that disclosure be allowed with the consent of the donor.
We all should be aware that other jurisdictions have looked at the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Committee and are following what is happening here in Victoria. It is pleasing that Victoria is the first jurisdiction to recognise and address the needs of donor-conceived persons to have access to information regarding their heritage. I would like to again commend the committee for the work it undertook in this area.Mr Jennings spoke of members in his party who developed relationships with donor-conceived people and their families, and from my understanding it is fair to say that all committee members took this issue very seriously. They were very moved by it and developed very close relationships. I met with some of the donor-conceived people, as did other members, and it was terrific to get their point of view firsthand. I am very pleased we are debating this issue today. Again, I thank the people who came before the committee and all those who supported them through the process. It would not have been easy at all.
With those words, I reiterate that this is an important area of the law. It is complex and it has had due consideration, with many people having been consulted throughout the process. I believe the government has got the balance right in this area of the law, and I commend the bill to the house.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- The bill before members is the result of a lot of community debate, including debate in this Parliament, particularly over the past six years, but I suppose it could be said that this issue arose 34 years ago when on 23 June 1980 the first child was born through an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) process. That person was Candice Reed.
On 23 June 2010 I moved in this Parliament that the Law Reform Committee look into the issue of donor-conceived persons. That resulted in the committee's 2012 report. Before moving the referral motion I contacted Ms Reed to ask for her express permission to mention her name in the context of moving the motion. It was just a coincidence that I was moving the motion on that day but it seemed to me to be a very auspicious coincidence. She was very gracious in granting permission for me to mention her name in that context. As I said, 34 years ago the first person was born under the IVF process. The estimates are that since that time between 60 000 and 75 000 children have been born in Australia under that process.I have mentioned before in the Parliament that I have had a concern about this issue for a long time. When the first IVF children were born I was in my early 20s.
Like everybody else, I was happy that IVF children were being born to people who previously may not have been able to welcome children into their lives, but at the time I was concerned about the matter of anonymous donation. It seemed to me that that was fraught with issues, because even then it seemed that the adults involved -- that is, the people wanting to have children and the sperm donors -- were making all the decisions but they were not necessarily considering the rights of the children born as a result of IVF treatment.I have also mentioned before that what I considered to be foreseeable problems have come to fruition. As I said, I was happy about IVF. But I was also angry. Looking back, now I am sorry that at the time I did not become more active on the issue.
'Fortunate' may not be the right word in the context, so I will say rather that I was pleased to be able to do something about the issue when it began to be raised in the Parliament as a result in particular of the introduction by the previous government of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill 2008. I agree with Mr Jennings, who was behind the introduction of that bill, that it was good to open access to assisted reproductive treatment (ART) in the community. The Greens supported the then government in that regard.The debate on the bill in the Legislative Council in December 2008 was a very long one. In those days we did not have the standing legislation committees that we have now but we did have the Legislation Committee, to which any legislation could be referred. The bill was referred to that committee, and it was given a thorough going-over by the committee. I consider that to have been a very good process and one that possibly should be followed a bit more often with regard to legislation presented in this house.
A lot of issues were addressed in that bill, and the committee process allowed the issues to be thoroughly aired and debated. They included opening up not only access to ART but also access by donor-conceived persons to information.As members know, section 59 of the principal act provides that the registrar must disclose information to a person if the person was conceived:
(i) using gametes donated after 31 December 1997; or(ii) the person was conceived using gametes donated between 1 July 1988 and 31 December 1997 and the donor has given consent to the disclosure.
Section 59 of the current act provides for the three stages by which donor-conceived people are able to get access to information. Currently, those born before 1988 have no access or right to information under the law.
It must be remembered that donor-conceived persons born before 1988 are now aged between 26 to 34. They are young adults, and obviously many of them now have their own families. Some of the donor-conceived people that we have met during the years of debating this issue through the Parliament have their own children; another generation is involved. Those born after 1988 and before 1998 are legally able to have identifying information about their donors if the donor consents. Those born after 1998 have the right to information whether or not the donor consents, because donors were informed that a donor-conceived person would be able to access that information. Currently, we have a three-tiered system, and this bill purports to put in place a flawed two-tiered system.
