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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1396


Senator HARRADINE(6.28) — by leave-I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

My interest and concern about the general subject area of experimentation on unborn human life extends over many years. It is based on the fact that life begins at conception and on my belief that human beings, whether born or unborn, deserve the protection of a legal framework enabling the development of their full human potential.

Honourable senators may recall that as far back as 15 March 1977 I questioned the then Minister for Health about a particularly grotesque suggestion by a South Australian Professor that material from aborted foetuses could be useful in transplants, particularly if the unborn baby had been deliberately aborted by a mini-labour method in which there were completely sterile conditions and the baby was 'only just alive'.

Almost eight years later to the day that same Professor, who has recently retired as the Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide, and who had spent the intervening years as a pioneer of IVF techniques in South Australia, was suggesting that experiments should be undertaken on frozen embryos.

It is a long succession of comments of this nature, made as recently as 12 March 1985, that has prompted me to bring forward this Bill to 'prohibit experiments involving the use of human embryos created by in vitro fertilisation'.

I am aware that within our community, indeed within this Parliament, there are people with a somewhat different philosophical view to mine but who nevertheless regard experimentation on human embryos as abhorrent. My drafting instructions were prepared with this in mind in the hope that the resultant Bill will attract the broadest possible Parliamentary and community support.

Furthermore I am not asking senators to vote on the general question of whether or not IVF should be prohibited.

I have decided to limit the scope of this Bill to experimentation on human embryos which is abhorrent to the general community but which has been undertaken in Australia and which some scientists would wish to pursue in the absence of a clear prohibition.

The first subject to deal with is the argument often advanced in the form of a question: 'What is so special about the fertilised egg? If you are so concerned about a fertilised egg, why are you not equally as concerned about sperm and ova?'

This comment has been made by a number of people, including Dr Helga Kuhse of the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University, when she referred to the discarding of fertilised eggs in an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age on 19 June 1984.

Dr Kuhse wrote: '. . . everything that can be said about the newly fertilised egg or embryo can also be said about the egg and sperm . . . if it is not wrong to waste eggs and sperm separately, it is difficult to see what would make it wrong to discard an egg shortly after it has been fertilised by sperm'.

(Dr Kuhse, I might add, recently represented the Victorian Euthanasia Society at a voluntary euthanasia congress in Europe and so it is reasonable to assume that her views about human life at its commencement fit a consistent thesis covering the whole of human existence.)

However there is a fundamental difference. The explanation of this has been clearly expressed by Rev. Dr Francis Harman who was a member of the Victorian Waller Committee.

According to a report in the Melbourne Age on 11 September 1984, Dr Harman argued that the human embryo is not just a further progression of its formative constituents-the sperm and ovum-but a new entity as distinct ontologically from each as water is distinct from hydrogen and oxygen.

'It is human life', Dr Harman said. 'As soon as the 23 paternally derived chromosomes are united through fertilisation to the 23 maternal chromosomes, the full genetic information necessary and sufficient to express all the inborn qualities of the new individual are gathered irrevocably in its DNA . . . (which) controls every phase of the development of the individual from conception to death: coloring of eyes, coloring of hair, height and all the other identifying characteristics.'

Mr Tonti-Filippini of St Vincent's Hospital Bioethics Centre, has also explained this fundamental difference in this manner:

'The successful fertilization of a human egg with a human sperm produces a progenitor human cell. That is, it produces a unique cell which has the power to organize its multiplication and differentiation in a way which ordinarily leads to a human adult, without requiring any action from outside other than the availability of nourishment and the provision of a favourable environment.'

It is ironic that any confusion about the formative constituents and the embryo itself should have arisen again in the context of the debate about IVF.

I am sure that with all the publicity about what is happening in the IVF laboratories, the public has come to better appreciate that the scientists are involved with the creation of human life in a test-tube.

They are not bringing into being chickens, or rabbits, or elephants. No. It should be quite clear to everyone that what they are involved with is the creation of new human life.

