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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 681


Senator PETER BAUME(3.21) —I will follow up some of the remarks that have been made by Senator Harradine. I listened to what he said with some interest and initial concern and then I thought of some of the experiments that have been carried out this century such as those that were carried out in Auschwitz by the infamous Dr Mengele. I agree with Senator Harradine to this extent: Where human beings who have civil rights and rights guaranteed by various conventions are involved, it is proper that limit be put on the experimentation that may occur. I think we would be as one on that point. I also think of a certain class of scientific work that goes on involving, say, individual cells, normal body cells, that scientists are studying; I do not think any real ethical issues arise there. The area that Senator Harradine has concentrated our minds upon is the question of experimentation in the field of human reproduction. I think it is fair to say that that is the area that has attracted the honourable senator's concern for several reasons. Firstly, it is an area where there are value differences in society, and in a pluralistic society that is not surprising. Secondly, it is an area in which technology is advancing very fast-the honourable senator seems uncertain-and is an area in which the honourable senator thinks certain ethical matters remain unresolved.

The only reason I join the debate is to say this: Senator Harradine has proposed that the answer to this matter is that the Parliament should legislate. Indeed, he has foreshadowed that he will move a motion to bring in a Bill for an Act to legislate in this area. I say to the honourable senator: I can see that there is a grey area in existence. I know that the National Health and Medical Research Council thinks it is a grey area. Until a couple of years ago I served on the council of one of the large medical research institutes at one of the big hospitals and the council was concerned about the ethical issues that were coming up; it could see a number of grey areas. I put it to the honourable senator that the existence of these grey areas may require that the matters be put under study perhaps by the Senate. I wonder whether proceeding directly to legislation is the best way to go. Certainly the legislation would indicate to us what Senator Harradine's value position may be but I ask the honourable senator: May it not be a more productive route to try to use one of the committees of this Senate to investigate the matter and report to the Senate? I counsel the honourable senator. I doubt whether proceeding straight to a private member's Bill is likely to succeed.


Senator Harradine —Would you call a moratorium?


Senator PETER BAUME —I am sorry that the honourable senator is so distressed. I would hate to see a private member's Bill that was merely a stunt-I do not think it would be-or had no hope of success. If the honourable senator is really concerned about these areas-there are grey areas and difficult matters-I suggest that we use the expertise and skill of the Senate to resolve the matter in what I think would be a better way.

Question resolved in the affirmative.