TASMANIA'S REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES UNDER THE HODGMAN GOVERNMENT - Senate Adjournment Speech, Tuesday 9 May 2018
On Saturday, 28 April, I joined hundreds of people on Hobart's Parliament House lawns to stand with women and call on the Hodgman Liberal government to step up and provide equal access to reproductive health for all women in Tasmania. One in three women will choose to have an abortion in their lives. It is not a decision that women take lightly. It is a decision taken by women from all walks of life and for multiple reasons. Access to termination laws in Tasmania were implemented in 2013 under the previous, Labor government. Labor's laws recognise that women are in the best position to make their own health decisions. Thanks to Labor, Tasmania has some of the best laws around reproductive health. Yet, because of the Liberals, Tasmania provides some of the worst access to these procedures and women are being forced in Tasmania to travel to Victoria to access surgical abortions. In January this year, the main provider of surgical terminations in Tasmania closed its doors, leaving women with scarce options to access this vital service, but, during the state election campaign held recently, Premier Will Hodgman and Minister Greg Hunt told us that they had fixed this issue. Now we are two months on from that state election and absolutely nothing has been done. Premier Will Hodgman has ruled out funding terminations in our public hospital, proving that the Liberals are driven by conservative ideology, not the healthcare needs of Tasmanian women. Hodgman's failure to lead is continuing to force women to fly interstate to access this surgical procedure.
This is causing an emotional and a financial burden to those women that are affected. They should be able to access this service locally, where they can be near their families, their husbands and partners and their support networks. But instead they are being forced to travel to the mainland. The state's Patient Travel Assistance Scheme doesn't even cover the full costs of flights and accommodation, leaving women significantly out of pocket. Young women, women in rural areas in Tasmania and women on low incomes are most disadvantaged by this situation. That is why federal Labor committed, during the state election campaign, to providing $1 million to Tasmania to build a reproductive health hub for surgical terminations as part of Tasmania's public hospital system. But, in stark contrast, Prime Minister Turnbull has refused to intervene in the current crisis, claiming that Premier Will Hodgman is 'dealing with it'. Yet, even as he uttered these words, more and more women were travelling to Melbourne to access abortion services. Marie Stopes International says that since the start of this year the number of Tasmanian women flying to Melbourne every month to access surgical abortions has increased from one or two to 10. This is totally unacceptable.
The Tasmanian health minister is preventing women's access to legal reproductive health services by creating barriers to accessing the procedure. It is a path that is clearly fuelled by his own ideological influences. For women who have endured this trip to Melbourne to have their stories erased by government statements is immensely frustrating and also incredibly disrespectful. It is overdue for Premier Will Hodgman and Minister Greg Hunt to sort this out. Stop letting Tasmanian women down. All Australian women should be able to access legal, safe and affordable abortion services, if they need to do so, and no government's bent ideology should stand in the way.
Finally, I note that tonight is budget night, and there is nothing in this budget that has addressed this particular access to termination in Tasmania, despite Greg Hunt's rhetoric that this would be sorted. But, on top of that, there is nothing to address homelessness and there is nothing to address foreign aid. In fact, there are cuts to foreign aid beyond belief. There are cuts to pensioners' welfare. The government are increasing the pension age. They are getting rid of the energy supplement. All of this budget is bad for Australia and bad for Tasmania.