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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5831

Senator BARNETT (10:53 AM) —I rise to speak on the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002. Life is a journey between abrupt and finite boundaries—from fertilisation to death. It is deserving of respect and dignity throughout that period. Like postnatal human life, it is also deserving of the protection of the law, irrespective of the potential that its dismembered tissues can offer to the protection of others. Every living person was once an embryo—and embryos are now the targets, or the victims, of the corporate researcher. The human embryo, with its valuable parts, has no means of giving its consent or arguing a defence and does not have any right of reply. Good science necessarily requires good ethics. As the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, said recently:

We must not become scientific wizards and ethical cowboys.

A human embryo is not a commodity to be sold nor a resource for experimentation, exploitation or research. As a community, we should draw a line in the sand and say that protection of human life, at whatever age and in whatever form, is an absolute—no ifs, no buts.

I commend to the Senate those speakers who are prepared to stand up in this debate and put on record their views in support of this bill and in support of the prohibition of human cloning. I congratulate them because, at this stage, the recent report of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, of which I was a member—and the chair's report in particular—did not address the reasons why human cloning is abhorrent. It did not address the ethical issues related to human cloning and the bill before us, and that indeed is a disappointment. That is why I am thankful that there are senators in this place who are prepared to stand up and put on the record why human cloning is an abhorrent act. Senator Brian Harradine correctly indicated that we need to understand what cloning is and why it is wrong, and I am pleased that we are able to put that on the record during this debate.

I believe that cloning is cloning is cloning. Others have put forward a different view that there is reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning and that they are distinctly different. Indeed, the objectives are slightly different in each case, but the process to achieve the end is the same—that is, the cloning of a human being, no matter how small. I wish to draw the attention of this chamber to the report entitled Human cloning: scientific, ethical and regulatory aspects of human cloning and stem cell research, which was prepared by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in August 2001. The report highlighted a number of reasons why people oppose reproductive cloning. I want to mention them because I think they are consistent with the views I hold on this debate. The reasons cited in the report were:

· the lack of any medical need for cloning for reproductive purposes;

· cloning for reproductive purposes would constitute an infringement of human dignity—

I am going to comment further on human dignity shortly—

· cloning for reproductive purposes would have a negative effect on the family and personal relationships;

· cloning for reproductive purposes would undermine individuality and identity;

· it would be unsafe;

· cloning for reproductive purposes would potentially pose a threat to human diversity and run the risk of reintroducing notions of eugenics;

· it would raise the potential for coercion of women.

In respect of human dignity—the importance of the individual and the need to have respect and the absolute highest regard for each and every individual in this nation and in this world in which we live—I would like to quote Dr Pike of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in his submission to the inquiry of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He stated:

Respect refers to the condition or state of being esteemed or honoured. It is to prize or to value, and furthermore it includes in its meaning to refrain from interfering with or to spare ... Dignity ... implies an inherence of value or quality which is intrinsic to, in this case, human beings ... It is the dignity attached to humanness per se ... It is this deep-seated inherent dignity which underscores the human rights documents and various codes of medical ethics which mark all human kind as worthy of the highest respect.

That really is the point. Dr Amin Abboud said in his submission:

... any research, procedure or investigation that affects the dignity of people which we have defended at length in society is to be discouraged. Cloning attacks fundamentally the dignity of the human person making him subservient to the needs of others.

Dr Eloise Piercy submitted:

The cloning of human beings, whether to bring about the birth of a baby or to be suppressed within early embryonic life ... is an affront to human dignity ... Clones are a means to an end and in being such, are treated with less dignity than other humans. Indeed, unconditional respect for human dignity, regardless of age, size, intellect or physical capacity is the cornerstone of civilised society. Human cloning contravenes this respect and violates the principles of equality and non-discrimination among human beings. It represents a line we should not cross.

That is such a key point—that here we are talking about the human embryo, the smallest of human beings.

Debate interrupted.