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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6290

Senator HARRADINE (8:41 PM) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has not responded to my question about the committee that she is proposing in this bill. I ask the question: if she wants support or opposition to this piece of legislation—whichever it is—the minister in charge of the bill has the responsibility to at least explain the terms of the legislation. It is clear that it is going to be a private review, not a public review, on an extremely important matter of public interest.

I am also asking what is meant by `independent'. You will recall that I asked this before: What is independent? Independent of whom? Does it refer to the people who make up the panel? Again, independent of whom or of what? What is meant by `independent' there? The appointments are going to be made by the minister. As Senator Hogg mentioned, the veto power is in the hands of any one of the state premiers. The bill states:

(2) The review is to be undertaken by persons chosen by the Minister, with the agreement of each State.

That point was raised by Senator Hogg, and he wanted to get the answer. Please, I am asking through you, Mr Temporary Chairman: what is meant by `independent'? Because we are voting on a very important issue here, the review of the legislation, I ask what is meant by having such a narrow focus on the terms of reference? The bill, which at the moment is supposed to ban cloning of all types, states:

(4) The persons undertaking the review must consider and report on the scope and operation of this Act taking into account the following:

(a) developments in technology in relation to assisted reproductive technology;

I am not too sure how that comes into it, as far as the banning of cloning is concerned. Perhaps the minister might be able to tell us. How does that come into play? This bill is about the banning of human cloning. According to the bill, the review is then supposed to look at `developments in technology in relation to assisted reproductive technology'. Then the bill says:

(b) developments in medical research and scientific research and the potential therapeutic applications of such research ...

It says `potential'. What does that mean? We heard this before in the Senate inquiry— people say certain research on stem cells has the potential to do certain things—but there has never been any proof of concept. This is very important because, you mark my words, there are—and this aspect has been there all the time, as I explained to the Senate before—certain scientists who want to clone humans. Even the Minister for Education, Science and Training's scientific adviser, Dr Barlow, has stated that he believes in human cloning, including what he terms `reproductive cloning'. This is the minister's chief science adviser! I have raised that before and I now call publicly for him to repudiate that. It is very important to ask the minister this question about independence and why there are not broader terms of reference. Clause 25(4)(c) refers to `community standards'. What does that mean? Is there to be an ethical evaluation of certain proposals or not, or is it to be determined on the basis of a newspaper poll? These are matters that will ultimately determine whether there will be cloning or not in Australia, and it is important for the minister to respond to them.