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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6182


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:20 AM) —I will not be advocating the support of the inclusion of an additional offence relating to a person possessing or having custody of a prohibited embryo. As I mentioned before, COAG decided to target the more serious high-level offences such as creating or implanting prohibited embryos. The significant penalties attaching to these offences indicate that the Australian community views these sorts of crimes extremely seriously. If it is an offence to create and develop certain types of embryo and it is also an offence to implant, import and export those embryos, then it is unlikely that people will ever be in possession of these embryos. That is where this differs from the situation regarding cigarettes and firearms and all the other things that were mentioned.

The aim of the bill is to deter those people who have the greater capacity to commit the offence, namely scientists and others with the technological knowledge to create prohibited embryos. It was not considered appropriate or necessary, for example, to create a separate offence to punish a woman in whom a cloned embryo was implanted. But I note—and I have said this before—that the Criminal Code extends criminal responsibility to other forms of actions such as aiding, abetting, procuring the commission of an offence and conspiracy, and persons engaging in this sort of activity may be found guilty of the offence itself. These provisions should go some way towards satisfying members of this chamber that people who deliberately participate in the commission of such an offence will still be the subject of criminal sanctions.