Federal surrogacy inquiry won’t halt NSW law reform

Rather than wait for the outcome of Senator Brandis’ surrogacy inquiry, the Department of Justice confirmed it will make its own formal recommendations early next year. Photo: Daniel MunozThe Baird government is pushing ahead with its planned reform of state surrogacy laws, rather than wait for the outcome of a new national inquiry into surrogacy arrangements.

Attorney-General George Brandis announced the federal parliamentary surrogacy inquiry on the final sitting day of the year. The inquiry, which will consider the different surrogacy laws that exist in Australia, the medical and welfare aspects of surrogacy, the issue of compensation for surrogates, and the rights and protection of children, is due to report back by the middle of 2016.

Exiting surrogacy laws vary across states and territories, but altruistic surrogacy is the only kind permitted in Australia. Surrogates can’t be paid for carrying a baby and commissioning parents aren’t allowed to advertise for a surrogate.

The NSW Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Surrogacy Act 2010 to make surrogacy easier and prioritise the interests of children born this way. Rather than wait for the outcome of Senator Brandis’ inquiry, the Department of Justice confirmed it will make its own formal recommendations early next year.

State Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has flagged changing the law to enable people to advertise for altruistic surrogacy arrangements, and to fast track the process of transferring legal parentage of a child born via a surrogate.

Ms Upton welcomed the Federal government’s move to explore reforming surrogacy arrangements. “The NSW government supports harmonising surrogacy arrangements in Australia,” Ms Upton said. “The NSW government will consider the findings of the inquiry when it is complete.”

Surrogacy campaigners believe the federal surrogacy inquiry signals a change of heart from the Federal government on the issue, now that Malcolm Turnbull has replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

“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,” surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page said. “I understand the former prime minister did not accept the need for a parliamentary inquiry [into surrogacy].”

Senator Brandis also appointed Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe as Australia’s representative to the Hague law experts’ group which will meet in the new year to consider establishing an international surrogacy convention.

Chief Judge Pascoe reiterated this week his longstanding support for legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia, to prevent the exploitation of poor women overseas.

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