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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6337


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:13 AM) —I am not sure if it was last night or yesterday, but when this clause came up and we deferred it I said I understood the motive behind the amendment and that we would not be supporting it, and I did admit yesterday that I had a concern about that. I had spoken in my speech on the second reading about consistency and that that posed some difficulty for some people who are supporting the bill. In order to address that in some way, I had a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday morning and my staff met again with the Prime Minister's staff yesterday afternoon. I appreciate very much that the Prime Minister took the time to see me and to give me the opportunity to say what had happened in the chamber. I think that speaks highly of the fact that this is the sort of debate it is a shame we cannot have more often and that he listened to the concerns of some of the people making a contribution.

Despite not supporting Senator Harradine's amendments, I would now like to announce that it is the government's intention to amend the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to implement a ban on the import of viable materials derived from human embryo clones. This would include stem cells derived from human embryo clones and would be reviewed in 12 months. This gives us time to think about the issues that have been raised and to discuss in more detail this issue. This is in addition to the changes foreshadowed last night—or the night before—to the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations to implement a 12-month prohibition on the export of human embryos.

On both these changes to customs regulations, I would also like to advise that government members will be exercising a conscience vote. I remind senators that it is already an offence to export or import human embryo clones under the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill. It is not necessary to explicitly prohibit the export of stem cells derived from human embryo clones, since under the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill it is an offence within Australia to create, develop or import a human embryo clone. Therefore, it should not be possible to derive and subsequently export stem cells from human embryo clones.