Attorney-General Announces Federal Inquiry Into Surrogacy Laws

Monday 7 December 2015 @ 11.14 a.m. | Legal Research

Attorney-General George Brandis has announced the launch of a Federal inquiry into surrogacy, to be undertaken by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.  The inquiry is a result of an earlier recommendation from the Committee’s March 2015 “Roundtable on Surrogacy”.  The inquiry will also take into account questions raised by the Family Law Council’s earlier report, “Parentage and the Family Law Act”. The Standing Committee is also accepting public submissions on the terms of reference, which are due by 11 February 2016.  The Committee's final report is due by 30 June 2016.

In the media release announcing the inquiry, Mr Brandis said:

“[s]urrogacy raises a broad range of legal and social issues, and raises questions relating to the rights, responsibilities, values and protections of Australian citizens.  The broad terms of reference …  will ensure all of the relevant issues relating to domestic and international surrogacy arrangements will be examined by the Committee.”

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference for the inquiry are:

  1. the role and responsibility of states and territories to regulate surrogacy, both international and domestic, and differences in existing legislative arrangements
  2. medical and welfare aspects for all parties involved, including regulatory requirements for intending parents and the role of health care providers, welfare services and other service providers
  3. issues arising regarding informed consent, exploitation, compensatory payments, rights and protections for all parties involved, including children
  4. relevant Commonwealth laws, policies and practices (including family law, immigration, citizenship, passports, child support and privacy) and improvements that could be made to enable the Commonwealth to respond appropriately to this issue (including consistency between laws where appropriate and desirable) to better protect children and others affected by such arrangements
  5. Australia's international obligations
  6. the adequacy of the information currently available to interested parties to surrogacy arrangements (including the child) on risks, rights and protections
  7. information sharing between the Commonwealth and states and territories, and
  8. the laws, policies and practices of other countries that impact upon international surrogacy, particularly those relating to immigration and citizenship.

Surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page told the Sydney Morning Herald that a Federal inquiry was a welcome development:

“We've had a crazy hotchpotch of regulation. Hopefully we'll have some nationally consistent laws so we're no longer the world's biggest exporter of parents for surrogacy.”

Other Inquiries

NSW is also holding a current inquiry into surrogacy laws in the state (see TimeBase’s earlier article for more information).  State Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton told the Sydney Morning Herald that she welcomed the Federal inquiry and that “the NSW government supports harmonising surrogacy arrangements in Australia …. [and] will consider the findings of the inquiry when it is complete”.  However, the NSW Government still plans to finalise its own recommendations early next year, without waiting for the findings of the Federal inquiry.

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