I will move a simple amendment to the bill, which if agreed to, would have the effect of removing section 59(b) from the act.
Greens amendment circulated by Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) pursuant to standing orders.Ms PENNICUIK -- The effect of removing section 59(b) from the act would be that all donor-conceived persons would have access to both non-identifying and identifying information about their donors. It would remove the three-tiered system. It would mean there would be no inequity or inequality amongst donor-conceived people with regard to their rights to access information, which currently is based solely on the year in which they were born.
I know many people do not agree with that position, but as I said, back in the 1980s I had concerns that donors were able to make anonymous donations.To me the creation of a life is about the most important thing that can happen, and the effect of the anonymous donation on the lives of donor-conceived people was not given due consideration. I see it as a mistake that was perhaps made because of misplaced moral standards at the time, but the effect on donor-conceived people has been profound. A mistake was made that needs to be rectified. It is much the same as the mistakes that were made in the past with regard to forced adoptions, and we have been through the process of apologising to people who endured forced adoptions. We also changed adoption laws so that where previously there was anonymity, retrospective legislation was introduced to remove that anonymity.
There should be equal access to information for all donor-conceived persons. The act says that the interests of the child are paramount. Section 59(b) of the act is inconsistent with that principle, and of course 'child', where it refers to those persons born before 1998, now relates to adults aged between 26 and 34.During the 2008 debate on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill I was able to achieve one amendment, which was that the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages would be able to attach a note to the birth certificate of a donor-conceived person to let them know that more information was available about their birth. One of the important issues raised by this debate is that many people may not know they are donor conceived. This situation is less common now, but there is still a cohort of people out there who may not know. I operate on the principle that it is best to be open and transparent with that sort of information and that people be told they are donor conceived.
Mr Jennings and Ms Crozier mentioned Australian Story and Searching for C11, parts 1 and 2, which were recently screened on the ABC. The timing of the airing of that show was coincidental with the debate today, with episode 2 shown only last Monday night.One of the things that struck me about Lauren Burns's story was that Ben Clark said he had told his children and his wife that he was a donor. I have had a long association with Lauren dating back to 2008 when she first approached me and other members of Parliament about her search for her donor father, who she refers to as her biological father. I thought that was very interesting.
One of the arguments we hear from many donors is that they do not wish to be approached by their donor-conceived offspring because they have not told their families about being donors. I have thought about this quite a lot. I suppose my answer to that argument would be, 'It would be good to do that, because it is the truth'. I have also made the point many times in the Parliament when we have been debating these issues that times have moved on. It is probably a lot less embarrassing to make this admission than it was deemed to be back in the 1980s, and it is always best that this type of information is out in the open.I was struck by Ben Clark's comment. It was an interesting part of the show, which was about the experience of Lauren Burns in finding her family. Lauren's story is quite extraordinary in that eminent people have played a role in it, including no less a person than a former Governor of Victoria, and she has found that she is descended from Manning Clark. Tribute must be paid to Lauren for her forensic investigative work and her persistence in her search, to the organisations she is part of -- TangledWebs, VANISH and the donor-conceived persons network. All these organisations have been pushing for reform for a very long time.
Despite the fact that I had some concerns with the 2008 bill and moved some amendments to it, including a similar amendment to the one I will be moving to this bill today, it was good legislation overall. The former government should be congratulated for it.
At the time of debate on that bill, Mr Jennings gave the Parliament an undertaking that within 18 months of the passing of the bill there would be a review. That was in December 2008, and that is why I kept in contact with Lauren Burns and TangledWebs and of course Narelle Grech, Kimberley Springfield and Myfanwy Cummerford, who were very active in that group. I ran a forum in Parliament, to which many MPs came, in order to get support for the referral motion that I moved on 23 June.
