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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6154


Senator MURPHY (10:20 PM) —Minister, your argument conversely could be that you would encourage people to do exactly what you have said we are trying to discourage them from doing. What you are saying is that we will ban the importation of human embryo clones but we will not ban products or components thereof. In response to the question I asked you before about whether under this legislation proposed by the government we could prosecute a person that imported a stem cell line derived from a cloned embryo, you said no.

Of course everybody understands the difficulty, I am sure, from a technical point of view, and that is all I want to deal with. It would be very difficult. But you would encourage people to develop stem cell lines from cloned embryos and trade in them. From a technical point of view, this amendment would put them on notice that if they get caught they can be prosecuted. It does nothing more than that. That seems to me to be a logical, fair approach. It is not going to put in jeopardy somebody who unintentionally or unknowingly has imported a product or a stem cell line that they do not know the origin of.

Let me say this, and I say it probably naively. I expect that the development of stem cell lines around the world would come from registered producers—for the want of a better description. They would be operating under licences to do those sorts of things. Somebody who is purchasing a stem cell line, for instance, would buy it, one would expect, from a registered producer. So we should be able to know in the main where the stem cell lines, for instance, are coming from. Likewise, we should be able to know, if they are being produced in this country for export, where they are being produced. I would suggest to you, Minister, that the amendment assists the attempt to make an offence in trading in cloned embryos even stronger. It will stamp out the opportunity for people to covertly produce stem cell lines from cloned embryos to put into the market place simply because there is the possibility of being prosecuted. Under the legislation proposed there is no possibility of that and it will only encourage them, not discourage them.