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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5865


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (1:54 PM) —The Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, if passed, will trumpet to the world at large that the Australian parliament believes human life is a thing or commodity that can be used, as opposed to a sacred, unique, inherently precious being worthy of support and protection from its very beginning. The long title of the bill tells us that this bill seeks to `regulate certain activities involving the use of human embryos'. It could just as well read `the use of human life'.

It disappoints me greatly to think that as a society we are prepared to so demean human life as to turn it into a commodity. Human life is to be nurtured, protected and revered, not used—and, more importantly, not used when the use to which it is put is in fact its very destruction. As soon as we make an exception the rationale or so-called `logic' can always be stretched and expanded. We now have so-called `ethicists' publicly urging infanticide for certain types of children. That is a direct result of our society failing to live up to its obligation to cater for the needs and protection of the unborn and their mothers. If we sanction destructive experimentation on embryos, why not foetuses—or, indeed, children or us or those about to die from natural causes anyway? Where does it stop? Indeed, why should it stop? I say it should never start. For those who want to argue a commencement point for destruction of human life, let them say exactly where that point is. I have not heard anybody in this debate put a cogent, sensible argument as to exactly where that point is, other than those who said it commences at the time the ovum is fertilised.

Some most unfortunate forays into the debate have occurred. Dr Trounson's gross misrepresentations, and later attempted explanations, make him quite unfit to be advising on this matter. His patronising and quite dishonest advocacy should lead to him vacating the field and not discussing these issues. If the benefits of embryonic stem cell research are so overwhelming, as claimed, there is no need for those gross misrepresentations. Indeed, it is interesting to go back to the 1986 Senate select committee. On pages 108 and 109 of the report of that committee there was a very interesting exchange between the distinguished then Senator Shirley Walters and Dr Trounson. Senator Walters asked, `Why 13 or 14 days?' Dr Trounson agreed it was a completely arbitrary line and that life was in fact a continuum. The then Senator Walters asked, `How far would you go? You say 28. If it solved every disease on the Earth, how far would you go?' Dr Trounson replied, `I would do anything to cure disease.' Sure, he dresses it up on the basis of curing disease, but the reality is that some of these scientists will not stop at anything in relation to this very important matter.

The New South Wales Premier has similarly been guilty of raising false expectations. To run the false hope that a cure is just around the corner for a variety of diseases is quite unconscionable. Even if all the experimentation did lead to positive results, the best advice is that cures would not be available for decades; yet we have the New South Wales Premier blandly asserting that embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures. This is false and it places the debate on a false premise. There has been no successful research in relation to embryonic stem cells, but of course there has been in relation to adult stem cells. I did not know my speech was so great that all my fellow colleagues would walk in to listen to it. I look forward to their similarly filling the chamber when I continue my remarks after question time.

Debate interrupted.