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RESEARCH INVOLVING EMBRYOS BILL 2002: Consideration in Detail

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (10.51 a.m.) —This clause is the one that deals with the way the review of these decisions in the legislation takes place.

Whilst I realise that this proposed amendment and the next one can be taken together, it is my wish to deal with them separately because members need to consider the way in which they would like the review to take place. It is possible to set a sunset provision for the review and then refer the review to the parliament. I would prefer to see the sunset provisions removed altogether and put the matter totally in the hands of the parliament so that the review can take place at any time proposed by the federal government or by this parliament. To me that seems a reasonable way of approaching a review of something of this substance.

Clause 60, which is the one that we are dealing with, is the clause that says that COAG if it wishes can at any time put this matter up and review the decision of the use of excess embryos prior to 5 April 2002. It seems to me that we go to the trouble of establishing the legislation and then we say that COAG can review it at any time they want. To me that decision concerning the use of excess embryos is a dereliction of our duty. We go to this trouble and then say that COAG can operate the thing in the way they want to.

I draw the attention of the House to a matter which focuses my concerns. An article in the Financial Review of 10 August 2002 said:

BresaGen CEO John Smeaton said that the COAG proposal was `OK for research but hasn't addressed the issues on the horizon as we move into therapeutic development'. He said frozen IVF embryos wouldn't meet their needs because they were mostly four- to six-cell embryos that would need to be cultured into the blastocyst stage to harvest stem cells. `That is not what we want to waste our time on,' Smeaton said.

The article goes on to say:

And Sydney IVF director Robert Jansen wants to do research on fresh IVF embryos.

So the pressure is there—immediately stated—to have a review of these frozen embryos dated 5 April 2002. The proposal before the House is to take away the capacity of COAG to review this matter and to review the use of excess embryos created prior to 5 April 2002. It opens up for people beyond the control of this parliament to make a decision at a time that they choose to change the substance of this legislation which has restricted the use of excess embryos. I believe that the argument, the wish, the stated opinion, of some scientists—I would think probably more on the outer fringe of these processes—is there to want to use fresh embryos. Once the wish to use fresh embryos is established, you start to deal with specially created embryos for the purpose of research. That is real dicey stuff, in my opinion, and should not be countenanced by this parliament. It is not countenanced in what we are doing. We have made good decisions with regard to the creation of embryos for specific purposes.

It would be my /files/includes/content.cssion that, by removing clause 60, we take away the preference of COAG that they should review this issue, and then the issue can come back to the parliament for proper process and proper review of the use of those excess embryos. To do it any other way is not only illogical but also is a dereliction of the responsibilities members have accepted thus far in dealing with this legislation. To deal with it thus far and then say that anybody can review it whenever they want to is, in my opinion, the wrong way to go. We should accept the responsibility we are charged with, follow it through and do the review at a time of our choosing. Whether it be for excess embryos or fresh embryos, we should do it. (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 25/9/02
Release Date: 29 Sep 2002


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