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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6294

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (9:08 PM) —For the record, I need to clarify the position I put forward earlier so that Senator Harradine understands the Democrat position. I indicated that we were supportive of the notion, as put forward by Senator Bishop and others, of a public committee inquiry through the parliament— whether it be a joint or a Senate committee— into the operations of this act, when it is an act. The timing of that inquiry, its composition and whether it is a joint or Senate committee we are happy for the parliament to determine at another time. The problem that we have, however, is with the notion of enshrining it in this legislation. We seek not to do that and, hence, I indicated to the chamber and to Senator Bishop, both informally and on the record, that we would not be supporting his amendment. However, I have given a public commitment tonight that the Democrats would support such an inquiry but through the normal processes—a notice of motion to the parliament, whether that emanates from the Labor Party or from individuals in the coalition. When Senator Harradine refers to my comment supporting a public inquiry, that is what I was referring to.

Regarding the review of the act, the cloning bill, we are happy with the provisions that are there set out. There is scope under those provisions to incorporate the views of the public. There is perhaps one question that I have of the minister, prompted by the comments made by Senator Harradine. I think his views in relation to accountability, transparency and public involvement are all valid, but I think a Senate committee or a joint committee plus this review that will happen after two years could potentially be quite complementary. This independent review reports to COAG. Will the federal parliament receive a copy of this review? Will this review be tabled in the federal parliament? That is something that the minister, on behalf of the government, could undertake to have happen. It solves some questions that may be outstanding in relation to public scrutiny of that review and public involvement. I am quite happy for us to have two reviews of the legislation. An independent review as per the terms of reference or the provisions set out in clause 25 is appropriate. Similarly, I am a great fan of parliamentary inquiries; hence the Democrat commitment to support one if terms of reference should come from the parliament. Given that this presumably reports to COAG, will the report be tabled in the federal parliament? Could the minister provide that information to the parliament? That also opens up, Senator Harradine and Senator Bishop, another opportunity for our involvement as a democratically elected body.