Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2021

I rise to speak on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2021. The purpose of this bill is to implement 10 of the recommendations made by the Gorton review in 2018. Before I speak to the bill I want to acknowledge the contribution just made by the Minister for Women, a very personal and heartfelt contribution which I think really does highlight why this bill is so very important. The effort and the challenges and the heartbreak that sometimes go on when you are trying to begin a family is something that I do not think we can understand without absolute sympathy. I personally feel that this bill does actually go a long way to giving people the chance to have a family, which is something that I have held very, very dear. If we can work together in these bipartisan ways to create happiness with people in the form of creating a family, I think there can be no greater challenge that we have met. So I just want to acknowledge the minister’s contribution.

This bill as I started to say—because I wanted to say that before the minister left the house—implements 10 of the recommendations made by the Gorton review in 2018. It aims to make artificial insemination more accessible, and I think we can see why that is so important without actually having to say too much hopefully. Michael Gorton, AM, undertook a 12-month review of the Victorian assisted reproductive treatment framework and recommended broadly a focus on improving quality, safety and support in assisted reproductive treatment, improving the patient experience, improving access to and the affordability of public fertility services and repositioning the regulator to better deal with the contemporary risks in the sector.

Given the scale and complexity of the review, this is actually the third bill in two years to come before the house to amend the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, and like the member for Lowan put forward in her very detailed contribution as the lead speaker, there are some concerns. I note that her contribution in a very detailed manner put forward very constructively some very considered points that we hope the minister will look at. I am absolutely sure she will, and I noted the member for Lowan passed her her notes so that she could take them and look at it so by the time it goes through the upper house these concerns of the industry and the consultations we have all had put to us can be considered so we can only see improvement.

Victoria has always been at the forefront of reproductive treatments, and it is quite surprising when you look back that it was only in the 1970s and 80s that we did so much work—not that long ago—and that the first IVF baby was born in 1980. In my world it does not feel like very long ago, but thousands of Victorian families have been helped through assisted reproductive treatments. In the regions it has been particularly difficult, so where we can make this service available and affordable to the regions and country areas like South-West Coast, I think that is something we should be doing.

You know, technology through my nursing years just went ahead in leaps and bounds. If I sat here and told you about how I used to do a dressing on someone who had had a cholecystectomy, you would actually probably all pretty much faint. Nowadays you actually go in and you are out the next day, and there are no sump drains or tubes where you have to give 100 milligrams of pethidine before you twist and raise. Anyway I will not go on because it is pretty horrific, but when we look at what we have done for people and the technologies, this sort of technology should be available.

Like I said when the minister was in the house, there is nothing more precious than being able to assist a couple to become a family. And being a family is one of the most challenging things also, so when I look at what is going on with the pandemic and in my office at the moment, with the families that are calling me really exploding under the pressure of homeschooling, I really want to give a shout-out to all families out there who I know are really struggling—families who are running small businesses, families who are trying to manage homeschool while they are losing their jobs and really struggling because there is just not enough support. We have just got to do a lot more to encourage our community to get vaccinated and get back to school, but what we need is the government to give us a plan. That is what we have been respectfully asking for and genuinely want, just like I think we have been saying for some weeks now.

Another reason this bill is very good is that we do take this service into the public health sector. We make it more available in the country. I would like to shout out to a local gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Ian Pettigrew, who then went up to Mildura and has worked right across the regions, giving families access to this service for many years now. Dr Ian Pettigrew was a doctor in Warrnambool when I was training in the mid-1980s and delivered, I think from memory, one of my kids; I have got so many I cannot remember who delivered which one, but I am pretty sure Ian delivered one. It is people like him who have paved the way, and we are very, very fortunate in South-West Coast to have so many specialists.

It is the health services that we have, like South West Healthcare, who are doing a spectacular job in our community providing services and encouraging specialists—because that is a real issue, retention and attraction of specialists—right across through to Portland. Portland hospital does a fantastic job under extraordinary circumstances, because they are a hospital that does not have a population where you can put a lot of procedures through quickly and sit comfortably under a model that suits a hospital such as the Royal Melbourne Hospital, for example. They are under extreme pressure all the time, and they have got big industries like the port and the aluminium smelter, so they do need really good services such as accident and emergency so they can treat people properly and are able to transfer them efficiently and cost-effectively to larger services, such as straight down to the Melbourne facilities, which we need to do when we have got big cases. A big shout-out to both Portland District Health and South West Healthcare, and all the smaller healthcare services such as Port Fairy and Heywood, who do an extraordinary job.

Right now our health profession is under enormous pressure. I am quite disappointed that the government is not ready for the pandemic that we have had 18 months to prepare for. I really do think we should be working together. That is something I have said in the chamber here for the last 18 months. I admired the fact that all the governments across the states and the federal government came together under the national cabinet framework. I am disappointed when I see that we do not stick to those agreements and we come back to the state, as the Premier has done and gone on his own way, and unfortunately that has not always worked out well. In fact with the hotel quarantine I think that worked out disastrously, but right now we have the opportunity to really pull together, put plans in place, work united as a team and stop the lockdowns.

Let us just get on with helping families, like this bill is aimed at achieving, and giving those families the support that they need, because right now—I know the members on the other side must be having the same experience as I am—families are ringing my office. They are absolutely beside themselves, exploding in those households with children needing to get back to school, families who cannot see where the future lies in being able to support themselves and businesses that cannot make sense of it. Just this week I had businesses such as hospitality providers. One fellow has a venue that has capacity for 850 people, and he is only allowed to have 10 people in that venue. Those people are saying, ‘Just give us a plan. Give us some hope. Give us some way forward. We’ve had enough of no information’.

On that note I will commend the bill to the house. We will not be opposing it. We support the bill, do we?

A member interjected.

Ms Britnell: No, we do not support the bill. We do not oppose the bill, because of the opportunity to make some improvements that we have passed across.

A member interjected.

Ms Britnell: That is it—the extensive questions that the member for Lowan has put forward. We hope that those opportunities will be taken up by the government before the bill gets to the upper house.

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