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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6824

Senator HARRADINE (1:54 PM) —I wish to ask the minister a couple of questions, but if anybody wants to speak on this subject I will sit down and wait for her return.

Senator Ian Campbell —Ask the questions, Brian.

Senator HARRADINE —I think it is very vital. If you have a look at the whole regime of this legislation, you can see that it requires—and much is made of this in the COAG agreement—a licensing committee. Even if you do not, as I do, oppose the legislation you at least ought to stick to what the COAG agreement was. The COAG agreement envisages the use of excess ART embryos after a licence has been obtained from a specific licensing committee which is to be established under the act. This particular clause exempts certain experiments and research from those provisions. We just have to look at what the exemptions are. Clause 10(2)(d) states:

A use of an excess ART embryo by a person is an exempt use for the purposes of subsection (1) if:

... ... ...

(d) the use is carried out by an accredited ART centre, and ...

That is point No. 1. That accredited centre can do anything it likes. It does not have to ask for an agreement or a licence or anything else, provided it is an accredited ART centre. Who gives that accreditation? None other than the industry itself. If we have a look at the definition of `accredited ART centre' on page 6 of the bill, it says:

accredited ART centre means a person or body accredited to carry out assisted reproductive technology by:

(a) the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee of the Fertility Society of Australia ...

It is the industry; it is not an independent organisation at all. I want to ask the minister: what supervision is made of the body that gives this accreditation? You have this in the legislation; how do we know whether we should put all of our confidence into the hands of that accreditation committee when there is no legislation or other independent authority involved? Bear in mind that the accredited ART centre can simply give permission for the use of excess ART embryos for a whole range of purposes so that the researchers and others involved do not have to obtain a licence. In due course, I would like to hear from the minister as to how that accreditation committee will be run and who will manage it. Is it simply an industry body?

I am surprised that the Labor Party would go along with this. I thought we were supposed to say, `No, we're not giving willy-nilly support to the industry to set up an industry committee for this, that or the other thing.' You are playing into the hands of the industry. You are not protecting innocent life or the women who may be affected; you are just leaving it to an industry body. I do not accept that. I would not accept it in the trade union movement and I do not think you ought to accept it in respect of this particular area.

Progress reported.