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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6881

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (7:33 PM) — Before I was so rudely interrupted by the dinner break—and it was the fault of nobody that I was rudely interrupted; I was quite glad to have a dinner break, but I could not believe it was half past six—I was in the middle of a speech. I might go back over all the problems about a proposed new offence and why it has to be made clearer. I said: does the victimisation have to relate directly to the conscientious objection? On the basis of the current draft the offence is created if a person is victimised and if they conscientiously object—and I want to emphasise the word `if'—rather than because they conscientiously object. It does not need to be a causative connection between a dismissal and a conscientious objection.

The issue of victimisation is a very complex one and is not appropriately dealt with through the simple creation of a criminal offence detailed in a few paragraphs. As I mentioned before, in relation to the broader issue of conscientious objection, there are many other areas in research—for example, there are people who have a strong opposition to research on animals—where the guidelines have to cover people who have a conscientious objection. Those objections are more appropriately dealt with in the guidelines issued by the NHMRC.

Senator Brown —What are the guidelines that have been issued by the NHMRC?

Senator PATTERSON —Senator Harradine actually read them out. The NHMRC has guidelines on ethical matters for research involving humans—the National statement on ethical conduct in research involving humans 1999. Supplementary note 5, 1983, on human foetus use and the use of human foetal tissue states:

In this, as in other experimental fields, those who conscientiously object to research projects or therapeutic programs conducted by institutions that employ them should not be obliged to participate in those projects or programs to which they object, nor should they be put at a disadvantage because of their objection.

That is what is indicated in the guidelines.