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Wednesday, 24 September 1997
Page: 6902


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Customs and Consumer Affairs and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General)(6.17 p.m.) —For the record, the government opposes this amendment. It is not just that these matters are sensitive, as such; it is more that they are scientific. Quarantine is a very important part. I would say that—


Senator Margetts —Where are all your backbenchers? They will fry you for dinner. It is political, and you know it.


Senator ELLISON —Senator Margetts, we have experts who deal with quarantine, protect Australia's boundaries and protect Australia from foreign diseases. We enjoy a situation in Australia which is remarkably disease free. It may well be that if these were disallowable it would then become political and that scientific reasoning, evidence based research and the integrity of scientific opinion might take second place to politics, as you point out. It is for that reason that the government does not consider that matters such as quarantine should be subject to discussion in this manner.

It is much like having regulations which relate to scientific research, let us say, subject to review by politicians who know nothing about it. That is the view. The minister has taken this up with the regulations and ordinances committee, explaining to them the problems in this regard. There are some other international concerns as well, but they are perhaps not as great as the scientific aspects of it.