I wanted to move the referral motion in June 2010 because it was 18 months since the passing of the ART bill and I had not yet seen any action from Mr Jennings, although that is not to say he is not very committed to this issue -- he has shown that commitment, and I will get to that in a moment -- so I moved the referral to the Law Reform Committee. As Mr Jennings said, within three months the committee, chaired at the time by Mr Scheffer, put out an interim report. To the present government's credit, the reference was picked up in the new Parliament and resulted in the report that was released in 2012 by the committee on its inquiry into access by donor-conceived people to information about donors. The committee was then chaired by Clem Newton-Brown, the member for Prahran in the Assembly, with Jane Garrett, the member for Brunswick in the Assembly, as deputy chair.
The overarching recommendation in the report was that the Victorian government introduce legislation to allow all donor-conceived people to obtain identifying information about their donors. A series of other recommendations followed -- in fact there were another 29 recommendations in all -- and some of those qualified the overarching first recommendation. However, I agree with the first recommendation that access to information should be equal for all donor-conceived persons.As we know, the report was tabled in 2012 and people were very excited. I know those from TangledWebs et cetera were extremely excited that our committee had looked at the issue in detail and that so many people's minds had been changed by their submissions, just as those groups coming into the Parliament for the forum I ran before the referral had changed people's minds and made MPs aware that it would be a good thing to conduct an inquiry through the Law Reform Committee. But not much happened after the release of the report.
I made representations. For example, two months after the tabling of the report I raised an adjournment matter for the Attorney-General asking for action on the report. I also put questions on notice to the minister in the chamber, Mr Davis, with regard to the protection of records, because that issue was raised in the report and had earlier been raised by me -- that is, the keeping of records for people who were donor conceived before 1988 was of great concern.However, we did not see any action at all. Therefore in 2013 Mr Jennings introduced a private members bill to amend the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 in accordance with the recommendations of the report. Although I moved an amendment to Mr Jennings's private members bill along the lines of the amendment I will be moving today, the Greens supported that bill, which was not supported by the government. That was a missed opportunity.
The government then came up with its own bill, which has been before the Parliament since the end of last year but is only being debated now, as Mr Jennings said, nine months later. I am curious as to the cause of the delay, and in fact I asked the Attorney-General privately about the delay and was told, 'It will be coming soon'.The bill before us takes some steps forward in relation to the issues but not as far forward as I and many in the donor-conceived community would like to see. The bill provides for access to information about donor siblings. It makes some moves towards requiring ART providers to make and keep records and to provide those records to the registrar. It enables the registrar to access information that is kept at the Public Record Office Victoria. Those are mainly records related to pre-1988 from the now defunct Prince Henry's Hospital, which were all sent to the public record office.
The bill makes other amendments to do with donor-linking services, counsellors and counselling of donor-conceived people and donors with regard to the release of information, and also the release of medical information. It requires ART providers to provide records to the registrar within six months of the commencement of the act in June 2015, which would be by the end of next year, unless the amendment proposed by Mr Jennings to change the commencement date is agreed to.That would be a good thing because over the course of debate in relation to this issue, whenever a small step has been taken the government of the day has made a statement that in 18 months or two years time it will look at how things are going. During that time people's lives go on, and they still do not have access to the information for which they have been advocating.
I do not wish to verbal the minister, Mr Davis, but he indicated the same thing to me: that once the act is passed, in 18 months time we can see how things are going, and if it needs amendment, we will do it then. But I say, 'Let's do it now'. As Lauren Burns said on Australian Story, we still have not gone all the way. That is a lost opportunity. Even though people born before 1988 will, under the bill, now have the same rights as those born before 1998 and we are moving from a three-tiered to a two-tiered system, we still have inconsistencies with regard to equality of access to information based on the time at which a person was born.The word 'balance' is used in relation to balancing the rights of stakeholders -- the rights of the donors against the rights of the donor-conceived people. In my mind the rights are not equal. There are the paramount rights of the child, which are enshrined in the act; the rights of children, which are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the human right to know about your genetic identity, which I think is the more profound and stronger right that was, let us say, promised to donors, not by legislation but just by the providers who, at the time, were interested in progressing the technology and helping families, but not necessarily looking ahead to the interests of the children who were conceived by that technology.
