Assisted Reproductive Treatment

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me pleasure to also add my contribution to debate on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2015. As has been described by others speakers, a very complex set of issues and principles are at stake. Starting off, I say that this bill delivers yet another election commitment by giving all donor-conceived Victorians the right to access available identifying information about their donors. It seeks to remove the temporal restriction that limits Victorians conceived from gametes donated before 1998 from accessing information about their donors. It also makes it clear as a principle that in carrying out anything to do with the act, the welfare and interests of persons born as a result of donor procedures are paramount.

This is probably the vexed issue that other speakers have talked about. The difficulty is that there are always going to be fundamental principles that are in conflict with each other, particularly on matters like this. The work of the Parliament and the work of the government is difficult when it involves fundamental principles that are conflicting, and these are a set of fundamental principles that are conflicting. There is the fundamental principle of the right to privacy and even the principle of making a decision informed by the laws that existed at the time, as many donors did, and yet have been changed progressively in the lifetimes of the donors. If this bill goes through the Parliament, they will change further down that perspective of the right to know for the donor-conceived person.

While I do not want to be in a position to make decisions in relation to people’s very private and personal lives, I am in a position of being part of this Parliament, and absolutely respecting both sides I make a value judgement — and that is all it is; it is not right or wrong, it is just a value judgement — that the right to know is more fundamental, in my value set. That is not just from the innate humanity we all share and the inquisitiveness we all have about knowing where we came from but also for very practical, medical reasons — for health reasons and a whole range of practical and obvious reasons. I think that set of reasons trumps, in a sense, the right to privacy — it is more complex than that, but I abridge it by saying the right to privacy — for the donor.

It is poignant that on this the United Nations Human Rights Day, as the member for Pascoe Vale said, we unlock an aspect of human rights that has been denied to a significant number of Victorians. I think wanting to know your family history is intrinsic to all of us, but it remains out of reach for many people. Under the current law, Victorians conceived of gametes donated before 1998 have fewer rights to seek information about their donor than those conceived later, so even the inconsistency in the way we treat different groups of people — the inconsistency of a two-tiered system — is in itself a reason for change, let alone the more fundamental reason of the right to know for these kids and adults.

I think it was the member for Pascoe Vale who said we do not want to set up a whole range of other problems — and we have, but to continue to harbour those problems — and those complexes for a new generation of Victorians because of the decisions we have made in the past. Echoing your words, Acting Speaker, this approach and the way in which the endeavour has been undertaken in the lead-up to this bill is probably the best of the Parliament. The committee was bipartisan — not that you have to have a unanimous outcome, but it was a unanimous outcome — and it let Victorians tell their stories. I think it was a very robust process. It is something I have only been more recently informed of, but I am conscious of the speakers speaking today who were on the committee as well as those who cannot be with us, along with the families and others who contributed. So I think it is the best of the Parliament, and that gives me some comfort in terms of breaching the human rights of a set of Victorians to support the human rights of others, which I think is the right thing to do in this circumstance.

What gives me some more comfort about that, and others have talked about this, are the provisions in the well-thought-out bill that seek to limit the infringement of the rights of those donors. The minister’s second-reading speech says:

In order to manage the release of information, and in recognition that some donors prior to 1998 believed that they would remain anonymous, the bill will introduce a scheme of contact preferences. If a donor-conceived person makes an application for identifying donor information about a donor who donated before 1998, the authority will contact the donor, offer them counselling and inform them that they may lodge a contact preference.

A donor may decide what type of contact they would like, or whether they would like no contact at all. For instance, this might entail an exchange of emails and photographs or a personal meeting. A donor may also decide that their contact preference should cover their non-donor-conceived children under the age of 18 to prevent contact from a donor-conceived sibling until they are an adult and can make their own decision.

The donor will have four months to consider their options. Before identifying information is released to a donor-conceived person, they will be required to undergo counselling and to give an undertaking that they will comply with the contact preference.

Those undertakings are stipulated in law and made to the secretary of the department, and there is a whole range of those provisions that try to protect the rights of donors while still achieving the outcome — the expression of the intent of the legislation, if it goes through the Parliament — of the right to know for all donor-conceived Victorians. While a very difficult issue, in my view the bill achieves a really important and nuanced balance between two sets of competing rights while absolutely clearly favouring one. That is what gives me comfort about this bill. It is something I absolutely support, and it strikes a fair balance.

I am pleased and proud that the Andrews Labor government has a strong record on delivering equality of all kinds to all kinds of families. We saw that earlier in relation to adoption equality, and we will see it again in relation to a whole range of other families in Victoria. This bill will allow many donor-conceived Victorians to finally seek answers to questions they have held their entire lives. To them I hope this bill provides those answers, comfort or closure, and I am honoured to support this bill on their behalf.

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