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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6186

Senator HARRADINE (10:44 AM) —My apologies to you, Chair, and to the other members of the Senate. I went out for only 1½ minutes, having been here all last night and all today.

Senator Patterson —Join the club, Senator Harradine.

Senator HARRADINE —Thank you. I seek leave to move amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 2719.

Leave granted.

Senator HARRADINE —I move:

(1) Heading to clause 22, page 11 (line 1), omit the heading, substitute:

22 Offence—importing or exporting a prohibited embryo

(2) Clause 22, page 11 (lines 10 to 13), omit subclause (3).

These amendments are to clause 22 of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002. Clause 22 of the bill has as its heading: `Offence—importing, exporting or placing a prohibited embryo'. I am proposing to omit that particular heading and just have: `Offence—importing or exporting a prohibited embryo'. The essence of what I am proposing is to delete also 22(3), which provides that:

A person commits an offence if the person intentionally places an embryo in the body of a woman knowing that, or reckless as to whether, the embryo is a prohibited embryo.

Again in the spirit of wanting to make sure that this bill covers all situations in accordance with what was desired, I believe that the clause as it now stands could have unintended consequences in penalising those who may become involved in placing embryos in women through possible embryo adoption programs in the future—for example, a doctor with certain ethical views who may feel obliged to try to save an embryo grown to 14 days by placing it, at the request of the woman, in the body of a woman who wishes to adopt that embryo. Bear in mind that, in clause 22(4) on the meaning of `prohibited embryo', only line (a) involves the cloning procedure. I draw the attention of honourable senators to page 11 of the bill, which defines what are prohibited embryos. I do not believe that either the woman or the practitioner should be punished if the woman wishes to adopt such an embryo. As the minister has been saying, the problem is the issue of creating the embryo in the first place. But you have also got this other situation that I am describing, which I think is important. Where the embryo has been created, even with the wrong intention, the placing of that embryo on the basis of adoption into the body of a woman who so requests that adoption should not mean 10 years imprisonment.

A doctor could inherit—and I use that word because I cannot think of another at the moment—a stockpile of embryos in a medical practice which includes IVF. He or she would then have to ascertain whether there were any prohibited embryos. Some may be discovered, including embryos grown to two weeks. The woman may wish to receive them and the doctor may wish to place them in the body of the woman. The person who does the placing may have had nothing to do with the creation of the embryo in the first place. The person who has taken over the practice may not want to treat the embryo created with the wrong intention differently to embryos created to achieve a pregnancy. Unless this amendment is carried, we may have inadvertently created an incentive to destroy the embryo. As the minister has mentioned, the real offence is the creation of the prohibited embryo. But, if the embryo has been created, it ought not to be a legal offence for a woman to want to rescue the embryo, even if many of us, for a variety of reasons, would have moral concerns about that event. It ought not to be a legal offence to try to save the life of an embryo.

I do apologise to the minister that this matter has been brought to my attention late in the piece. The minister has pointed out that the creation is the real offence but, once that has occurred, to then, in effect, penalise persons who want to save that embryo's life by adopting it would not have been in the minds of COAG to agree to. Again, Minister, I apologise to you for being in this position, but the whole debate folded last night and we have found ourselves in this situation.