I wonder if the scientists realise that in the process they have diminished the usefulness of one of the oldest canards in the abortion debate, namely, that human life only develops at some mysterious and unfathomable later stage and that early abortion does not really result in the destruction of innocent, unborn human life?

After all, the Royal Commission on Human Relationships-most of whose findings I disagree with-had no difficulty in stating: 'From the moment of fertilisation, or fusion of the male and female gametes within the fallopian tube, a new life has its beginning' (Volume 3, page 149). Needless to say, back in 1977 when the Report was written, it was not anticipated that fusion could take place somewhere other than in the fallopian tubes, that is, in a laboratory test-tube rather than in a woman's body.

In a similar fashion, the 1977 Report of the New Zealand Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion commented; 'From a biological point of view there is no argument as to when life begins. Evidence was given to us by eminent scientists from all over the world. None of them suggested that human life begins at any time other than conception' (Report, page 184).

Do certain scientists wish to experiment on this most vulnerable human life? They do.

As everyone is well aware, the two pioneers in the IVF area were Dr Robert Edwards and Dr Patrick Steptoe. Both were joint authors of a book entitled 'A Matter of Life'. In the concluding chapter authored by Dr Edwards, he wrote:

'I often think of that embryo which grew for nine days in our culture, of how it wriggled out of its membrane and expanded beautifully. Consider again that embryo: within it all the stem cells of the body's organs were differentiating and growing, appearing steadily one by one. This, for me, was excitement magnified because it offered all the beginnings of human embryology to us; here was the chance of watching and analysing the appearances and growth of the different tissues of the body-the heart, the blood system, the brain. Those tissues could one day form in front of our very eyes!'

He went on to ask:

'Will we be able to discover how these cells appear and develop so regularly? Will we be able to extract the stem cells of various organs from the embryo, the precious foundation cells of all the body's organs and use them therapeutically?'

It is interesting to note that Dr Edwards was then writing after he had grown an embryo in a petri dish for nine days.

It was reported in the Melbourne Age on 23 June 1984 that the same Dr Edwards had subsequently grown an embryo for 13 days. The newspaper commented: 'This is already nine days longer than it has so far been necessary to culture an embryo to create a pregnancy and it died only after it failed to attach itself to the glass petri dish it mistook for the wall of the mother's womb'.

Mind you, Dr Edwards does have some qualms. Later on in his chapter, he wrote:

'To grow foetuses to later stages of growth when they take a recognizable human shape and then extract their organs would be utterly wrong and is a repugnant concept.'

Others have fewer qualms: According to the Melbourne Age of 23 June 1984, the UK Council for Science and Society has suggested that embryos should be allowed to develop for six weeks but only for use in medical research. The Council suggested a limit of six weeks because it claimed this to be the earliest stage at which an embryo begins to grow a head or limbs.

What is the justification offered?

According to Dr Edwards: 'I can only offer the balance between the sheer necessity of acquiring knowledge and the value to be placed on embryos before any of their senses or the central nervous system begin to develop'.

Where then, does that place the newborn infant, the young child, the teenager, or the adult, who might be malformed in a way whereby one or more of their senses is not properly developed?

What are some of the experiments and research which are being talked about? One should bear in mind that just as the 1977 Royal Commission on Human Relationships did not envisage conception occurring other than in a woman's fallopian tubes, today's suggestions-unreal as they might sound-might prove to be tomorrow's reality.

One should also bear in mind that similar research in the veterinary area has often proved to be a forerunner to the replication of similar research in the human sphere.

In 1981, for example, the Victorian IVF pioneer Professor Carl Wood raised the possibility of embryos being left to grow in the laboratory until nervous tissue formed. He said this tissue may be suitable for transplant into adults suffering from various forms of nervous disorders, including paralysis. According to the Australian newspaper of 28 October 1981, he said that some scientists were approaching the Queen Victoria Medical Centre team with proposals for this kind of 'extremely imaginative' research but ethical implications had first to be considered.

