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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6188

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (11:01 AM) —For Senator Patterson's benefit, turning to page 2 of the bill, I think we need to go through clearly which embryos are actually covered by this bill, because we are not talking about just cloned or hybrid type embryos. Clause 13 talks about `creating a human embryo other than by fertilisation, or developing such an embryo', and in clause 16 we are talking about `developing a human embryo outside the body of a woman for more than 14 days'. So if the developmental process has been allowed to go to day 15, the implantation of that embryo is ruled out by this provision, because of the nature of this penalty. While science might say to us at the moment that day 14 or 15 is the stage at which an embryo will not survive if it is unattached, I think all of us here understand that this could quite easily change in the future so that, with developments in culture medium and other areas, later attachment will be possible in relation to IVF embryos.

There is the hybrid example that Senator Patterson referred to and there is clause 14, which says `creating a human embryo for a purpose other than achieving pregnancy in a woman'. The point here is that, regardless of the purpose for which the embryo was created, and I am sure that strong penalties should be associated with inappropriate purposes, if beyond that purpose the embryo exists and implantation relates other than to I think the abhorrence any of us would attach to the cloning or even potentially the hybrid type example, and within this list of other prohibited practices there are quite a number—and as I said there are examples internationally of where these types of embryo adoption schemes are operating—it would be most unfortunate if the way in which this provision is currently phrased excluded those possibilities.

Senator Harradine has said that, essentially, he is prepared to wear a weakening of the penalty for the one example of all of these prohibited practices that Senator Patterson has talked about, which is the cloning. I think Senator Patterson is right: we in this chamber will ultimately have to make our own ethical judgments on that issue. But I think senators should have very clear in their minds that there are quite a number of prohibited practices we are dealing with here; it is not just cloning that this issue pertains to. It pertains to an embryo that, for quite legitimate purposes, may have been developed in IVF and because of a simple administrative error might have gone beyond 14 days. If a couple want to have that embryo implanted, they could fall foul of this penalty.

Question negatived.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator McLucas)—We now move to Senator Harradine's amendment (R6) on sheet 2697 revised.