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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6814


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (12:51 PM) —I thank Senator Stott Despoja for her brevity. The amendment seeks to confine permission to use excess ART embryos to the derivation of stem cells. COAG made no distinction between different types of research on excess ART embryos and it did not place restrictions on the types of research for which a licence may be sought. While the legislation does not limit the types of research for which a licence may be sought, it does include safeguards to ensure that trivial or inappropriate research involving embryos does not occur—that is, each application is to be considered and approved or rejected on its own merits.

This amendment would prevent couples from donating their excess ART embryos to IVF related research. Many couples want to donate their excess ART embryos for this type of research, in order to help other infertile couples to become pregnant. While the legislation does not limit the types of research for which a licence may be sought, it does include safeguards to ensure that trivial or inappropriate research involving embryos does not occur and that any application to undertake research involving excess ART embryos must be considered and approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee, according to a range of criteria set out in the NHMRC guidelines.

A similar amendment was moved in the lower house and was defeated. The bill that is now before this chamber and has been passed by the House of Representatives is nationally consistent with the approach determined by COAG. It ensures appropriate ethical oversight, sets out clear standards underpinned by NHMRC guidelines, will be applied consistently throughout Australia, provides for public reporting and appropriately monitors compliance. All of those are outlined in the COAG communique at paragraph 6—6.1 to 6.5—as partially read out by Senator Hogg. I indicate that those who are supporting the bill will not be supporting this amendment.