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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6281

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (7:38 PM) —I am very attracted to Senator Bishop's amendment. I listened very carefully to the way he explained it. As it stands now, at the end of the two years there will be an investigation into the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 and, as I understand it, it will be done—and I look over to Senator Bishop for confirmation—by the NHMRC. Is that correct, Senator Bishop?

Senator Mark Bishop —In this bill the review committee will be an independent committee; in the embryo bill the review committee will be tasked by the NHMRC.

Senator BOSWELL —If a committee is tasked by the NHMRC, then the NHMRC will have a very strong influence over it. This is the problem we have. The issue of stem cell research is taken very seriously by the people of Australia. The people of Australia are represented by a democracy and we in the Senate of the parliament are part of that democracy. We represent the views collectively of those people. This is not a review that should be in the hands of the NHMRC or anyone else. This is a review that the people of Australia through their representatives should have a voice on. I congratulate Senator Bishop for his amendment. It is a very sound amendment and it deserves the support of the chamber. We are sent here to review legislation and to examine it, particularly in the Senate, and come up with conclusions. That is our job, that is what we are paid for, and that is what we are here to do. Senator Bishop's amendment does those things. To my way of thinking, it is wrong to just allow the NHMRC to appoint a committee.

Senator Bishop raised some very strong arguments. One of the arguments was that through this legislation, the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 and the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, we are going to grant certain licences to do certain things. There will be a capacity to make large amounts of money by obtaining stem cells from embryos and then sending them overseas. There is no question that the parliament should review this and should review it at the sunset clause stage. This amendment deserves support and I hope it gets the support it deserves.