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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7063


Senator HARRADINE (9:47 PM) —It is obvious that Senator Harris is not going to get that guarantee, because the government has just given $46.5 million to an outfit that is going to use some of that money for purposes which will involve the destruction of human embryos. That is $46.5 million that could have been used elsewhere, plus $5.3 million, plus a lot of other money—amounting to about $112 million. Unfortunately, a significant amount of that will be spent in this particular area, and spent when there is absolutely no evidence at all from peer reviewed journals that there is anything in these particular proposals. Money comes cheap.

Apparently the minister will not answer questions I have asked her. I take it for granted that the minister is saying that the human research ethics committees are secretive. The minister is assuming that they are secretive operations and their evaluation of the applications will not be made public, that it is all secret and there is no way the public can raise questions about the matter. I take it that that is what she is saying about this particular matter when it comes to the testing of drugs on embryos or stem cells.

I have specifically asked the minister whether the donors have control over the use of embryonic stem cells derived from the excess ART embryos for which they are the custodians. The minister has not confirmed that, and I assume that that is the situation. She made three points, the second of which related to the role of the donors. The role of the donors is very limited. They say what their embryos are to be used for, according to the legislation, but it does not go further. The donors could say, for example, `Yes, stem cells can be derived from the embryos,' but they will not be able to know, or keep control of, where those embryonic stem cells end up. Could they indeed end up in attempts in other countries to develop human embryos from embryonic stem cells? I said that last sentence deliberately, because there are people behind you who know that that is a fact, and that will come out later on in this debate.

I will ask those questions with regard to donors at some other stage, but I am going to conclude by saying that this is a defining moment. Here we are agreeing to the use of human embryonic stem cells, to the destruction of the human embryo for the purposes of drug testing. We were all a human embryo at one stage, needing only what we need now to survive—that is, shelter and nourishment. No civilised society can remain civilised if the status of the human being, that human embryo, is to be reduced to that of an experimental tool or a laboratory rat. And that is precisely what we are proposing: drug testing on human embryos or on human embryonic stem cells to the destruction of the human embryo. It might have been any one of us used for that purpose and I, for one, certainly would not want to see that happen.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Harradine's) be agreed to.