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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6285

Senator HARRADINE (8:02 PM) —Senator Evans intervened after Senator Patterson made her comment. I could not follow the minister's comment. Frankly, it was not a response to my question. My question was: why is this to be a private inquiry? Why is it not to be public? At the end of the day, in respect of the private—not public—inquiry or review, it is being suggested around the traps that this paves the way for cloning. I will deal with that point later. Not only is the inquiry not to be public but a narrow number of persons are to be consulted, including the Commonwealth and the states and `a broad range of persons with expertise in or experience of relevant disciplines'. If there is to be cloning, there is nothing at all in this legislation about consulting women's groups, a number of which came to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee and made submissions to the committee about the number of eggs that would be required to undertake cloning. There is nothing about that—leave them aside.

I am very surprised that the Labor Party, through Senator Evans, will not give the public a fair go. They just go along with the government and with a private inquiry. What about a public inquiry? What is meant by an independent review—independent of what? It would certainly be independent advice from the ordinary public. What does `independent' mean for the qualifications of the persons who will conduct this review? Should it not be the case that those persons should not have a continuing personal, professional or pecuniary conflict of interest with the matters being reviewed? Is that not reasonable to have in the legislation? Is not that the matter of transparency and accountability that we often talk about in this place?

Senator Stott Despoja is in her place. I hope I did not mishear her. I thought she said that it should be a public inquiry. I am asking the minister how that can be achieved. As I see it, there is a general desire around that chamber that there should be a public inquiry. There are those like Senator Bishop and me who believe that the best way to have a public inquiry is to have a parliamentary inquiry.

However, I come back to the question I asked: why a private review? What has been the advice given to the minister? In the end, the advice states:

... the views of the Commonwealth, the States and the persons mentioned in paragraph (b)—

that is, persons with relevant expertise—

must be set out in the report to the extent that it is reasonably practicable to do so.

What does that mean? Frankly, this is very important because, if the persons are chosen with that in mind, this could pave the way for cloning in Australia. So I want answers to those questions.