In my mind the rights of those donors are not equal to the rights of the children to access the information. Time has moved on, and I would encourage all people who have been involved in donations as donors to tell their families about it and say, 'I made a donation in the 1980s. It is possible there are donor-conceived children out there, and it is possible that one might turn up on our doorstep or write a letter'.That does not mean that there has to be ongoing contact. In the same way as members of families who grow up together sometimes grow apart and do not have ongoing contact, it does not mean there has to be ongoing contact for these people. This is about the right to gain access to the information.
Any parents of donor-conceived children who have not told their children that they were donor conceived can make use of education programs such as those that are run by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority to encourage that conversation, and that is the case more often than not these days, but there still may be parents out there who have not told their children, especially those aged between 26 and 34 who are now adults, that they are donor conceived. I would encourage any parents who have not done that to do so, because it is always best that the truth is known. It also raises a wider issue, which is that of the ethics of science and technology.Those involved in pursuing science and technology, whatever it might be -- whether it be with regard to assisted reproductive technology or any other technology -- always need to be sure that it does not ride roughshod over people's human rights.
I have previously mentioned Melbourne Anonymous Donors, MADMen, a group of donor fathers who say they want to know about their donor-conceived children and are happy to be contacted by them. I had suggested to them that they relieve the doctors of the promise as those doctors do not want to be held to that promise any longer.Lauren Burns's story, Searching for C11, has been mentioned. Lauren's mother, Barbara Burns, is featured very much in that story. She has also been a long-term advocate for the rights of donor-conceived persons and for supporting people like herself, who are parents of donor-conceived persons.
She has been a long-term and persistent advocate in this area. I pay tribute to her for her work and to those who work with her in the organisations I have already mentioned.Narelle Grech's story is a very sad one. What happened to Narelle is the reason we need to make the information available to all donor-conceived persons. If there was any story that epitomised that need, it is her story. That is why I want to move my amendment. Narelle's quest was to achieve equality of information for all who were donor conceived. That was her goal. She was born prior to 1988, so she had no right to access any information. By the time she found out that she had bowel cancer, she had stage 4 bowel cancer and was terminally ill.
We know the story of the intervention of the Premier and how that led to Narelle finding her biological father, Ray Tonna, and how that worked out.A very poignant part of the story was their excitement when they found each other. Ray said he would have loved to have found her earlier, and that if only she had been allowed to contact him 15 years earlier, he would have been just as excited then. If they had been reunited 15 years earlier, when she was aged 15 rather than when she was 30, she could have then been informed about the family history of bowel cancer. At that age she could have been screened, as people who have that family history are, and her cancer would probably not have developed or it could have been prevented. Her story is inspiring but also very sad. There was the lack of information about her medical history and the lack of contact between two people who were happy to find each other, but her quest right up until the end to fight for equality when it comes to being able to access information is inspiring.
The story of Sarah Dingle was also featured as part of the program. Sarah is a journalist.When she found her record, she discovered that the record had actually been tampered with such that the code identifying the donor had been removed. This issue that medical records like that have been tampered with is very concerning. I know people are looking into what could have happened. That is why I raised more than two years ago, after the Law Reform Committee report had been tabled, the issue with regard to the histories and records held by the providers -- that they be preserved and that the government take some action in that regard. We know that many of the records pertaining to those born before 1998 may in fact be non-existent or incomplete, or may have been tampered with. I would like to take the opportunity to say that somebody out there knows what happened to those records. Somebody did something to them. The removal of the donor's code did not happen on its own; someone did that. Anybody who knows anything about that should come forward to rectify that situation.
The bill takes us a small step forward. We have taken a few steps every couple of years in this regard. We have had debates on this issue over the last six years. This bill still does not achieve for all donor-conceived persons full and equal rights to the information about their donors. That is my goal and the goal that I will continue to pursue. My goal is to achieve equal rights for all donor-conceived persons, no matter what time they were born. That is why I will move the amendment, and I commend that amendment to members of the house.There were some problems when the retrospective amendments were made to adoption legislation, and there may be some problems caused in the lives of families or lives of some donors.
