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Tuesday, 27 August 2002
Page: 5849


Ms ELLIS (5:28 PM) —With the indulgence of the chamber, I preface my comments by stating my very sincere disappointment that I am rising in this chamber and not the main chamber downstairs. I thought this chamber was held for non-contentious issues, and I think this is one of the most contentious issues that has come along in some time. I am very sorry to think that it has been relegated to this chamber.

Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 is a mouthful. It is a very long title, but fittingly so, because it represents a very long and very detailed debate over many years. Despite the difficulty that this particular bill presents for many of us, I believe we are incredibly privileged to be members of this place at the time that this debate is taking place. The purpose of the bill is to ban human cloning and other unacceptable practices, and to regulate the use of excess human embryos created by assisted reproductive technology—ART.

The bill is designed to be part of a national scheme which will include complementary state and territory laws. Over the period of the debate so far and in the time that I have either read some of it or listened to some of it, it is fair to say that very strong moral argument and equally strong scientific argument have been put forward and that there has been a great deal of emotion. I would not for one moment begin to disagree with the right to put all those particular aspects forward. I think I am in a fairly lucky position in a way because I do not personally have the moral dilemma that many of my colleagues have. I respect them and have regard for them in the position that they are in, but I am not in that same position.

The possibilities that the science offers with the progress of this bill are so enormous that I could not take any other position than a position to support the bill. Some people argue that adult stem cells will do; that could be true, but it may not be. I say to them, `What if you are wrong? What if the potential is there and, through the vote of people in this House, we actually do not realise the potential that is there?' I think that that would be an enormous opportunity that would be lost. I remember—and I am sure other members who have been here long enough will as well—the emotion and the difficulty that surrounded the last very big moral issue that we faced in this House, the euthanasia debate. In that debate—and again I say this sincerely with the greatest of respect to those people who do have moral questions to answer in relation to this—I understood the moral issues more because it was far easier to identify with a human being, as I see it, than with what we are dealing with in this debate. I know that many people will disagree with me when I say that, but that is my view.

There is no doubt that there are huge difficulties surrounding the process of this particular bill. There is no doubt that some people will, rightfully for them, vote against it, and I would never take it upon myself to criticise them for that. I have to say, however, that I have not particularly appreciated some of the more extreme arguments that have been put up in the debate by some members against this bill. The reference to Nazi Germany, to murder and so on has not been appreciated at all, and I believe that those sorts of comments have not added to the process that people need to go through to come to an answer, if they are still doing that, in relation to how they are going to vote. This is obviously not an easy process, and I would like to think that we could approach this sort of debate without resorting to that level of discussion. I do not think it adds anything. What I do believe adds to the debate is when a person stands up and, according to their own basic moral belief, says that they have a problem with it for whatever those moral beliefs are. For those others of us who do not have that problem, we must just stick to the facts as we can best understand them.

There have been many contributions by members where we have had academics, professors, medical people and scientists quoted. I am not doing that today—I have left that to others. I just believe in my heart that, if this is a gift that has come along to us from wherever, as a potential for wonderful new breakthroughs in science which will lead, hopefully, to the eradication in some cases and the treatment in others of things like diabetes, spinal injuries, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy—the list is endless—then I for one have decided that I will not be standing in the way.

To the constituents who have contacted me, I thank them. I regard their opinions very sincerely. As with the previous speaker, I too have not been inundated with approaches. There have been a few, but not a lot. The majority of the few that have come have put the view that they are against the legislation. I have read every one of them very carefully and I have weighed their opinions up very carefully but, like the previous speaker, I have also done my straw poll, for want of a better term, around my community and I feel fairly confident that, in the way that I am going to vote on this bill, I am reflecting at large the majority view within my own community. The measure for me is when you hear the opinion from people who you would expect to have the moral dilemmas—from people who are coming at you from a religious perspective but have still found it in their hearts to say to me, `But we think it should happen, too.' This just illustrates the difficulty—and every member, I am sure, has been through this—in coming to some conclusion in relation to this debate.

For myself, I am feeling confident that I am doing the right thing by the best process that I have been able to put myself through. I will be supporting the bill. I hope, as all proponents of the bill hope, that we can look forward to the scientific gain that it promises and not be too disappointed if it brings only part of it. Any scientific gain that will address any of the issues that we believe it has a chance to do will be a gain, in my book.

I want to thank the people in my community who have gone to the trouble of giving me their views. I want to thank the colleagues with whom I have had discussions over this, and I want to thank the people within this House who have put things like the Bills Digest and so on together to try to give us the best possible information that we can have in reaching the conclusions that we will reach. I conclude by repeating my support for the bill, and expressing the hope that we will eventually see its successful carriage through both chambers.