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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6282

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (7:49 PM) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions. As evidenced in the ongoing debate surrounding stem cell research, nobody needs reminding that science is moving incredibly quickly and it is simply not possible to anticipate the developments that may occur in the next three years in the areas of human cloning, reproductive technologies and stem cell research. Recognising that the landscape may change considerably over the next few years, the legislation provides for a comprehensive review of the act within three years. The proposal in the bill is that an independent review be undertaken by persons chosen by the relevant minister with the agreement of each state and territory. The review will involve wide consultation with the Commonwealth and the states and territories and with a broad range of persons with expertise in or experience of relevant disciplines. The results of the review will be put to COAG.

This is entirely appropriate because, as noted by a number of senators in the second reading debate, the Commonwealth bill is only one part of a comprehensive, nationally consistent regulatory scheme, with corresponding legislation in each jurisdiction. It is essential that the states and territories have input into the review and also that the results of the review be considered by all jurisdictions through the COAG process. This does not mean in any way that it precludes the federal parliament from also considering the issues. If the review gives rise to possible amendments to the legislation, any such amendments must come before parliament, and at that time whoever is here will have the opportunity to consider in detail any proposed changes to the legislation.

Senator Hogg —Are you leaving?

Senator PATTERSON —No, I am not anticipating leaving, but I never judge things. We have a very tenuous hold on this mortal coil. God willing, I will be here.

Senator Chris Evans —It would be up to the preselectors, wouldn't it?

Senator PATTERSON —No, unless we have a double dissolution, it will not be, because I am not up for preselection like some other people; I have a term to fulfil. Senator Hogg and I may be here, if something else does not happen, but none of us can assume that we will be here in three years time—not anyone in this chamber. At that time, those of us who are here will have the opportunity to consider in detail any proposed changes to the legislation. If it is considered necessary, the issues can also be referred to a committee, as occurred with this bill when it was first introduced. In view of that, I oppose the amendment.