Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6292


Senator HARRADINE (8:57 PM) —I move my amendment (10), which is an alternative to amendment (9):

(10) Division 1, page 14 (line 4) to page 15 (line 3), omit the Division, substitute:

Division 1—Review of Act

25 Review of operation of Act

(1) The Minister must cause an independent public review of the operation of this Act to be undertaken as soon as possible after the second anniversary of the day on which this Act received the Royal Assent.

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

(3) The Minister must not choose a person to undertake the review if the person has a continuing personal, professional or pecuniary conflict of interest with the matter being reviewed.

(4) The persons undertaking the review must give the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of each State and Territory a written report of the review including any recommendations for amendments to Commonwealth legislation before the third anniversary of the day on which this Act received the Royal Assent.

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

(a) the need to preserve and protect human life;

(b) the need to ensure that in any medical research on human subjects, considerations relating to the wellbeing of a human subject will take precedence over the interests of science and society;

(c) the current state of technology and practice in relation to assisted reproductive technology;

(d) developments in medical research and scientific research including any therapeutic applications of such research;

(e) community standards.

(6) The persons undertaking the review must call for public submissions and publicly hear evidence from:

(a) the Commonwealth and the States and Territories;

(b) a broad range of persons with expertise in or experience of relevant disciplines;

(c) a representative cross-section of persons who have responded to the call for submissions;

and the views of the Commonwealth, the States and Territories and the persons mentioned in paragraphs (b) and (c) must be set out in the report to the extent that it is reasonably practicable to do so—in any event the report must contain a list of names of all persons who have made a submission together with the title of their submission.

(7) A person undertaking the review has, in conducting the review, the same protection and immunity as a Justice of the High Court.

(8) A person appearing before the review as a witness has the same protection as a witness in proceedings in the High Court.

Amendment (10) relates to the review of the operation of the act. The amendment was designed in the hope that it would cover the areas of concern which were expressed during the recent debate. Therefore, I do not intend to spend much time on it because the outcome has virtually been predetermined. I believe very strongly that there should be a public review. I listened with interest to what the Minister for Health and Ageing said about the independence of those persons who are appointed to undertake the review. I assumed from what she said that the minister must not choose a person to undertake the review if the person has a continuing personal, professional or pecuniary conflict of interest with respect to the matter being reviewed. The whole point about this issue and what has been lost sight of is that unless that sort of provision goes into the legislation there is no guarantee—fancy trusting a politician but apparently the minister is trusting the premiers and the Prime Minister with this. I do not distrust them but I do have regard to the fact that they are busy people and so much is done for them in this particular area by the NHMRC. They are in the game; they have a research orientation. The NHMRC are the ones that are running the game. I will talk about that later on tonight when we come to the question of the appointment of a licensing committee.

I felt that the persons undertaking the review must give to the parliaments of the Commonwealth and of each state and territory a written report of the review. They are not going to do so because they are just going to give it to COAG, which is the executive, not to the parliaments. I felt that the persons undertaking the review should consider and report on the operations of the act as per the bill taking into account the objects of the act.

The object of the act is, as all senators would know, to address the concerns including ethical concerns about scientific developments in relation to human reproduction and the utilisation of the human embryo by prohibiting certain practices. It has not taken into consideration also the need to preserve and protect human life, the need to ensure that in any medical research on human subjects considerations relating to the wellbeing of a human subject would take precedence over the interests of science and society.

All of this has been predetermined. The minister will not accept any amendment, although she was required to accept one earlier today. Rather than proceeding in that fashion, I wish to withdraw the alternative review of the act provision in amendment (10) and move an amendment—and I am doing this on the run—having regard to what the minister has said. I seek to include in line 6 of clause 25 of the bill after the word `independent' the word `public'. That is a very simple amendment. I think the public has got to be aware of what is going on in this important matter of public interest. The inquiry should not be a private affair.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—Are you withdrawing your amendment (10) or are you proposing to move an additional amendment as well as (10)?


Senator HARRADINE —No, Mr Temporary Chairman. I am seeking leave to withdraw amendment (10) and I propose to move another amendment as mentioned.