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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7043


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (7:45 PM) —I will not be supporting Senator Nettle's amendment. The licensing committee will be responsible for assessing applications and establishing that there has been proper consent and consideration by the Human Research Ethics Committee, and establishing the other criteria—for example, that there is likely to be a significant advance in knowledge et cetera. The licensing committee will not be reviewing the funding arrangements of universities and other researchers. There are other avenues by which senators can gain access to information on government expenditure and where it goes, and I do not think it is appropriate to do that through the licensing committee. Under the licensing scheme, all applicants will be subject to the same requirements for disclosure of information, which will be included in the public database maintained by the NHMRC.

The comment has been made that this does not fit with the COAG agreement. I remind honourable senators that the legislation that has come before the House of Representatives and the Senate was sent to the states for comment. I am sure that if they had felt it was significantly out of line with the COAG agreement we would have been advised and would have changed the legislation to ensure that we had uniform legislation across the country. I think it is a bit rich to come in here and to say over and over that this does not fit with the COAG agreement. It is an argument that has been used fairly frequently in this debate. COAG made a decision, COAG set out the communique and then the states were sent the legislation. I presume that if they had had violent disagreement with the legislation they would have advised us. I am not of a mind to support the amendment, and I am not sure that we can progress it much further than that. I again suggest that we put the amendment to the vote.