Two years later there was a further report in the Australian of 19 September 1983. It reported on the visit to Australia of some American scientists who were experts in the biochip field. They had received a grant of $30,000 from the US National Science Foundation to develop a biochip to restore sight to the blind by using embryonic nerve cells as a bridge to link the visual cortex of blind people to a biochip implanted behind their eyes.

Late last year Dr Edwards was again in the news. This time he was raising the possibility of human embryos being placed in animals to study early developments.

According to a report in the Hobart Mercury of 21 December 1984, he denied that he had plans of this nature but . . . valuable lessons about embryo development could be learned by briefly implanting human embryos into sheep, rabbits and pigs to improve the technique of artificial fertilisation and to minimise abnormalities.

In a report in the Canberra Times on 17 May 1984, Professor Carl Wood revealed further suggestions that he had come across. He said: 'In the future it may be possible to change the embryo or the foetus and people have put to us that maybe the brain of a male embryo should be injected with female hormones to reduce the killing trait without altering the reproductive capacity, on the assumption that our species has developed sufficiently to make male aggressiveness unnecessary for survival'.

It would appear that there are some incredible Dr Strangeloves just waiting for an opportunity to follow the technological imperative: If there is a possibility of it happening, it should be attempted.

This is what I believe Anglican Bishop Shevill was referring to when he wrote of 'technolatory'-the worship of technology; a term which he indicated was adopted from another writer, Frederick Ferre.

Dr Edwards has also referred to the suggestion that it might be possible to identify embryonic cells destined to develop into specific organs. According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on 19 October 1984, Dr Edwards thought these cells could be used to correct blood disorders or repair damaged tissue in the organs of adults.

Two years earlier, in the Guardian of 10 July 1982, Dr Edwards was reported as saying that human embryos could be grown in laboratories to provide tailor-made material for transplants . . . Heart muscle cells could be obtained from the three week old embryo without great difficulty, he said, and it should not prove too difficult to obtain tissue from an embryo aged 13-17 days.

Finally, I refer to warnings made by Professor Bede Morris of the Department of Immunology at the Australian National University (Canberra Times, 21 July 1984). In a lecture organised by the University of Adelaide Foundation he stated that embryos could be grown in vitro, cloned and placed in suspended animation. Individual parts could then be grown and used to renovate parts of the body as they wear out. 'The technology for doing this in animals is already with us and this technology can certainly be transferred to human medicine'. '. . . Self-cannibalism' he said, 'will be the ultimate aspect of self-indulgence'.

At least two major committees of inquiry have looked at this question of research and experimentation on embryos. Both have approved of it in certain circumstances and yet not even this satisfies those members of the scientific community who would treat human beings no different from an animal.

The first inquiry-the UK Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology- was chaired by Dame Mary Warnock and its report was published on 18 July 1984.

Apart from approving of trans-species fertilisation-a research method which I am sure many people would also regard as abhorrent-it also approved of experimentation on embryos up to 14 days after fertilisation. One condition was that the couple responsible for the embryo should be informed and give their consent-a concept not dissimilar to the discredited 19th Century philosophy which supported the slave trade.

Incidentally, the Inquiry rejected the use of embryos for testing drugs because of the risk that it would lead to the 'manufacture' of embryos on a large scale.

The 'dissent' to the Warnock Committee's recommendations about experimentation appears at pages 90-93 of the Report. Its signatories included Professor John Marshall, a Professor of Clinical Neurology.

Space does not permit the reproduction of the entire content of this dissent but there are some important views expressed to which people, with a different philosophical approach to mine, might better relate.

The dissenting report states:

'The special status of the human embryo and the protection to be afforded to it by law do not in our view depend upon the decision as to when it becomes a person. Clearly, once that status has been accorded all moral principles and legal enactments which relate to persons will apply. But before that point has been reached the embryo has a special status because of its potential for development to a stage at which everyone would accord it the status of a human person. It is in our view wrong to create something with the potential for becoming a human person and then deliberately to destroy it.'

