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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6885


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (7:58 PM) — The statement at the beginning of the 1999 National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans says it is endorsed by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, the Australian Research Council, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Academy of Science and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and that it is supported by the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. I say that because I was asked what organisations and institutions the guidelines apply to. All I can say is that I presume it is a pretty broad range of research institutions when you have the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, the Australian Research Council, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering supporting the guidelines which I referred to before. We will have to agree to disagree.

Some people argue that the guidelines should be enforced in law. But there is a raft of legislation covering unfair dismissal and discrimination that people can resort to if they believe that they have been discriminated against on the basis of their conscientious objection to research projects or therapeutic programs conducted by the institutions that employ them. The guidelines are there and they are supported by a large number of institutions that are covered or do research within either universities or other institutions. I believe that that is sufficient. I find this whole debate quite difficult because I am often put in a situation—and I presume some other people in the chamber feel the same way—where my scruples, morals and intentions are being questioned. That is not the case. I believe that people should be able to conscientiously object about doing research, and I find it offensive to be put in a situation which makes me feel otherwise. I believe that these measures cover those people. There are people who conscientiously object but, to those people who are putting up the amendment, I say: do not come to this chamber and pretend that somehow you have the truth, because those of us on the other side feel very strongly that people should be able to conscientiously object. However, we believe that they are covered, so I am not going to sit here and tolerate people implying and impugning that I do not care about people conscientiously objecting. You might wonder why I feel angry about it. I have been sitting here and I have been very calm. But to imply that those of us who are not supporting the amendment do not support those people who conscientiously object is wrong. We believe that their concerns are adequately covered by the guidelines and other legislation. I will not be supporting the amendment.