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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7055

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (8:54 PM) —At about the same time last night—and it has now been another 24 hours and a significant amount of that time has been spent in this chamber doing this—I objected to an impugnation by a senator on my motives or on the motives of other people in not supporting amendments. Any indication that, because of the argument I put forward, I had a particular view or that I was supporting pharmaceutical testing I find offensive, and I do not think it is appropriate.

I actually have reasonable trust in a system, with a range of people from a range of areas, as outlined in the bill, to be able to make judgments. I would have thought that honourable senators—with the sort of experience that one or two on the other side have, particularly the senator who just gave his contribution, having a medical background— would know that there is a possibility that a pharmacological study might be used to find a better medium in which an embryo could be stored or frozen or a better way in which it could be maintained to be viable. Obviously, that would be tested on animal models right up to the point where it was thought to be appropriate and could provide a better outcome, meaning that more embryos would be taken and women would not have to go through the very difficult procedure of egg extraction. There is a possibility. It may be appropriate to test in that way. I do not know whether the honourable senator opposite is indicating that we should not do any further experiments in preserving those embryos in a better way.

Senator Brown —But where do you draw your line?

Senator PATTERSON —The senator asks where I draw the line. That is exactly what I just pointed out. Once you go through each item and you admit something, you are indicating then that that might be okay. We have very strict criteria.

Senator Brown —There is no line.

Senator PATTERSON —We will disagree most probably forever. But I do find it galling that the people who are supporting some of these amendments impugn those who do not with motives other than honourable motives. I find that totally unacceptable and I will not tolerate it. Whenever it happens, I will get very stroppy and quite strong about it, because I think that it is inappropriate. I have not questioned the motives of anybody else putting amendments forward. I do not like my motives or the motives of people who will support the amendment being impugned. You might think the argument is not good enough. Let us put it to the vote. I believe the system is sufficient for reasonable testing—for example, if it were required to find a better way to store an embryo—and it is appropriate. That is the sort of judgment that I would expect people of integrity and honour to make. You might mistrust people; I actually have a little more faith. I think you would have to outline every detail and explain in what circumstances you could test, for example, a medium in which it was better to freeze an embryo or some procedure by which to freeze an embryo.

Let me just say that I will not be supporting the amendment. I will not tolerate people coming in here and impugning my motives or the motives of anybody else who is voting against the amendments. It has to be fair in here. A couple of times I could have said things that I might have regretted or I had thought in my head about what people have said in here, but I have not said those things, because I think it is fair for people to have their judgment and their view and to be treated with fairness and honour in this place. But I find it offensive when people come in here and say that I am not standing up to this and I must therefore accept pharmaceutical testing. I ask people to bring a little bit more calm back into this. I am feeling a bit agitated now, because last night the same thing happened. I will not tolerate it and I will get up every time. I have been calm in the discussions. I have sometimes disagreed with people, but I have not impugned or questioned their motives.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Ferguson)—Before I call Senator Brown, I would like to say that, in my careful listening to Senator Brown, I do not believe he impugned any motives at all.

Senator Patterson —It's not up to you to make a judgment.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I am not making a judgment. You have suggested that he has impugned motives and I do not believe, from my position, that he has.