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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6884


Senator BROWN (7:56 PM) —There is an important unanswered question here that I have heard from Senator Harradine and Senator Harris, and that is: what will the impact of the guidelines be in the workplace? I will reverse that and ask: are there workplaces where stem cells from embryos which are not under the aegis of the guidelines that the minister has spoken about may be used? In that respect, Senator Harradine alluded to students in certain situations. The second very clear argument here is to turn it around the other way and say: if this is not inconsistent but is in fact redundant because it traverses the same ground as the guidelines then what is the objection? There is one simple difference that I see: the guidelines are guidelines without any penalty for those who breach them, except that maybe they will be marked down by the NHMRC for some research grant. If there is some other penalty or comeback, I want to hear of it.

Senator Harradine's amendment says that this is so serious that, if there is a breach of those guidelines, there is a penalty; this is going to make people think before they breach those guidelines. We are talking about a fundamental principle of liberty, freedom, difference and diversity in our community. We are not talking about whether or not we agree with experimentation on stem cells from embryos; we are talking about the right of other people to have their conscience recognised and not penalised on the matter. I have heard nothing tonight to say that the guidelines do what this amendment does. I have heard it said that the guidelines cover the area, but this amendment gives force to the implementation of those guidelines. It says that they should not be breached and that they are not simply guidelines of which no notice should be taken—they actually have the force of law. When we are talking about defending the right of people in the workplace to exercise their conscience on a matter as fundamental as this, I think that is important.