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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6895


Senator HARRADINE (9:10 PM) —I wish to indicate my support for the amendment. This happens to go to a very important matter that will come forward in the next amendment, relating to trading in embryonic stem cells. The real problem here is the issue that was raised in support of this amendment—that is, there is no way you can keep track of where embryonic stem cells are going to end up or for what purpose they will be used in another country. Singapore has been used as an example.

The other matter is that in the Senate Community Affairs Committee meetings and hearings it was acknowledged that this legislation does not prevent the selling of embryonic stem cells derived from human embryos to their destruction, to the highest bidder overseas. That is the real problem, if you are going to talk about the availability of possible cures in Australia, because it is going to cost you. It is only going to be the people who have the money who will be able to pay for it. That is it in a nutshell. I do not believe they are going to miss out on much because, as we know and as was presented to the committee, there is no proven principle about the efficacy of the so-called utilisation of embryonic stem cells for therapy. I support this amendment and I also support the points that have been made.

On the matter that Senator Boswell raised, I think that we are clear all round. I have heard, however, of the possibility—and it is only a possibility—that, instead of having somatic cell nuclear transfer, in fact it would be embryonic cell nuclear transfer. But for what purpose, unless it was for the testing of drugs and so on? The push for cloning will come from those sources which realise that the use of embryonic stem cells in therapy is nonsense for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they are histo-incompatible with the DNA of the patient. They think, `How will we get around this? We'll get around this by taking a somatic cell from the patient and placing that into an enucleated egg, having an electrical charge and Bob's your uncle'—or Bob's your embryo! It is gross. I was very interested to hear what the minister said about the approval aspect, and I hope that the NHMRC might make it a condition to explain to the donor all the options that the donor has for requiring that their embryos or the products therefrom will not be exported.