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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6820

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (1:26 PM) — Senator Collins's first amendment, like Senator Nettle's amendment, seeks to strengthen the wording of the exemption in clause 10 relating to diagnostic investigations. I do not consider Senator Collins's amendment to be necessary because I believe that the exemption is already very strongly worded and there is no potential for loopholes. The legislation provides a range of safeguards ensuring that general research activities cannot avoid licensing by relying on the exemption for diagnostic investigations. While I believe the criteria for exemption are sufficiently strong and provide for very limited exemption to allow valuable diagnostic work to be undertaken in the treatment of a particular woman, I am also aware that this exemption has been of concern to a number of people. In particular, I am aware of the advice of the Deputy Chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee that the wording of the exemption could be strengthened by the inclusion of a few words.

As I indicated, I am prepared to support an amendment that gives effect to the advice provided by AHEC. However, I believe that the amendment proposed by Senator Nettle is preferable to that proposed by Senator Collins. Senator Nettle provides that the `embryo is not suitable to be placed in the body of the woman for whom it was created, because of its biological condition, including poor physical condition'. This aligns with that suggested by the Deputy Chair of AHEC and, given the strong and central role AHEC have had over the last five or more years, I believe that this would be a more appropriate amendment. As I said, I will be opposing Senator Collins's first amendment but propose to support the amendment proposed by Senator Nettle. Senator Collins's second amendment seeks to include a new definition of `diagnostic investigation'. Again, given my support for the Nettle amendment, I will not be supporting this amendment.