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RESEARCH INVOLVING EMBRYOS BILL 2002: Consideration in Detail

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (8.11 p.m.) —We are past the point in this legislation where the moral argument counts. We had that vote. This is about the science of the issue.

My amendments to the Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 say that Trounson cannot be trusted. He has been silenced by his own university and told not to speak on this issue. He has admitted in the press on numerous occasions that he has been silenced. He has been told to shut up on this issue because he has caused so much damage. If he is an example of the scientists involved in this field and the parliament decides to go ahead and vote $46 million to this character, then I think we are grossly mistaken. I know of no instance where the parliament has been blatantly misled on every turn and continues to pursue an issue. If this were a large businessman or a union leader, you would be out with the dogs howling—you would not tolerate it. This character, this scientist, has been told by his own university to shut up or lose his job. It appears the House is wanting to pursue this matter, if the Attorney is any indication, whether or not there is merit in the science.

Let me go back over Professor Trounson's record. Firstly, he told the Andrews committee that he felt that it was a fantastic idea to go into embryonic stem cell research but he did not need any more lines. He gave evidence to say that they did not need any more stem cell lines. It looks as though the House, despite a matter of conscience, wants to move on. I am prepared to wear that, but I think the House is grossly mistaken. Within 12 months this same man says that he wants to adopt therapeutic cloning. At the beginning of this year there were press statements saying he wanted to adopt therapeutic cloning. Within three months he said he felt he did not need therapeutic cloning. So the House is going to pursue this matter and vote $46 million to him without containing him. That is foolishness. This legislation and these amendments need to confine scientists who are cavalier in their approach and quick off the lip to persuade, to use Professor Trounson's words, `simple politicians' to their position. If the House pursues that, I think we are walking away from the responsibility that we are charged with.

The science is clear. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor and research and development biologist at the Australian National University, Professor John Hearn, has said:

The specifics need to be quite open and transparent concerning the special status of the human embryo if research is to be allowed on it; to restrict the use of embryos to stem cell derivation and not to general pharmacological testing—say of teratologic agents; to prevent deliberate formation of embryos for research, which is currently part of legislation; to keep numbers to a minimum ...

There it is, in a nutshell: one of Australia's leading scientists in this field, saying that we need to be careful. We have proved that Professor Trounson cannot be trusted. He has shown films that have proved to be enacted. He has made statements in writing that are inaccurate. He has given results of research that is not his own. He has claimed that he has divested himself of his financial interests, and he has not. There are press reports by the mile linking him with the activities in the United States and Singapore. And the company which is being granted these funds is only 40-odd per cent Australian owned.

So, without proper deliberation or investigation, we are going to pursue this matter tonight. If the House feels it can salve its conscience by not examining the matter, so be it. But I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Hawker, and other members of the House will not be put off by this process. We will continue to challenge the science, putting the moral stuff aside—and I hold strongly to that also. But these amendments tonight are based on the science and they attempt to get this bill in line with what both the government and members of the opposition who support it claim it should be doing. The first part of the amendments is to ensure that research on embryos is done on stem cells. The next amendment I will deal with in a different way. But I urge the House not to be hooked in by a man who calls those in this place who oppose this legislation irrational hypocrites. So, unless some constraint is put on these people, I believe that we will be derelict in our duty—and I am not persuaded by the arguments of the government. This man and these scientists need strict control, and their brother scientists are saying so. (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 24/9/02
Release Date: 29 Sep 2002


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