However, that would not be as bad, as profound or as distressing as the ongoing lack of access to information for those people who were donor conceived. Those people who were donor conceived had no say in the law that was to prevail over their lives and decide whether or not they had access to information about their biological parents. They had no say in that. They are having a say now. I know that some donor-conceived people are not interested in that information, and that is fine, but there should not be a law on the statute book that prevents those donor-conceived people from accessing information. That access should be equal to all.Even though the bill is flawed, I will try to amend it. I know Mr Jennings is intending to move some amendments. I have not got across all of the detail of all of them, but it looks like I will definitely support some of them. Some of them I may not support, but I think the bill will pass.
It is not getting us all the way, as Lauren Burns said, so that is a missed opportunity, but even getting us some steps along the way is better than not progressing at all.
Mr EIDEH (Western Metropolitan) -- I rise to make a brief contribution to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Further Amendment Bill 2014 and state that we on this side of the house will not be opposing the bill. We will not be opposing it quite simply because we fundamentally believe that children who are conceived as a result of a donor are entitled to find out where they came from. We believe those people are entitled to have access to information about their donors regardless of when the donation took place. I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who are brave enough and, once this bill is passed, those who have not been in the past but are now inspired to enter on their journey of discovery to find out where exactly they come from and reconnect any pieces in their lives which may have been lost out of uncertainty.
I would like to thank my parliamentary colleagues who have made very valuable contributions to this debate and have acknowledged its importance in communities across Victoria. I would also like to acknowledge those who were a part of the former Law Reform Committee and the inquiry into access by donor-conceived people to information about donors. Its report states clearly the effects that the unknown has on donor-conceived people and why we need reform in this area to make this information accessible. I must state that it is extremely unfair, although hardly surprising, that this government has once again cherrypicked from the recommendations that were put forward by this inquiry. It is just another attempt by the government to rush through legislation in this Parliament's last sitting weeks.We on this side of the house believe the Law Reform Committee's recommendations should be implemented in their entirety; instead, this bill continues to uphold inconsistent laws that will continue to make it difficult for people who are a part of the donor-conceived community. We on this side of the house believe that opening up the accessibility of vital information to donor-conceived people will finally give them the keys to unlock their cultural heritage and also provide an insight into their genetics and ultimately act as a preventive tool against potential genetic diseases.
Members of the house are well aware of the importance of genetic testing and choosing to undertake preventive approaches to ensure the greatest chance of success in fighting a serious disease. I am certain that no-one would disagree that it is our right to have access to this information, and this bill ensures that donor-conceived people share in that right too.Motion agreed to.
Read second time.Committed.
Clause 1 agreed to.Clause 2
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) -- Order! I call on Mr Jennings to move his amendment 1 to clause 2, which is a consequential amendment and is a test for his amendment 2.Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I move:
1. Clause 2, line 7, omit --subsection (2) and insert --subsections (2) and (3)--.
The reason I move this amendment -- and as you, Acting President, have identified, I am happy for amendment 2, the consequential amendment, to be tested by the vote on amendment 1 -- is to try to bring the application of this legislation as far forward in time as is possible. Given that it is a very lengthy period in which we have been considering these issues, the operative date currently before Parliament does not seem as far ahead as it originally did when the bill was tabled in the Parliament nine months ago. When the bill was introduced nine months ago the opposition looked at it and prepared amendments that have been ready since December of last year in an attempt to bring the operative date forward. We would still like to do that. We would still like to look for the earliest opportunity for the bill to pass and receive royal assent, and our amendments are designed to amend this piece of legislation to enable an earlier date -- not a later date -- than 29 June 2015.
Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- Whilst appreciating the points that Mr Jennings makes, the government will not on this occasion support his proposed amendment 1, which I understand acts as a test for his amendment 2. Mr Jennings has laid out a long time line, and I understand the history of this bill and the history of the issue. I am respectful of the points made by both Ms Pennicuik and Mr Jennings and more broadly the community.The government makes no apology for the thoughtful and considered way in which this has been approached; firstly, after the Law Reform Committee tabled its report in terms of an interim response, and secondly, in terms of a further response after additional work had been undertaken by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) at the request of the government. I accept there has been a thoughtful and considered approach here. I also accept the complexity of these matters and the genuineness with which people hold views -- and often contrary views -- and the legitimacy of those views.
