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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5720

Senator HARRADINE (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill. There is a proposed UN convention against human cloning. Given the Prime Minister's public opposition to the cloning of a human embryo for any reason, is the government using diplomatic efforts to support at least that convention as proposed by the United States and Spain?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I am advised that there are two resolutions in the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on the banning of human cloning: a Franco-German proposal and a Spanish-USA-Mexican proposal. The Franco-German proposal seeks an immediate ban on reproductive cloning and a moratorium on other cloning pending further negotiations. The Spanish-USA-Mexican proposal calls for an immediate ban on all cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic. Australia is finalising its position in relation to those particular resolutions. However, the government will best ensure that any resolutions and negotiations for a UN convention on human cloning are consistent with its own legislation.

Senator HARRADINE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is not the proposed legislation to ban the cloning of a human embryo for any purpose? Is the minister aware of the fact that the Australian Health Ethics Committee condemned the use of the word `therapeutic' as used by the minister, stating that it was a misleading term as it is not very therapeutic for a human embryo to be dissected of its stem cells? What is meant by the minister's response to my question? Are the government leaving the door open for human cloning for that purpose?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —No, what I am saying is that the government will want to be consistent. The government has put legislation on this matter to the parliament and, as Senator Harradine has said, it would ban human cloning. It would seem that these proposed resolutions before the United Nations deal with what could be described as other associated matters. All I said was that, in determining a final position on those resolutions, we would want our position to be consistent with the legislation that we are putting to the parliament and that we hope will be carried.