The dissenting report also refers to an argument which I have disposed of earlier, namely, that an ovum or a sperm has the potential for becoming a human person.

The report states:

'. . . neither alone, even in the most favourable environment, will develop into a human person. They do not have this potential. The embryo, on the other hand, given the appropriate environment, will develop to the stage at which there would be general agreement that the status of a person be accorded to it'.

It also refers to so-called 'spare' embryos:

'In our view experiments on 'spare embryos' are wrong. But even if they were deemed right, the consequences of permitting them would be unacceptable. There would be a strong temptation for doctors to harvest more embryos than strictly required for the immediate therapeutic purpose in order to provide 'spare embryos'. 'Spare' would become a euphemism'.

The report continues:

'Moreover, as the number provided by this means would not meet the large demand foreseen by our colleagues the pressure for permission to create embryos specifically for research would grow. Likewise, limitations on the time and type of research would be eroded . . . '.

The majority recommendations of the Warnock Inquiry have not yet been implemented by the UK Government. On the contrary, what has happened is that a Private Member's Bill, incorporating a prohibition on experimentation received overwhelming support in a free vote in the House of Commons in February of this year. The Second Reading of this Bill was passed by a vote of 238 to 66.

This Bill, which was entitled 'The Unborn Children (Protection) Bill', was presented by Mr Enoch Powell and supported by Sir Bernard Braine and Sir Gerard Vaughan, among others. I imagine that many of those who supported Mr Powell's Bill would be in the same position as myself; that is, we would not share some of his views on other unrelated subjects but everyone would have to concede that a vote of 238 to 66 is very convincing and obviously included significant cross-party support.

The Bill itself was preceded by a petition campaign in support of the prohibition move which attracted two million signatures-said to be the largest number of signatures on any petition presented to the Commons this century.

The Warnock Inquiry had reported on 18 July 1984. Between 19-23 July, the interdenominational group 'The Order of Christian Unity' commissioned a public opinion poll of 1,878 respondents seeking their views on various aspects of the Warnock Inquiry's subject area:

92 per cent opposed inter-species breeding experiments;

85 per cent believed there should be a law to control experimentation on human embryos;

51 per cent believed all experiments on human embryos should be banned by law.

This last result corresponds with the two public opinion polls in Australia whose results have been published and of which I am aware.

In March 1984, 59 per cent of Australian respondents disapproved of experiments on fertilised eggs, 34 per cent approved and seven per cent were undecided. By July there had been a slight change but still a similarity in the relative proportions. They were: 54 per cent disapproved, 32 per cent approved and 14 per cent were undecided.

These results must be taken note of because of the immense favourable publicity which the overall subject of IVF has received. People's inherent concern has survived the repeated blandishments of the scientists of which a good thing it all is.

The Warnock Report was followed by a further report from the Waller Committee in Victoria in September 1984.

It recommended research provided it was approved by a Statutory Authority, but limited it to the excess embryos produced by patients in an authorised IVF program.

The scientists on the Committee were not happy.

Professors Prisilla Kincaid-Smith and Roger Pepperell dissented. For them, the creation of embryos purely for experimentation was 'ethically acceptable'.

Dr Alan Trounson threatened: 'Some of us would be prepared . . . to give up work and go to London or wherever to do the necessary embryonic research'.

Dr Ian Johnston, the head of the Royal Women's Hospital-Melbourne University team, said that the report was 'nonsense' and that he was sad that the Committee had not allowed a freer rein in the area of research on embryos.

The Victorian Act which followed from this and earlier reports from the Waller Committee, i.e. the 'Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984'-Number 10163-both prohibits certain procedures and then permits them under certain circumstances. It has yet to be proclaimed.

In Section 6 (1) it states that 'a person shall not carry out a prohibited procedure'.

In 6 (2) it describes a 'prohibited procedure' as (a) cloning; or (b) a procedure under which the gametes of a man or a woman are fertilized by the gametes of an animal'.

