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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6289


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (8:37 PM) — Senator Murphy may not have been in the chamber when I said that the bill went to all of the premiers and all of the COAG members and that a number of them—I cannot remember which ones now; I referred to them earlier today—wrote and asked that the bill proceed with no amendments. A couple of other states made submissions to the committee and indicated that they were in favour of the bill. The comment has been made, `What happens if they make amendments into which we have not have had an input?' If amendments are to be made to the bill, they will come to the House of Representatives and the Senate, and we can have this sort of debate about the amendments all over again, amongst whoever happens to be here at that stage—and that is appropriate.

Senator Harradine indicated he was a parliamentarian. Well, yes, I am a parliamentarian too. We are politicians sometimes, but we are parliamentarians at others. As I said, I took objection to any implication that I did not hold the process of parliament in high regard. Let me just say that, if anybody thinks that somebody can put up a person, recommend them for a committee, and somehow influence the whole of COAG, let them think again. As one person has found just recently, it is quite a challenge to get all of the states to agree on appointment to a position. Having all states agree is one of the things required in this bill.

As I said before, if the parliament believes that there is a need for the impact of any aspect of this bill to be looked into in further detail, I am absolutely sure that somebody in this parliament will move to set up a committee to have a full inquiry. There is no reason why that could not go on at the same time. When all of the premiers have supported a Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill, I find it very difficult to read into this some conspiracy about it being a private meeting. COAG has to operate in a way which is workable and which can achieve outcomes.

As Senator Chris Evans said earlier today—and I have said here again tonight—it is very difficult to get agreement on an issue like this. If you actually put in place mechanisms that make it too hard to work, we will never get this sort of agreement. I think it is important that we can demonstrate a process that will look at something of significant concern to the whole community. We have now got agreement on a national uniform approach to this issue and I do think it is a little conspiratorial to think that there is some hidden agenda in here and that it is private. As I said, if any amendments to this bill arise out of the review, they will be subjected to the full scrutiny of parliament and the full public scrutiny which only the Senate can undertake—and does more and more. As I said before, I will not be supporting the amendment.