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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6898


Senator HARRADINE (9:35 PM) —It is obvious that amendment (1) defines `human tissue' to include `a cell, cells or cultured cells that have a human genome or an altered human genome'. There was no attempt to hide that. It is perfectly clear that this is about human tissue, human sperm, human eggs or human embryos and includes, because of the definition, human embryonic stem cells. It is required in this legislation, I believe, because this will be template legislation, and this is a chance for the states to make sure that this is observed in the various state legislation. Let me remind honourable senators that we are talking about procedures which a lot of people are placing false hope in and which, because of commercialisation, will only be available to those who can afford them. So embryonic stem cell cultures, if they are going to be of any use at all, will be only available to those who can afford them.

As I pointed out, we are talking about state laws here. It is important because, according to a number of state laws, the human tissue is defined as being obtained by removal from a human body. The question is whether the human embryo would be regarded as a human body for the purposes of this legislation. That is why there is a need to ensure that the medical procedures that would be facilitated and made lawful by this proposed act of parliament avoid the problems of existing laws.

In regard to trading, the payment of reasonable expenses is taken as being approved. Reasonable expenses obviously need to be paid. This proposed amendment would not prohibit that aspect at all. We are not talking about valuable consideration here. I am trying to prevent valuable consideration being paid because valuable consideration—in relation to the supply of human tissue by a person—includes any inducement, discount or priority in the provision of service to a person but does not include the payment of reasonable expenses incurred by the person in connection with the supply. So, if you adopted my amendment, it would still enable—and this may apply to Senator Stott Despoja in respect of her question to the Minister—the payment of reasonable expenses that are incurred by the person in connection with the supply of embryonic stem cells.

I will leave that to the committee and I think it is very important not only for the states, but also in order to maintain the attitude within Australia where these products are available for the health of this nation. The blood bank is a very good example of this. If you go to America, people are absolutely amazed that we have a free blood bank. They pay hand over fist for blood there, but here we do not and I would like to see that principle maintained in this proposed legislation.