In 6 (3) it states that 'a person shall not carry out an experimental procedure other than an experimental procedure approved by the Standing Review and Advisory Committee'.

In 6 (4) it states that an 'experimental procedure' in 6 (3) 'means a procedure that involves carrying out research on an embryo of a kind that would cause damage to the embryo, would make the embryo unfit for implantation or would reduce the prospects of a pregnancy resulting from the implantation of the embryo'. At 6 (6) it also prohibits a procedure that involves freezing an embryo.

We then turn to Section 29 and find in 29 (7) that 'In the exercise of its functions, the Committee . . . (b) shall ensure that the highest regard is given to the principle that human life shall be preserved and protected at all time . . .'

It seems to me that all the Victorian Act does is to transfer the decision about experimental procedures to a Standing Committee of eight and what happens in the future will depend on where the numbers go and how many follow the line of Dr Edwards who does not believe that life begins at fertilisation and concedes that his position offers the early embryo 'very few rights, if any'.

I am aware that one suggestion which has been advanced is that rather than permitting an open go for experimentation an upper limit should be introduced.

In both the Waller and the Warnock reports 14 days has been recommended as an upper limit.

Let me state quite clearly that I believe this to be a nonsense. Society will start off with 14 days and then there will be a demand for an extension and we will see it creep up until 20 days and then 28 days, and so on-all for the purpose of satisfying those scientists who can see the opportunity to experiment with more mature cells or tissue.

Distinctions of 14 days or 7 days or 20 days post conception have no basis in scientific fact, let alone in ethics. All that one can say is that an embryo would be well and truly implanted in the uterus by 14 days and it was implantation which was used by the Waller committee to justify its arbitrary selection of 14 days.

Furthermore, any proscription on research, or maintenance in vitro, of human embryos beyond 14 days would be utterly unenforcable in practice.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that information of unique value would be obtained from the maintenance of human embryos up to 14 days in vitro, leaving aside for the moment the ethical issue involved in so doing.

The creation of embryos with use in experimentation in mind, either overtly or using the 'fig-leaf' of fertilising an excess in the course of producing embryos for implantation in the ovum donor, would introduce a classification into society of two classes of human subjects.

There is no physiological difference between a 'wanted' embryo and an embryo that is produced for utilization by others. These two classes of humans will be differentiated solely on the attitude held towards them by third parties-respectively, the expectant parents or the researcher.

The value placed on individuals in society at present may frequently depend more upon the view that is held of them by other members. Nevertheless, the allocation to first or second-class membership at the time of conception would be a particularly blatant extension of any existing failings of society.

Fertilization of ova in excess of the number that the operator is prepared to implant in the ovum donor is synonymous with the deliberate creation of a group of second-class human embryos available for experimentation.

It is also important to note that to produce an excessive number of ova frequently involves the administration of drugs to promote superovulation. There is growing concern about the exploitive character of this process which creates a hormonal imbalance with long term consequences.

I am advised that at the U.K. research institute at Bourne Hall women who are seeking routine sterilization go to the top of the waiting list if they are prepared to agree to undergo superovulation beforehand so that their ova can be harvested for use by the experimenters.

It might be argued by some Senators that this kind of subject should be left in the hands of an organisation such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) but there are several reasons why I do not support that suggestion.

It is clear that the NHMRC has decided to confine its activities to only a clearly defined and limited sphere and, secondly, the Council has already referred to this subject in guidelines which it has issued and I find the favourable reference to experimentation in that document totally inadequate and, indeed, contrary to the intent of my Bill.

The limited role to which the NHMRC confines itself has been illustrated by a recent case involving a proposed tri-national trial, funded by the UK Medical Research Council (UKMRC), and involving doctors and patients in the UK, Israel and Australia.

The trial involves the use of multi-vitamin supplements for pregnant women so as to test their effectiveness in the prevention of neutral tube defects.

