Sunday, November 30, 2014

Government: wait and see about surrogacy recommendations

The Abbott government's position with the Family Law Council paper is: we're thinking about it.

At Christmas last year, the Family Law Council, a statutory body full of family lawyers, judges and counsellors, provided a report to the government about how the Family Law Act fits with State Status of Children legislation, and other related legislation, such as State surrogacy legislation.

The report was released by Attorney-General George Brandis in August this year, in the midst of the Baby Gammy saga, but the release occurred only following a freedom of information request. In the report, the Council recommended that there be a Commonwealth status of children act, so that there was consistency about when children would be recognised following a surrogacy arrangement. The report also said that commercial surrogacy was problematic, but recommended that there be an inquiry about whether or not Australia should have commercial surrogacy, a call echoed by Chief Federal Circuit Court Judge Pascoe.

The council also recommended that when intended parents go overseas and bring their babies back to Australia, they should go to the family law courts and obtain an order before citizenship is given to the child. this, so the theory goes, will mean that there is a checking mechanism to ensure that children are protected. At the moment very, very few intended parents go to court to seek parenting orders.

Recently I met the family law advisor of Senator Brandis, Dr Susan Cochrane. The Government's position about the report and its recommendation is not known - other than the formal position, which is " the Government is considering the report and its recommendations". The Prime Minister has said several times during the Baby Gammy saga that the issue of surrogacy is a matter for the States, and that it was not a matter for the Commonwealth. Let's see. 

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