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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7057


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (9:10 PM) —I would like to ask the minister a question. If a couple have excess embryos, what procedure would they go through to sign the embryos into drug testing or, for that matter, for export? Do they get a choice? Is there a paper on which they can say that they wish to use their excess embryos for a cure, to test drugs, or to be exported overseas to a place that has no rules or standards? What choice do the man and woman, the producers of these excess embryos, have? How do they make that choice? How is that choice given to them? I think that is a reasonable question. Can you tick box A to say that, yes, you can send them overseas? Can you tick box B for drug testing, or tick box C for a cure? How do these people make a decision?

I have an aversion to passing off the duties of this parliament to someone else. We have a democracy in this country. We all run for parliament. Senator Harradine gets up and pushes an agenda, and everyone knows where he is. They know that if they vote for Senator Harradine then they are going to get certain actions in the Senate. They know about Ron Boswell when they vote for him. We go out and we sell our product. We get out there and say, `Ron Boswell does this, this and this.' People judge whether they want to vote for Ron Boswell, Senator Harradine, Senator Murphy, the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. We all stamp our product. We say to people, `Vote for me, because I am a conservative and I will represent you in this way.' Then when we come in here, we say, `I don't want to represent you at all; I'll flick that over to some committee.'

I have been in this place for 20 years. I have been through native title debates—I have been through many debates. Some just pass through; some are very important. But I cannot think of any debate that will affect Australia and the long-term future of Australia more than this debate. When I go out and ask people to vote for me, they expect me to react. They do not expect me to flick a decision across to someone else who is unelected. They know what I stand for. I run that up the mast and say, `Ron Boswell stands for this.' When I come back here I do not have the choice to make a decision in line with what the people who voted for me want, because it gets flicked away to someone else. I have an aversion to that.

Even if the minister were to say, `Let's make it a regulation, and if you are not happy then the parliament has 15 days to disallow it'—and I think about three disallowances go through a year—I could live with that. Let the so-called experts make the decision and, if the parliament is not happy, someone who represents the values that are opposed to that particular decision can move a disallowance that will be tested by the numbers in the parliament. I feel pretty strongly about this: we are elected to make the decisions; it is not the NMHRC or any other unelected body. I want to put that to you very strongly, Minister. I do not expect you to answer that, but I wanted to put it on the record. I would like you to tell me how people with excess embryos will decide where those embryos will go. Is it by a declaration? By what particular means do they do that? How does it happen?