On the surface it sounds admirable but questions about the ethical nature of some aspects of the trial have been raised in the UK (following which the original manufacturer of the trial drugs opted out) and also in Australia in a letter from Dr Peter McCullagh which appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia on 4 March 1985 and in recent correspondence between the ACT Right to Life Association and the NHMRC and the Commonwealth Department of Health.

The NHMRC confines itself to constructing guidelines to be followed by the recipients of the grants which it distributes under the authority of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 and the associated order-in-Council.

Because this unethical trial is being funded by the UKMRC and not the NHMRC, the Australian body has declined to become involved, notwithstanding the fact that the Australian component of the trial will involve doctors and patients in more than one Australian State.

Endeavours by the Right to Life Association to involve both the NHMRC and the Commonwealth Department of Health in considering the ethical questions about this proposed trial have proved fruitless and the last communication from the Department of Health was that any involvement it had arose merely from Regulations which require importation of therapeutic substances to be authorised by the Secretary of the Department.

It was suggested to the Right to Life Association that it pursue the matter with the researchers or the institutions with which they were associated. The absence of funding by the NHMRC made that organisation irrelevant.

The Commonwealth Department of Health would examine the drugs to be used in the trial but would not involve itself in an overall evaluation of the ethical aspects of the trial.

Now, it is obvious that not all the research being undertaken in the IVF area in Australia is funded by grants from the NHMRC and so, the guidelines which they apply to their recipients will not reach into those areas which utilise other sources of funding.

Furthermore, before the Council had established its guidelines regarding IVF, it was a grant from the NHMRC which was used for a research project which involved some of the earliest IVF experimentation in Australia.

I refer to a grant of $100,000 to Dr Ian Johnston at Melbourne University which was reported in the media on 19 November 1981. His research involved the slicing up of embryos for study under an electron microscope.

Dr Johnston's overall view was, and I quote: 'In our opinion life does not start with fertilisation of the egg'.

Public revelations about this research led to an outcry by both Roman Catholic and Anglican spokesmen. This was in November 1981. The researchers said very little at the time and their reticence is an appropriate lesson for those who would place complete trust in the researchers to 'do the right thing'.

Three months later, in February 1982, the Director of Medical Services at the hospital where the research was being undertaken, the Melbourne Royal Women's Hospital, calmly stated that the research had stopped early in October which was a month before the public had first learnt about the nature of the project.

I quote from the Melbourne Age report of this revelation: 'Dr Flower was asked why, in the light of the controversy, the hospital had not announced earlier that the experiments had been discontinued. ''I think at the time the hospital felt it could add nothing to the issue. Its actions had already been condemned by people in the public forum and rightly or wrongly it was decided not to comment'' '.

Further evidence of this very secretive approach is contained in the response of hospitals involved in IVF research to a call by Melbourne church leaders in February 1982 that the hospitals make public their ethical guidelines.

Defending their non-release, the manager of the Queen Victoria Hospital said: 'Our worry was that the community could misinterpret them. It is a very emotional subject and we were concerned that people who are against the programme could nit-pick the guidelines' (Melbourne Age, 8 February 1982).

So much for public consultation and bringing the public into the picture so that informed decisions can be made.

Later that same year, on 4 September 1982, a report was released by the NHMRC, being the findings of an NHMRC working party on the subject of IVF. In supplementary Note 4, at paragraph 5 on page 27, approval is given for research on sperm, ova and fertilised ova.

The point that should be made about this report is that the existence of the working party was not widely known and the community generally was unaware of its terms of reference. There is no evidence that the working party called on submissions from the community or from specific interest groups, although once this so-called working party report had appeared in print, an effort was made for some form of public consultation.

That report by the NHMRC for research on human embryos has remained in place right until the present time and if today you ask for a copy of the NHMRC Statement on Human Experimentation-which the Council is eager to claim has been distributed far and wide-you will receive a copy of a basic document revised in 1983 which reproduces the 1982 Supplementary Note.

