When he was Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a speech on the occasion of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions on the 21st of March, 2013. Now, in 2014, he has announced that he intends to make international adoption "cheaper, faster and easier" for Australians wishing to adopt.
In 2013, Mr Abbott said, in reference to a woman who was known to him, "In 1977 … (s)he deserved nothing but love and support, not coercive expectations [and] social stigma … Her predicament … was so frequent in an era when abortion was difficult [and] contraception unavailable". In 2014, Mr Abbott does not appear to be concerned that there are countries in which women are currently being coerced, are experiencing social stigma and do not have access to contraception or abortion. Poverty also has been and continues to be a barrier for some women who would otherwise be able to raise their children competently.
In 2013, Mr Abbott said, "I cannot imagine a grief greater than that of a parent and a child parted from each other." In 2014, Mr Abbott wants to make it cheaper, faster and easier to separate parents and their children.
In 2013, Mr Abbott claimed that he could not " … imagine an ache greater than the fear that 'mum didn't want me'". He added, "Especially, since it wasn't true", indicating that he understood that many mothers who were separated from their children by adoption did not part with them willingly. In 2014, it is not clear that Mr Abbott understands that many mothers outside of Australia are still being parted from their children unwillingly and that many of those children will grow up with the same insecurities and anxieties.
In 2013, Mr Abbott said, "But hundreds of thousands of Australians have been adopted, often, because their mothers had no real choice or were denied any choice and that means that there are hundreds of thousands of mothers who hardly knew their children and hundreds of thousands of children who hardly knew their mothers. This is a tragedy for them and for our nation and we must atone for it." In 2014, Mr Abbott is intent on creating further tragedy, by separating more children from their mothers, families and communities and bringing them to live in Australia. Many people are in no doubt that one day Australia will have to atone for his current misguided plans.
In 2013, Mr Abbott went on to say, "It was never simply "for the best". The people who claimed that it was should have known better. Some of them did know better but they persisted despite the avoidable pain that was inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people." In 2014, Mr Abbott's plans for cheaper, faster and easier international adoptions suggest that he is one of those who does know better, but who is persisting despite being aware that this particular pain is "avoidable".
In 2013, Mr Abbott stated very clearly that, "Every child deserves a mother's love and every mother has the right to raise her child. We know it now and we should have known it then." In 2014, Mr Abbott seems to have forgotten what he knew in 2013, as, instead of proposing that Australia offer support to struggling mothers, families and communities in other countries, he is attempting to create cheaper, faster and easier ways to remove their children from them.
In 2013, Mr Abbott said, "Today, we accept responsibility for the pain, the suffering and the grief reverberating through tens of thousands of Australian families." In 2014, he seems content to ignore the pain, suffering and grief he plans to inflict on many families and communities in other countries, as a result of the loss of their children through adoption to Australia.
In 2013, Mr Abbott reassured his audience by saying, "There are big lessons here, now and for the future … Part of apologising for old mistakes is striving to avoid new ones. And I will strive … to avoid new ones." In 2014, it seems that he has changed his plan to learn from the mistakes of the past.
While Mr Abbott may claim that the adoptions he is now promoting will occur under different circumstances from those for which he apologised in 2013, the truth is that there are still many families in countries other than Australia who are unable to raise their children as a result of poverty or lack of social and/or medical support. Under Mr Abbott's policies, parents, families, communities and countries will lose their children and children will also suffer when their links with those parents, families, communities and countries are severed.
A government that really understood 'the pain, the suffering and the grief reverberating through tens of thousands of Australian families' would not feel that they had the right to inflict this on the inhabitants of other countries. A country that learns from its mistakes would not consider inflicting serious losses on families and communities in other countries. Affluent and politically stable countries such as Australia have a global responsibility to provide meaningful support to other countries in which families and communities are struggling to stay together, instead of adding to their difficulties by removing their children from them.
Australia has set an example with our enlightened response to past adoptions. In 1988, South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the world to put an end to the legal restrictions that prevented mothers who had been separated from their children by adoption and adults who were adopted as children from accessing identifying information, which would allow them the opportunity to make contact with each other. Other states and territories in Australia soon followed South Australia's example. Australia is also the only country to have made an official apology for past adoption policies and practices. These events, which indicate that Australia is a caring and enlightened nation, have brought about much healing and have inspired other countries to take a similar path.
Many of those who heard and read Mr Abbott's speech in 2013, in which he claimed to understand the loss and grief associated with adoption separation, are now feeling very disillusioned with the way in which he has contradicted the statements he made at that time. This has reflected very badly on Australia's reputation among members of the adoption community, both in Australia and around the world. There is a strong feeling that Mr Abbott's intended changes to intercountry adoption expose him as dishonest and hypocritical.