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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7034


Senator MURPHY (5:49 PM) —I know that this is a difficult task. We are dealing with fairly difficult legislation. But, at the end of the day, there are important issues here and they have to be debated. It might help expedite this process if we were able to get some answers. I accept that the minister might believe that there are sufficient processes and protection measures in place, but I would appreciate it if I could be informed of them so that I could consider them in my somewhat probably naive way. Nevertheless, I will do my best. I take account of what the NHMRC says. It recognises that further consideration needs to be given to intellectual property issues in health and medical research involving Indigenous people and communities and where research has the potential to benefit public health in an international context. Look at what the federal government itself has said:

... that, consistent with safeguarding human health and ensuring environmental protection, Australia captures the benefits of biotechnology for the Australian community, industry and the environment.

All I am asking is a question about how we guarantee the public interest factors here, particularly to affordable therapeutic and surgical methods that might arise from this type of research. I do not think that that is an unreasonable question. The reason I ask the question is that right now I do not believe that those things exist, and your answers give me no comfort. You say, `Tough. This has been a long debate.' I am sorry about that, but realistically it ought to be a process where answers are given. If the answers are there and I have not seen them or cannot find them then I would appreciate that they be given to me. Then I will take account of those answers and will not ask more questions. Your advisers might have that information. It would be useful if they could give it to me or to the Senate so that we can be aware of it.