It is true that in a press release dated 6 July 1983, the Council sought public comment on these guidelines but obviously they have not departed from what was evolved by the working party in 1982.

In a major document containing these guidelines, a footnote on the first page states:

'An application to the NHMRC for a research grant involving human experimentation is required to be certified by the ethics committee of the applicant's institution as complying with the NHMRC statement on Human Experimentation and the Supplementary Notes before the application will be considered for funding.'

I have already quoted several statements from spokesmen for hospital ethics committees and, quite frankly, what they had to say about the community does not instill me with much confidence about this approach.

There are further examples. In the Melbourne Age of 28 June 1984, Mr Peter Wilson, general manager of Epworth Hospital, which carries out one of the IVF programs, and a member of the hospital's ethics committee, said he regarded any categorical controls on scientific research as a total disaster . . . Rather than shackle science, the public and the law had to catch up with and keep abreast of scientific developments . . .

This sounds to me analogous to putting a national secretary of a political party on the Australian Electoral Commission to oversee and conduct elections in Australia.

But there have been other revelations which can only bring into question this whole question of Caesar judging Caesar. In 1984 Dr Robyn Rowland resigned as head of the Research Co-ordination Committee to co-ordinate Social and Psychological Research on Donor Programs in Professor Wood's IVF project.

She resigned principally because Professor Wood and others had started to talk about 'embryo flushing'.

But in the Sydney Morning Herald of 18 May 1984 she claimed that another reason for her resignation was that she was pressured not to be critical of the IVF programs and there appeared to be total disregard for community attitudes.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Rowland said people outside the team have no idea what is going on there.

It is within this context that we should examine the announcement by the NHMRC on 30 May 1984 that it would review ethics committees concerned with research in hospitals and institutions. The review was to take the form of a series of workshops around Australia. The press release said nothing about who could attend these workshops or who might not attend.

A further statement on 11 February 1985 referred to the series of workshops 'attended by members of the ethics committees from hospitals and research institutions and of the the Council's own Medical Research Ethics Committee'. But it did not say that they were the only people who could attend.

It so happens that a doctor in Brisbane noticed that the Brisbane workshop was to be held on 8 March 1985 and made endeavours to attend.

Last week, at my request, he wrote to me to explain what happened:

'As I am a medical practitioner with a special interest in the ethics of medical research, I made several inquiries through official channels, hoping to attend the workshop. Incidentally, neither the location nor the time of the workshop was mentioned in the press release. The only information I could eventually obtain was that the invitation to attend the workshop was not an open one, but was in fact restricted to members of institutional ethics committees . . .'

So what it boils down to is a very incestuous arrangement: The NHMRC requires grantees to have the approval of their institutional ethics committee; the NHMRC decides to review these committees and the review and the workshops are announced in the media; but when a medical practitioner who is not actually a member of one of these committees attempts to attend the workshop in his city he discovers that the only people allowed to attend are the people who are members of an institutional ethics committee.

No, it is inappropriate to leave it to the NHMRC and it is doubly inappropriate to give some of the hospital or institutional ethics committees a completely free hand.

A background article about ethics committees which appeared in the Melbourne Age on 28 June 1984 stated: 'From interviews with members of ethics committees it was clear that they were not always able to come to an agreement and the decisions were then left to the hospital boards. The alternative was a wearing down where the decisions were deferred repeatedly until the weaker debaters eventually caved in to more aggressive colleagues'.

In the absence of an advocate who can speak on behalf of the interests of unborn human life within these ethics committees where it appears who can shout loudest wins, a clear statement in law prohibiting experimentation will help to redress the imbalance.

It sometimes appears to me that Australian scientists, scientific institutions, statutory authorities and even the Parliament have spent more time getting their act together about animal vivisection than dealing with human vivisection. Indeed, does the Parliament, by its omission, endorse human vivisection?

In the document referred to earlier, the NHMRC Statement on Human Experimentation and Supplementary Notes, which endorses research on embryos, there is another section dealing with the 'separated previable foetus'.

