GREENS BILL: Safe Access Zones

Mark spoke in support of his Greens' colleague Hon Tammy Franks MLC's Bill - Health Care (Safe Access) Amendment Bill.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I will be supporting this bill. I would like at the outset to offer my hearty congratulations to my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks for her work on this bill and on previous bills over many years. Her work in this area shows that persistence, I think, does pay off. I associate myself with the remarks that she has made, but I would also now like to associate myself with the remarks that the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos has made. Many of the issues that she has raised were issues that I wanted to raise myself, in particular the claim that this bill somehow is a gross infringement on civil liberties, the rights of free speech, the right to protest and, the latest in that list, the right to pray silently, apparently.

I agree with the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos that the free speech, protest and silent prayer that the opponents of this bill advocate is not for any other reason than to intimidate and influence the behaviour of people seeking to access legitimate medical services. The protesters outside abortion clinics are only there to influence the behaviour of the patients who are attending. There is no other reason for them to be there.

We have known for a very long time that, when it comes to civil liberties and human rights, including the right to free speech, there are limits. For example, where the right to free speech crosses against the right not to be vilified racially, this parliament and society, I think, accepts that there are limits, and the limit is, 'Thou shall not racially vilify people.' Does it infringe your right to say whatever you want? Maybe it does, but it is a right that, as a society, we have correctly identified needs to be curtailed for the greater good.

When it comes to this issue and the right for people to silently pray, for example, at a place of their choosing, which might just happen to be outside an abortion clinic, the other day I was trying to think of some parallels. Maybe someone wants to silently pray on the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace. They might claim that that is the particular spot that they want to silently pray: 'The cars won't be that inconvenienced. They can drive around me. I'll promise to just stand right in the middle. I will not be in anybody's way.' Guess what? That person is going to get arrested. Society has decided that in most situations that is not appropriate. 'Pray somewhere else' is what the police officer would tell that person.

So there are limits to free speech, and I have no qualms whatsoever in drawing up these limits in a way that protects women who are attending these health clinics, protecting their mental health, protecting their privacy and their dignity. I do not want to see some of the behaviour that has been described of protestors outside abortion clinics.

The other thing I will say is that many of us today are wearing our red poppies, it being Remembrance Day. I found it odd—I will say it more strongly: I found it offensive, but I will start with odd—that apparently there are some bills on the Notice Paper that cannot be debated on Remembrance Day. Other bills, apparently, are okay. This one is okay and we are debating this bill now, but another bill on the topic of abortion apparently is inappropriate to debate on Remembrance Day.

My view is that it is very poor form to somehow invoke the memory of people who have died in the service of their nation in a partisan way and to say that those people would not have liked the bill and therefore it is not proper for us to debate it on Remembrance Day. It is a bizarre concept and I find it offensive.

The Hon. C.M. Scriven interjecting:

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Regardless, the work of parliament will proceed. There was an out of order interjection that the RSL lined up, saying, 'Please don't debate abortion on Remembrance Day.' I did circulate to a few members—not to everyone—an image. It is a favourite image of mine. It is actually one of the war memorials in Canberra.

It is in the precinct of the parliament building. It is a very simple granite memorial. It has a slouch hat, I think there is a nurse's hat and there might be an air force hat in there as well as a drinking fountain, so it is functional. It is a war memorial and basically the war memorial says—the words are few, but they are very powerful—'Look around you,' referring to the parliamentary precinct, 'this is what they believed in.'

I am thinking that they believed in democracy. Many of them believed they were fighting for democracy. Guess where democracy gets done? It gets done in places like this. The Notice Paper is what the Notice Paper is and we will debate the other bill tomorrow. That is just fine, but I just want to say that I thought it was very poor form for people to invoke Remembrance Day as a reason not to debate particular legislation.

On this particular bill, as I have said, congratulations to my colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks. It is an important bill. It is a bill that will improve the dignity, the security and the wellbeing of women who are accessing these services and I think it is more than time that this parliament passes this bill. I very much look forward to a successful vote, whether it is today or whenever, but I think this is a bill whose time has come.