The government believes it has crafted a reasonable compromise, and when I look at this bill overall I think it has struck a balance between genuine competing rights and genuine competing desires that are completely legitimate.In terms of the timing that Mr Jennings discussed, I put on the record that the Labor Party in the Legislative Assembly in recent months has obstructed the flow of business. This bill would have come to this chamber earlier without the obstruction of the Labor Party. It is important to put that on the record. I accept that there was a detailed and comprehensive process prior to that, but it is a little rich when the Labor Party has obstructed business in the lower house week after week, and that is unfortunate.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- It is unfortunate that Mr Davis wants to make that sort of claim.Every week I look at the government business program in the Assembly, and I have not seen this bill included, so I take issue with that particular claim. This is an important piece of legislation, and it has been languishing in the Legislative Assembly for nine months. There is nothing in this bill that assisted reproductive treatment providers, VARTA or anybody else cannot comply with tomorrow. They all know what is in the bill, they all know what the debate has been about, and they all know about the bill that has been sitting in the other place for nine months. They have all been consulted, and they can comply with it tomorrow. There is no reason for any more delay.
As I mentioned in my contribution to the second-reading debate, there has been delay after delay in the introduction of reforms in this area to open up access to information for donor-conceived persons and to protect records about in-vitro fertilisation and assisted reproductive treatment (ART). No argument could possibly be put forward by the government for one more days delay in this respect. The Greens will be supporting Mr Jennings's amendment.Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I thank Ms Pennicuik for the points she has made. As I said, there has been a period of detailed discussion on this bill. The bill is now here, and we are obviously seeking to pass it. It will take some time after the passage of the bill for the various ART providers to have their arrangements in order to manage the requirements and responsibilities in the bill.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- I have to put on the record that ART providers will have six months after the passage of the bill to get their arrangements in order. However, they already know what is coming, and they have known for nine months, so there is no need for this extra delay. In the interests of the persons who this bill deals with, we need those arrangements to be put it in place as soon as possible. There is no need for any delay.Committee divided on amendment:
Atkinson, Mr Lovell, Ms
Coote, Mrs Millar, Mrs
Crozier, Ms O'Brien, Mr D. D.
Dalla-Riva, Mr (Teller) O'Brien, Mr D. R. J.
Davis, Mr D. O'Donohue, Mr
Drum, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Finn, Mr Peulich, Mrs
Guy, Mr Ramsay, Mr
Koch, Mr Rich-Phillips, Mr
Kronberg, Mrs (Teller) Ronalds, Mr
Clause agreed to; clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.Clause 6
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) -- Order! I call Mr Jennings to move his amendment 3, which is a test for his amendments 5 and 6.Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I move:
3. Clause 6, lines 23 and 24, omit --may be given to Registrar by individuals-- and insert --to be given to Registrar--.
The reason that I, on behalf of the Labor Party, am moving this amendment is to try to add rigour to the scheme the government is introducing. Effectively it boils down to this. Under the government's scheme if a person holds information, whether they be a clinic, a doctor, an ART provider or what the bill describes as a natural person -- and I will go to that issue with my next amendment -- they may pass it on to the registrar. In our view that provision should be stronger, and we suggest the bill would be better if there were a mandatory requirement for the information to be provided. We are replacing the word 'may' with the word 'must' and applying a sanction. My amendment 6 applies a sanction of 60 penalty units if the holder of information does not disclose it to the registrar. The net effects of my amendments 3, 5 and 6 are to replace 'may' with 'must' and to put in place a penalty if the requirement is not complied with.Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I note and understand the points made by Mr Jennings. The government believes the right balance has been struck in the bill and for that reason will not support his proposal. Notwithstanding that -- and I mentioned this to Ms Pennicuik during the second-reading debate -- the government is prepared, within two years of the act coming into operation, to look at the mechanics and operation of the act, review any difficulties there may be and look at any work that needs to be done to improve the operation of the act. I understand the points Mr Jennings has made, but a reasonable balance has to be struck, and the government believes it has been.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- The Greens will support Mr Jennings's amendment. It improves the bill, given that the idea of the bill is not only to widen access to information but to make sure that information is available for people to access. At the moment, particularly with regard to persons conceived using gametes donated prior to 1988, information is held in disparate locations.It could be with former doctors or with clinics that were operated by one doctor and have since been taken over by another doctor. The whole idea of the regime is to have those records either transferred or copied to the central register -- the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages or the Public Record Office Victoria, as the case may be. However, the bill also allows the registrar to have access to the information at the public record office, which is mainly the Prince Henry's information. The idea is to centralise the information so that it not only is accessible but is actually there as much as possible. If there is no requirement for that information to be transferred or copied to the register, it may not happen, and that would defeat the whole purpose of the bill.
