Read our speech supporting legislation to improve the rights of donor-conceived people.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [11.43 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Assisted Reproductive Technology Amendment Bill 2016. The Greens support the bill, but I flag that we support the amendments that the Labor Opposition will move in the other place to bring New South Wales into line with the Victorian model. We also support the recommendation to establish a parliamentary committee. The bill goes some way to improving the rights of donor-conceived people. However, The Greens are concerned that it does not go far enough. We believe that moving New South Wales into line with the Victorian model would be a positive step forward. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Act was introduced in 2010 and put in place provisions that ensured that people conceived by assisted reproductive technology [ART] from 2010 onwards would receive information about their biological origins. It required ART providers to collect a range of identifying and non-identifying information from donors, such as their name and medical history, before providing treatment. In her second reading speech the Minister clarified:
Once a child is born as a result of ART treatment that used donated gametes, the information about the donor is stored on the central register maintained by the Ministry of Health. The information will be accessible by persons conceived from ART treatment using donated gametes once they turn 18. However, these provisions in the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act only operate retrospectively in respect of any child donor conceived after 1 January 2010. For pre-2010 donor-conceived persons, the ministry operates a voluntary register and any information on the donor can only be provided if the donor consents.
In her second reading speech the Minister goes on to say that, while many donor-conceived people conceived prior to 2010 have asked for changes to the law that will give them access to information about their biological origins, the interests of those people needed to be balanced with the rights of donors. However, The Greens do not believe that the correct balance has been achieved. The Greens believe that we should bring New South Wales into line with the Victorian model, where donor-conceived people, including the children of anonymous donors, have the right to identify their donors. Contact with a donor can only be made with their consent. A central agency handles information requests and offers counselling to donor-conceived people as they access information. That is a sensible and useful way to deal with this sensitive matter.
It is troubling that the Minister has ruled out creating a similar central registry in New South Wales to collect and administer pre-2010 records of assisted reproductive technology services. In its 2013 report the New South Wales parliamentary Committee on Law and Safety recommended that such an agency should be established. However, the Government has sided with the assisted reproductive technology providers—who cite the costs involved as a reason for not creating the agency—rather than siding with the donor-conceived people who would benefit from the creation of a central registry. This is particularly troubling as clinics have been caught destroying donor files. Instead of a centralised government database, as is the case in Victoria, the offspring of anonymous donors in New South Wales must instead apply directly to the clinics to request basic, but non-identifying, information or make the request to the Ministry of Health, which will contact the clinic on their behalf.
The bill, if passed in this form, will result in New South Wales donor offspring having significantly fewer rights than those in Victoria. That is why we support, at least in principle, the amendments that Labor has flagged it will move in the other place to bring New South Wales into line with Victoria. While we are concerned about the weakness of the Assisted Reproductive Technology Amendment Bill 2016 in terms of the rights of donor-conceived people, we are happy to see provisions that will benefit same-sex and other diverse families. Our office has been contacted by same-sex families affected by the five-woman limit in section 27 of the current Assisted Reproductive Technology` Act, which prohibits an assisted reproductive technology provider from providing treatment where it will result in more than five women giving birth to children conceived using the same donor. I take this opportunity to put on record the story of Rachel and Edwina, who contacted our office recently, about the impact of this law on their lives and how this change will make a massive contribution to their lives. They write:
I received a call last week from the fertility clinic that my female partner and I used to conceive our two children. In 2013 my partner and I purchased donor sperm through a Clinic in Eastern Sydney with the intention of both of us carrying children.
The clinic have informed us that they have completed a standard audit of their supplier relationship and protocols. They found that their supplier was unable to guarantee that the five recipient limit had been adhered to in our donor's case as the donor had been released to other distributors.
Due to NSW legislative requirement the clinic have withdrawn the donor's allocations and my partner Edwina will not be able to proceed with future use of any remaining vials in NSW. However as I already have children (twins) following treatment with the donor sperm I am considered one of the five recipients. The clinic advised that if Edwina was to have her own biological children she would need another donor and thus our children would not be genetic siblings.
We have been told there is a possibility that the distributor could transfer sperm interstate due to different legislations. This would of course be very costly and next to impossible for us to endeavour.
We have come into contact with at least twenty other women in same sex relationships that have been given the same information.
They asked me to raise this matter in the Parliament. It is wonderful that the amendments in the bill changing the five-woman limit to a five-family limit will address the concerns raised by my constituent. Many challenges face people who come together to create families, and anything the Parliament can do to encourage diversity of families and recognition of the importance of valuing same-sex and diverse family make-ups is an important step forward. This bill goes a long way in that regard and I commend the Minister for making that change. In conclusion, The Greens are supportive of the bill, but we believe it could go further by bringing New South Wales into line with the Victorian model. We look forward to supporting the foreshadowed Opposition amendments in the other place and hope the Government will consider accepting those amendments to bring New South Wales into line with Victoria. We commend the Government's recognition of the diversity of families within our community and the need to make sure that assisted reproductive technology serves everyone within our community to grow strong and healthy families.