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Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 7134

Dr WASHER (8:43 PM) —Tonight I was to speak to the Gambaro amendment to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002. Ms Gambaro is absent, recuperating from surgery. This amendment was to ensure that the high standard and quality of IVF in this country remained world's best practice. Pregnancy rates in the best units are as high as 43 per cent for patients less than 37 years of age—three times higher than those in nature. Since mid-2000, IVF pregnancies have almost doubled in all units throughout Australia. This success reflects the ongoing training of scientists and quality assurance testing.

Approximately five years ago, scientists in Sydney and Melbourne discovered a culture medium that most accurately matched the environment of a woman's fallopian tubes, where the egg is normally fertilised. This discovery increased the efficiency of IVF. The 20th century saw a number of discoveries, including IVF, that have benefited society dramatically and allowed thousands of infertile couples the opportunity to share the privilege of being a parent. It is important that IVF programs be able to use excess embryos for training, quality assurance and the development of new culture mediums.

The success of IVF programs in Australia is also attributed to the open and accountable manner in which it is practised. We are confident that the concerns raised by credible IVF specialists will be addressed in the pending Senate inquiry. This inquiry should provide a forum for careful evaluation of these concerns and should ensure that excellent research is continued, with high ethical standards that are monitored by the National Health and Medical Research Council. This would allow a more deliberate consideration to prevent any unintended consequences arising from the bill. To allow this evaluation the time and proper scrutiny, Ms Gambaro and I have decided not to proceed with the amendment. I would like to put on record my appreciation of Ms Gambaro for highlighting this need for scrutiny and for elevating public and parliamentary awareness of these important issues.