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RESEARCH INVOLVING EMBRYOS BILL 2002: Consideration in Detail

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (9.45 p.m.) —I rise to contest some of the views that have been put about the purpose of these amendments. Point No. 1, this is a bill to deal with embryonic stem cell research, and that is clearly stated in the first amendment: that embryos used under this legislation should be used by a licensed person and they should be used for the purposes of stem cell research. No. 2, embryos should not be damaged or destroyed in this process.

That means that you do not open up a Pandora's box of opportunity for scientists to do whatever they like with embryos. If they are going to use embryos they will use them under licence in limited numbers, as determined by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the especially established ethics committee. Scientists will have the opportunity of doing research and they will have every opportunity of exploring this area of science, but they will not have opportunities to explore other areas not proposed or considered by the House. Therefore, to limit the process is a very sensible thing, especially in light of some of the comments that have been made.

I refer the House to evidence that was given to the Andrews committee. Robert Klupacs, the Managing Director of ES Cell International, a colleague of Professor Trounson, told the committee:

... if we own the intellectual property over the genes that can turn an embryonic stem cell, or even an adult stem cell, from that phenotype into something else, and I can licence that ... that is fantastic. Maybe I keep it for myself and then I have got a monopoly that I could say is worth X amount in value. That is the real driver for me ... drug development ... [which] is relatively routine but expensive and risky. But if you own the intellectual property at least you trade that and that will have a value.

I do not disagree with those comments. But the motive here has to be what is in the legislation, and particularly the way in which people have conducted themselves during this debate. This House is not about giving carte blanche to people to play with human embryos. This House has the intention, clearly stated by the Prime Minister and others, that it is about stem cell research with the prospect of healing properties.

The Attorney-General has made remarks about interference with the IVF program. Nothing is further from the intentions of me or anybody who has spoken thus far in the debate, because the retention of that program depends on live, undamaged embryos, not on destroying or damaging embryos. That is not the intention of this legislation, nor does it go anywhere near the IVF program. That is an absolute furphy and an emotional argument that seeks to draw attention away from the real intent of the legislation.

The House should be aware that the second part of my amendment draws in the processes that apply to offences and it does specify those who are exempt. Those who are exempt are basically those who are involved in the IVF program, who are involved in the storage of excess ART embryos or the removal of excess ART embryos from storage and their transport, or where the use consists only of observation of the ART embryos, and the exempt purposes are specified. The Attorney-General must be aware of that. That is the second part of this section—division 2 of the proposed legislation. The second part of the legislation deals with the way in which IVF embryos can be dealt with and does not impinge upon the stem cell research in any way. Therefore I strongly urge the House to place the limitations on research that need to be on it. How can you trust somebody who will mislead parliamentarians and call them simple-minded politicians and then talk about the financial gains that he is seeking? How can you trust them to observe precisely the spirit of the legislation? (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 16th September 2002
Release Date: 19 Sep 2002


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