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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6349

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (11:24 AM) — This amendment of Senator Bishop's proposes to amend the object of the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 to include as one of the objects of the legislation `limiting the number of human embryos used in those regulated activities to the minimum necessary to achieve the purposes of those activities'. I will not be supporting the amendment because I do not believe that changing the object of the act is helpful.

The NHMRC Licensing Committee will have the power to limit the number of embryos permitted to be used under each licence issued by the committee. They will do this by having regard, under clause 21, to the number of embryos likely to be necessary to achieve the goals of the activity or project proposed in the application. This information will be contained on the publicly available database of licence applications so that the public will have full information about the total number of embryos permitted to be used under licences issued by the NHMRC Licensing Committee. I believe that this provides a high level of transparency and accountability and will also provide us with very valuable information to inform the review of the legislation in three years time.

The object of the act is not meant to include every detail relating to the implementation of the act but to be an overarching statement of intent. The object of the act was developed in consultation and it addresses the intent of the legislation, which is to regulate the use of excess ART embryos. There is a range of concerns raised by COAG which are not directly addressed in the object, such as the need for informed consent and the likelihood of significant advance in knowledge. These issues are, however, all addressed in the body of the legislation.