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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6191


Senator HARRADINE (11:24 AM) —by leave—I move amendments (7) and (8) on sheet 2697 together:

(7) Clause 23, page 12 (line 9), omit “or a human embryo”, substitute “, a human embryo, human embryonic stem cells or any other product derived from a human embryo”.

(8) Clause 23, page 12 (line 13), omit “or a human embryo”, substitute “, a human embryo, human embryonic stem cells or any other product derived from a human embryo”.

These amendments raise the same sort of argument that we have just been having. They propose to prohibit the export and import of human embryonic stem cells or any other product derived from a human embryo. The export and import of those stem cells would be opposed.

Let me make it very clear to not only myself but everybody in this chamber: there is absolutely no regulatory regime for the use of human embryonic stem cells—they can be sold to the highest bidder internationally. That was put to the NHMRC in the committee hearings, and reluctantly the NHMRC agreed with me that there is absolutely no control over what happens to human embryonic stem cells and that they could be sold to the highest bidder overseas. That is to say, an Australian human embryo has been killed— the stem cells have been taken from that human embryo and that has destroyed the embryo—and those embryonic stem cells can then be sold to the highest bidder, whether the highest bidder be in Australia or overseas. We will come to the matter of the highest bidder at some later stage and, frankly, if we are going to have a strict regulatory regime, to the need to do something about that, if we are talking about the commercialism of this—which is what it is all about. I simply say that this is needed. So far as the Customs regulations are concerned—and I quote from the Hansard—last night the minister said:

... the Prime Minister had indicated that we were going to move an amendment to the Customs regulations to have a 12-month moratorium on the export of human embryos—not on embryonic stem cell lines, but human embryos.

So what is being proposed in these amendments, unless the minister has something else to say today—and maybe this is something that she and the Prime Minister might take into account—is a ban on the export and import of human embryonic stem cells. The minister might enlighten the committee on whether in fact that is a possibility that could be taken on board to prevent, among other things, the likely trade in Australian human embryonic stem cells and their exploitation overseas.