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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6297


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:27 PM) —I have some mixed feelings about this. Last night we had the debate about amendments (3) and (4). I had obviously some sympathy with the argument. Having made quite a significant speech about consistency, as I said, I had some sympathy with the amendments that Senator Harradine was moving—although not indicating support for the amendments. I had the opportunity this morning briefly, because we were back in here at 9.30, to have a discussion with the Prime Minister about the possibility of giving us time to contemplate this in more detail—maybe through regulation. Because Senator Ellison also has an amendment, we have not had time to take all of those into account. At the risk of prolonging this debate, when people get revved up again I am wondering whether it would be appropriate to defer any further debate on the bill until we can indicate to people whether there is an alternative way of addressing the importation issue, at least to give breathing space to consider it in much more detail.

I believe that there is reasonable goodwill. As I have said before, people have very strong feelings and when we debate these bills that have moral implications there are very strong views held on both sides—other people are more lukewarm—and it ranges across a continuum. If we can have that goodwill, I would hope that does not leave it open for there to be another open-ended debate in the committee stage. I would hope that those honourable senators who believe strongly in these amendments and who think that it might be overturned would allow that time in order for an alternative or a compromise to be examined.

In my sense of goodwill in addressing that, I would expect reciprocal goodwill in that the debate would not go on ad infinitum as a result of that. I am suggesting that we postpone debate on this bill at this stage and defer it to a later hour on another day—I do not think that it will be today or tomorrow— and that we move on to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 so that I can come back and indicate what might be possible at least in terms of an alternative for those people who have a concern. As I said, it will not satisfy everyone, but that is the compromise that I am offering.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—Minister, you will need to move that the committee report progress.