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I would like the minister to outline to the house what he believes to be the status of the information that is gathered.Has the government taken the nearly four years that has been available to it to ascertain what the level of information is and what quality it is in? What support has the government given to the sector in terms of preparing for compliance with this legislation? After all this effort, what confidence can the minister convey to the house about the status of the information that we currently think exists across the field?
Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- The government is aware that there is available information out there, but not all that information is easily accessible. That will be a task that will occur after the bill has passed.Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- When I was the minister I was asked by Ms Pennicuik at great length about these matters in December 2008. I think I was able to provide a more fulsome answer than the minister has just outlined to the house. I want to know what the government has been doing for four years. What resources have been allocated to this task that has been imminent since the recommendations to deal with this matter were tabled in 2010? The government inherited recommendations from the Parliament of Victoria on how to deal with this.
How determined has the minister been to compile this information and provide more substantive answers than what I gave in 2008? Can the minister tell us what he has been doing for four years?Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- The point here is that information exists in a number of locations and compiling the information will be a significant task when the bill has passed.
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Is the paucity of the minister's answer confirmation that four years has been wasted and that the minister is not able to provide a more complete answer than I provided to the Parliament in 2010?Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I will let that comment go through to the keeper.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- In following up on Mr Jennings's issue with respect to his amendment, on 12 September 2012 I was provided with an answer to a question on notice to the then Minister for Health regarding the preservation of the records of donors, a matter which was raised in the Legislative Council on 23 June 2010 during the debate on my motion to refer the matter to the Law Reform Committee. I asked if any interim measures had been taken to preserve the records of donors, and if not, what plans the government had to protect these records. The answer to my question on notice told me where the known registers were with regard to the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, the Public Record Office Victoria and the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, but the minister also said:A further possible category of donor-related records pertains to information held by private practitioners who performed donor insemination procedures prior to the introduction of legislation.
The collection and retention of these records was entirely at the discretion of the practitioners. It is unknown whether records generated by these practitioners were kept or destroyed. It is not possible to identify who these doctors are (were), whether they are still practising, what information (if any) they collected and whether or not any records created have been destroyed.However, there was no response to what was actually being done about it.
Time is running out. It is 34 years since in-vitro fertilisation and assisted reproductive technology began. Many of the doctors who practised in that field are retired. We need to move quickly. We need to make it compulsory that those records are either copied or transferred to the central register and not, as the minister said, pass the bill in its current form and then undertake a review to see whether that is happening in 18 months or two years time.It needs to be put in place in the bill now. I urge all members of the chamber to consider this issue very seriously and to support Mr Jennings's amendment.
Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I appreciate the points made by Ms Pennicuik.Committee divided on amendment:
Atkinson, Mr Kronberg, Mrs
Coote, Mrs Lovell, Ms
Crozier, Ms Millar, Mrs
Dalla-Riva, Mr O'Brien, Mr D. D.
Davis, Mr D. O'Donohue, Mr
Drum, Mr Ondarchie, Mr (Teller)
Elsbury, Mr (Teller) Peulich, Mrs
Finn, Mr Ramsay, Mr
Guy, Mr Rich-Phillips, Mr
Koch, Mr Ronalds, Mr