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PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS: Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Legislation

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (10.14 a.m.) —I appeal to my colleagues to allow the splitting of the Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002, if it is within their conscience to do so. I understand what the member for Perth has said about the position of the Australian Labor Party and I can understand the reasons behind that.

However, like some of your members who have difficulties with parts of this legislation, I would be in a position of opposing the whole lot, yet I do not think there is a member in the House who really seriously supports the concept of the cloning of humans. To force some of us into a position of rejecting that part of this significant legislation would do a disservice to the House and to the members of parliament who hold strong views on these matters.

I refer members of the House to the remarks just made by the member for Perth. I point out to them that, as I understand it, the legislation does not propose that there should be a review of the cloning section but of the latter part, the research aspect. Maybe the minister or somebody else can clarify that, but my opinion is that the review process outlined in the legislation applies only to the research aspects, not to the cloning aspects. I do not think that any member of this House would want those ethical matters to be passed over to any organisation outside this group—to COAG or anybody else—but would want the parliament to make decisions on cloning and to deeply consider some of the material that is proposed to be banned by the first part of the legislation.

Let me outline the unacceptable practices that would be banned under the prohibitions. The prohibitions in the cloning section of the legislation apply to the creation of a human embryo clone; the placing of a clone in a human or animal body for the purpose of reproductive cloning; the import or export of a human embryo clone. Also, it is no defence to create a nonviable clone. Those are the sections of the cloning provisions that are being addressed by the motion moved by the member for Dunkley. They should be dealt with by this parliament and, if reviewed, should still be dealt with by this parliament. They should not go off to the National Health and Medical Research Council or to COAG for consideration. They need to be clearly separated from the research aspects of the bill on which I know there is great division of opinion.

I appeal to members of the Australian Labor Party—an overarching, semiofficial position is held by the party—to assist the House so that we, as a parliament, can move ahead and do the reviews ourselves. If, as I believe, the review is not covered by this legislation and the cloning section stands on its own, then that should also be considered on its own. I believe that there is a good argument why the House should not consider this bill as a whole—that is, simply, so that we can preserve our rights to control the ethics of these important issues. Whatever the outcome, whatever the result of a vote in this place, the parliament—the people's representatives—have expressed their views on this, and that is what the Australian people want. They do not want us to pass off these great ethical issues to a group of premiers meeting or to another body. No matter how august or good the reputation of the National Health and Medical Research Council may be, the Australian people want us to make decisions on matters of cloning and on other areas as well. We should not walk away from our responsibility. A review of the issues of cloning—the ones I have described—cannot or should not be abrogated. [start page 5758]

I remind the House of the unacceptable practices in the cloning provisions of the bill. If this motion is defeated, I will not have the opportunity of underlining and emphasising them. The unacceptable practices in the cloning provisions are: to create a human embryo by a process other than fertilisation; that is, to take the nucleus out of the human embryo and put something else in there. It was done with Dolly the sheep. Surely the House would not want that provision passed off to an expert body, to let some expert body make a decision on that. We should be responsible for those decisions.

Further, to create an embryo for any other purpose than reproduction; to create an embryo by cytoplasmic transfer—that is, from more than two parents; to create or develop an embryo beyond 14 days; to use precursor cells—that is, immature gametes—to create an embryo; to alter the genome of a human cell in such a way that the alteration is heritable. All these issues are dealt with in the first part of the legislation. I strongly believe that this House needs to stay in control of those issues. Further, to collect a viable embryo from the body of a woman—that is, embryo flushing; to create a chimeric or hybrid mixture of species using a human as part of that; to place a human embryo anywhere other than into a woman's reproductive tract—including an animal—or to place an animal embryo into a human.

These are the things we seek to ban, to stop. The review of this process needs to come back to the parliament. Therefore, this bill needs to be split. If we split the bill, clearly, any thought of a review being conducted by an outside body would be removed. The review must come back here because, if we ban cloning, in order to change that ban, there has to be an amendment or a change to the legislation. It must be very clear cut in the legislation that the banning of cloning stands on its own. Any review must come back to the parliament. It is as simple as that.

Let us deal with the research aspects of the legislation separately and have our votes and our amendments on that separately. If it is the intention of our colleagues on the opposition benches that we should stand as a parliament, we should do so. We should not let a party decision cloud the need for the parliament to make a decision on these cloning aspects, because I think they are too important for us to hand over to anybody else.

I conclude by drawing the attention of the House to the final matter that is an unacceptable practice in the cloning legislation—that is, to commercially trade human eggs, sperm or embryos. That is something that every member of this House would not want to see happen. I appeal to the House to let us exercise our full responsibility on behalf of the people of Australia to keep within our own control the review of the cloning measures. We can only do that, I contend, if we allow the bill to be split, allow that portion to be dealt with separately—to make sure there is a strong message to the people of Australia—and allow the research aspect to be dealt with in a second piece of legislation.

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 29th August 2002
Release Date: 2 Sep 2002


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