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RESEARCH INVOLVING EMBRYOS BILL 2002: Consideration in Detail

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (12.54 p.m.) —I move:

(4)Clause 61, page 33 (lines 3-31) page 34 (lines 1-7), omit the clause, substitute

61 Review of operation of Act

(1)As soon as possible after the second anniversary of the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent a joint committee of members of the Parliament, to be known as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Review of the Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Act, must be appointed.

(2)The Parliamentary Joint Committee must consist of 18 Members, of whom

(a)6 must be Senators appointed by the Senate, and

(b)12 must be members of the House of Representatives appointed by that House

(3)The appointment and service of members by a House must be in accordance with that House's practice relating to the appointment and service of Members of that House to serve as on joint committees of both Houses.

(4)The Parliamentary Joint Committee must consider and report on the scope and operation of Parts 2 and 3 of this Act taking into account the following:

(a)developments in technology in relation to assisted reproductive technology;

(b)developments in medical research and scientific research and the potential therapeutic applications of such research;

(c)community standards.

(5)The Parliamentary Joint Committee must present a written report of the review before the third anniversary of the day on which this Act received the Royal Assent.

(6)The Parliamentary Joint Committee report must contain recommendations about amendments (if any) that should be made to this Act, having regard to the matters mentioned in subsection (5).

(7)The Parliamentary Joint Committee must consult:

(a)the Commonwealth and the States; and

(b)a broad range of persons with expertise in or experience of relevant disciplines;

and the views of the Commonwealth, the States and the persons mentioned in paragraph (b) must be set out in the report to the extent that it is reasonably practicable to do so.

This is the least complex of all of the amendments and deals purely with the establishment of a parliamentary committee. It would not be my purpose to seek to delay the House, but previous amendments have been complex and technical. Instead of a review being done by a group of scientists established to judge themselves on the worthiness of research programs and to judge the success of this legislation, my proposal is that this would come back to the parliament, that the parliament would consider how effective the legislation has been and that that would be done well before the end of the three-year period, because the amendment with the sunset clause has been carried. The parliament would then be required to review this matter, probably through a joint committee after about 2½ years from the commencement of this act.

I have always felt it valuable that this place takes authority on difficult issues. It has been a difficult debate; I acknowledge that. But we are not here to run away from difficult topics. We are not here to do all the easy stuff. We are not here to do all of the routine legislation. We are here to make difficult decisions. That is what we are elected to do. Most of my electors understand only part of what we are doing in this legislation, but that does not absolve me from the responsibility of finding out the details and voting one way or another in best conscience on these matters. Despite the arguments from the Attorney-General and despite COAG and the premiers' wishes that they alone or that the National Health and Medical Research Council make a decision, it is my view that the parliament should make these decisions on the form of the committee to be established. The processes to be used are all set out in this amendment. It is a very simple amendment, which seeks to establish the authority of the democratic process on making difficult decisions.

I do not have anything more to add. It is not technical; it is not complex. It takes away from the scientists their capacity to judge themselves. I notice with regard to the British legislation of a similar type that the comments from those who observed the process—people who are not prejudiced in the debate—have been consistently that it appears that the committee established by the British parliament consists of scientists who would be seeking to judge scientists. I do not think that is appropriate. I think, on matters of complexity such as this, we are charged with the responsibility of making decisions for our fellow Australians. Unless we are prepared to put an ethical and scientific framework around what people do, we may as well not be here. I want the committee to focus on whether or not the parliament should make these decisions.

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


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