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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7120


Senator CHRIS EVANS (11:55 AM) —On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I indicate that our formal position on this amendment of Senator Harradine's is that we will not be supporting it, largely on practical grounds. Anyone of us who has had dealings with labelling issues would know that comments about the simplicity of it all, in particular Senator Barnett's comments, are totally misplaced. We all remember the great debate about whether something was `Australian Made', `Made in Australia' or `Made from products grown in Australia'. We have tortured ourselves over that for years, as we have tried to work out the best way of accurately labelling goods. These issues are not simple; they are not easily resolved. That is not to say that they are not worth following up, and I accept there may be an argument for us to find some way of ensuring that those people who are aware of those issues and want products labelled are able to be satisfied. I do not have any difficulty with that principle.

In this attempt by the parliament to bring national regulation to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, to regulate on a national basis this area for the first time and to bring under national law research that has already been occurring, we have been asked essentially by opponents of the bill—largely by those who opposed it on the second reading—to deal with everything else that they have concerns about. I understand that. They are legitimate concerns, they are a part of the debate and it is important that they be dealt with. But it is a question of whether we can deal with all of that in this bill, and we have had that debate on a number of occasions.

The issue of labelling is worth pursuing. It will get some attention in the parliament, if it is not carried today. We will have to work through it. But it is complex; it is by no means simple. It is not something that we are going to be able to resolve adequately in the context of the bill today. In another amendment of Senator Harradine's, he suggested that people label their products to say that they had not been tested on embryos—I am not sure if he is still proceeding with that amendment. This amendment tries to go beyond what is practical for this bill. All around the chamber, we accept the message that we will have to deal with that. This is our first go at trying to regulate research in this area and to bring some national consistency and laws to the issue. I think much of the research is a way off yet, for commercial produce.

A review of the act is included in the bill. There are opportunities for us to pursue that issue but, at this stage, I do not think we are going to solve it by supporting Senator Harradine's amendment. The impact, again, would be probably to scuttle the bill—because it is far more complex, as we have found on other issues, than some senators would have us believe. It is appropriate that we defeat this amendment at this time and that senators look to pursue how we appropriately deal with the labelling issue for any commercial products that evolve from this research. It is a live issue. I do not think Senator Harradine's amendment gets us there today and, quite frankly, I do not think we are going to be able to adequately deal with that today. On those practical grounds, Labor will be opposing the amendment.