Will South Australia Upper House hold the line on life issues?by Paul RussellNews Weekly
, May 17, 2003
The South Australian Parliament has begun its winter sitting. In both houses a number of moral and ethical issues will be debated.
The Research Involving Human Embryos and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bills debate will continue in the Upper House. It passed in the House of Assembly by a margin of 21 votes. The cloning prohibition is set to pass without difficulty. What is most disappointing is that, in spite of the vast media reporting of the federal debate and explanation of the terms adult and embryonic stem cells, some MPs seem still to lack even the most basic grasp of the subject.
As with all moral and ethical debates in SA, it is hoped that the Legislative Council, being a far more conservative chamber, will thwart these attempts to devalue human life.
At the other end of life's spectrum the so-called 'Dignity in Dying' Bill, sponsored by Democrat MLC Sandra Kanck, is likely to be called for a final vote in the Upper House. This Bill, if passed, will still need to be debated in the other chamber.
This is the third time that pro-euthanasia supporters have given this issue mouth-to-mouth in an attempt to keep it alive in debate. The Legislative Council is likely to put it out of its misery.
Last year News Weekly
reported attempts by Labor backbencher Frances Bedford to extend superannuation rights to the same-sex partners of deceased superannuants. We pointed out that this issue is a vehicle for the recognition of same-sex unions in law; the effect being to create a parity with marriage.
In April, the Australian Family Association staged a rally on the steps of Parliament House asking the Premier, Mike Rann, to allow a conscience vote on the Bedford Bill. The gathering was addressed, on behalf of the Premier, by Attorney General Michael Atkinson, who claimed that, while the issue was "probably deserving of a conscience vote ... no Labor MP had asked for one".
A strange defence indeed, prompting one person to suggest that, without a conscience vote, the passage of the Bill in question could not be seen as "the will of the people" but rather, "the will of the Premier" - shades of Louis XIV's famous line: 'L'etat, c'est moi!'
We also argued, by way of a petition in excess of 2600 signatures, that the matter should be referred to a committee for a thorough examination because there are simply too many unanswered questions. Without the benefit of committee deliberations and collection of submissions and evidence, the passage of this bill will lead the State into the uncharted waters of social reform.
The Bedford Bill passed its final hurdle on April 30. By way of contrast, a similar bill proposed by Liberal Backbencher Joe Scalzi to extend superannuation rights to a broader category of people termed "domestic co-dependents" (which does not create any special legal recognition or same-sex couples), has struggled to gain the support it deserves for further debate.
Also flagging Labor's pro-gay agenda was a discussion paper circulated by the Attorney General's department regarding other matters of discrimination (sic) against same-sex couples.
It is clear that Labor will push ahead with gay adoption and IVF for lesbians as well as amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act to ban discrimination in employment based upon status as a same-sex partner.
Former Labor - now Green - MP Kris Hanna has also introduced a gay reform bill regarding stamp duty on real estate transfers. It remains to be seen whether the Premier will allow a conscience vote on these matters or if any Labor MPs have the courage to ask for one.
As if all of the above were not enough, a new state school sex education program being trialled also promotes homosexual relationships. Teach it Like it Is
sells homosexual sex as a moral free choice for teenagers in the context of a broad sexual smorgasbord. It discusses such options as mutual masturbation, licking body parts and using sex toys and is designed for students between 11 and 15 years.
The backlash from irate parents across the State has seen the Education Minister, Trish White, duck for cover; leaving departmental underlings to face the barrage of complaints on talkback radio.
Labor's social revolution is hidden by the personal popularity of Premier Mike Rann. The Teflon Man, as he is known in some circles, manages the media with panache - making positive announcements himself and leaving difficult or negative news to be handled by his ministers.
There may be other reasons why the Premier has brought things forward. Kris Hanna has defected to the Greens, but his continuing support for the Government is all but assured. However, persistent rumours are circulating that two other MPs have also threatened to leave the party and that the same-sex discussion paper was brought forward as an appeasement for at least one of them.
The great pity is that the Liberal Opposition, apart from two notable exceptions, is complicit by its public silence.