The wording of that section permits, among other things, the dissection of an aborted baby but only if the heart has stopped beating and there are no other obvious signs of life.

Has that kind of thing ever been endorsed by the Australian Parliament? Not at all. It again comes in under this umbrella of 'Guidelines' for the recipients of NHMRC grants. That is why we have never seen this kind of subject in legislation or had the opportunity to debate it.

Only last week we all received a copy of the 'Code of Practice and the Care and Use of Animals for Experimental Purposes'. It was put together by the NHMRC, the CSIRO and the Australian Agricultural Council. It is more comprehensive than the equivalent document from the NHMRC on 'Human Experimentation'. Under this code, members of animal welfare groups will be offered positions on ethics committees.

The Guidelines deal with everything, including primary and secondary schools who are said to have a responsibility 'to ensure that students appreciate the importance of the care and welfare of animals'-something which I am sure all of us would agree with. But where is there a document which enjoins schools to ensure that students appreciate the importance of the care and welfare of unborn humans? It is not adult humans, or born humans, who are most at risk from the researchers and the experimenters in today's laboratories. It is preborn humans. I am sure that if one had the time and energy to search the legislative data bases, we would come up with boxes of regulations and legislation which prohibit cruelty to animals, protect endangered species, prohibit the exportation of certain species and so on. Have we got our priorities wrong?

My Bill will enable the Federal Parliament to pass judgment on whether or not experimentation should be permitted on human embryos created by in vitro fertilisation.

I am quite aware of the legislation debated in the Victorian Parliament but we should not regard that as having pre-empted discussion of the subject. I find it significant that in the UK, which does not now appear to be in the forefront of this technique, the House of Commons as recently as two months ago debated this subject and overwhelmingly endorsed a Bill to prohibit experimentation.

Only recently there were large advertisements in the newspapers announcing the 'National Research Fellowships Scheme' involving priority areas of national interest, one of which was 'bio-medical technology' which is another reason for immediate action. Also, the IVF scientists in Victoria have recently established a company called IVF Australia (IVFA) which is to facilitate the export of Australian IVF techniques to overseas countries. Although the Vice-Chancellor of Monash University has denied that his company will be involved in experimentation, he declined-in the course of a three way radio debate in which I participated-to give the same assurance in regard to one of the scientists who will be closely associated with the company. Would that company be prepared to write into its Memorandum and Articles an absolute prohibition of experimentation or the export of techniques involving experimentation? In the absence of an overall Commonwealth legislative prohibition, I doubt it.

I am also aware of the existence of the Select Committee of the South Australian Legislative Council which is examining the question of experimentation as one of a number of its terms of reference. I would hope that it might come to the same conclusion as contained in my Bill but we are looking at some time in the future and rather than burying our heads in the sand and meekly duplicating what has been arrived at in State Parliaments, I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament has a pre-eminent role and an obligation to give some leadership.

My Bill makes use of various powers available to the Commonwealth, including the Territories power, the corporations power, the patents power, etc.

Quite simply, the Bill seeks to prohibit experimentation on embryos created as a result of in vitro fertilisation and to prohibit the creating of human embryos for experimentation.

When enacted it will affect corporations, authorities of the Commonwealth, grants to the States, the Territories and so on.

I would hope that it will apply to organisations such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and to universities in receipt of federal funding.

It provides for any person to apply to the Federal Court for an injunction to stop prohibited experimentations and in Section 10 I have included an obligation for Commonwealth authorities to state in their annual financial statements if they have been involved in grants for medical research and the names of the recipient individuals or organisations. I am prepared, of course, to receive reasoned suggestions; which are designed to improve this Bill and to better implement its objectives.

In the course of this Parliament, I have not trespassed unduly on General Business time. I believe it is reasonable for me to ask for time to be found to bring this matter on for debate and to a resolution where, if it is adopted by the Senate, it can then be forwarded to the House of Representatives for its consideration and, hopefully, its passage into law.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.