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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 680


Senator COONEY(3.16) —I note the remarks made by Senator Harradine. It is essential that in this field we consider ethics, as they are of great importance. It should be understood that in research matters the people who should primarily determine the ethics are the professional bodies themselves. I note that there is a National Health and Medical Research Council statement on human experimentations and supplementary notes directed to that very purpose. If Senator Harradine does not already have a copy, I am happy to provide one. I put to Senator Harradine as a primary proposition that ethics should be determined by the professionals themselves. I refer not only to professionals in the National Health and Medical Research Council, but also to those in other areas. Those in professional bodies should be the ones to put forward propositions about the appropriate ethics. Certainly there should be an overriding monitoring of that by the Parliament and the community which this Parliament represents.


Senator Harradine —Surely you do not agree with item 7?


Senator COONEY —I do not want to go through it clause by clause now. I am merely saying that as a general proposition we have to remember that any professional body has a code of ethics which it has to consider. I then go on to say that the Parliament and the community should oversee the adherence to those ethics. Certainly if a professional body does not give due recognition to those ethics, if it goes outside the area it should, this Parliament should step in. If Senator Harradine puts forward propositions with which I agree, I will certainly go along with him.

The other matter I touch on in the time allotted is that the medical research carried out by this body is a part of the general research carried out in Australia. I note some remarks that Senator Puplick made the other day about research. It is clear that not enough funding is being given to fundamental research in Australia. It is to be hoped that this Government and those governments that come in the future will give more. All governments in the past, no matter what their colour, have not given enough to research grants. Bodies such as the NHMRC must be properly funded. That is fundamental to the development of this country and to the development of a proper system of not only medical research, but also research of a more general nature.

On 20 March 1985 Senator Puplick made a remark that Mr Barry Jones, the Minister for Science, when he was the Minister for Science and Technology in the last Government, did not pursue a policy which gave a proper place to fundamental research. I do not know on what material Senator Puplick based that statement, but I suggest that that statement is not correct. If any member of this Parliament has the topmost regard for research, it is Mr Barry Jones. He has been laughed about in terms of his 'Commission for the Future' but he has certainly shown a regard for the future and the fact that research is of the utmost importance to us and should be what we are all about. In that respect it is instructive to see what has happened with DNA research. It was started off, I think, in 1952 by Francis Crick and D. A. Watson as an effort in fundamental research. By 1962 it had won the Nobel Prize and later in the 1960s the commercial attributes of that research were seen. Now, in the 1980s, it is becoming a very big part of the wealth creation finds of this century. I think it was said the other day at a meeting of a scientific body that biochemistry was-


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.