A former West Australian child protection minister has called for an urgent review of surrogacy laws to ensure children do not wind up in the care of a convicted sex offender.
Robyn McSweeney made the comments in relation to the Bunbury father at the centre of the Thai surrogacy dispute involving baby Gammy and his twin sister.
David Farnell and his wife left baby Gammy, who has Down syndrome, in Thailand but brought his sister back to Australia.
Mr Farnell has 22 child sex convictions, including unlawful and indecent dealing with girls as young as seven when he was in his 20s, but says the girl is “100 per cent safe” in his care.
Ms McSweeney says access to surrogacy should be treated in the same way as adoption and foster care.
“Surrogacy should be no different. If you are a convicted child sex offender, there should be laws in place to prohibit you from caring for a child,” she said.
“As a former child protection minister and child protection worker, it is very misguided to believe that it is possible to rehabilitate paedophiles.”
She has called for surrogacy laws to be discussed at the COAG level.
“COAG is the correct forum for this, and it will ensure that paedophiles who want to care for a child cannot dodge state laws. This is bigger than WA,” she said.
Her comments came after WA’s Health Minister Kim Hames apologised for saying he believed the girl would be safe in Mr Farnell’s care.
“My remarks were probably inappropriate and I apologise for them,” Dr Hames told Fairfax Radio.
“I don’t downplay what he did in the past at all and it is totally appropriate that the department be investigating them.
“I’ve reassured [Child Protection Minister Helen Morton] that my comments should not in any way interfere and I’d probably like to withdraw them but you can’t withdraw something you’ve already said unfortunately.”
Ms McSweeney denies she was having a swipe at her Liberal colleague by speaking out, but agrees Dr Hames’ comments were misguided.
“Comments like that are particularly misguided. There is no sympathy for paedophiles having access to children,” she said.
WA’s Department for Child Protection is investigating the wellbeing of the girl, who has been in the care of Mr Farnell and his wife since birth.