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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7064


Senator HARRADINE (10:05 PM) —by leave—I move amendments (6) and (12) on sheet 2751 revised:

(6) Clause 21, page 16 (after line 2), after subclause (3), insert:

(3A) The NHMRC Licensing Committee must not issue the licence if the use of human embryos, human embryonic stem cells or any product derived from human embryos or human embryonic stem cells, proposed in the application involves:

(a) the testing, creation or manufacture of any pharmaceutical or cosmetic product; or

(b) the manufacture of any pharmaceutical or cosmetic product.

(12) Clause 48, page 35 (after line 13), at the end of the clause, add:

(3) The regulations must include provision for labelling pharmaceutical and cosmetic products including the notification that human embryos or human embryonic stem cells have not been used in the testing, creation or manufacture of any pharmaceutical or cosmetic product.

I will be brief because the argument was made for the matter in principle just a moment ago. One of the reasons for this amendment to clause 21—and I hope it is supported—is that, rather than making it a straight-out offence, it does give authority and guidance to the NHMRC Licensing Committee. It really is an amendment to prohibit the NHMRC Licensing Committee from issuing a licence if the application involves the use of human embryos or human embryonic stem cells in the testing, creation or manufacture of pharmaceuticals or cosmetics. In the discussion that we had previously I gave the example of an institute bankrolled, if you like, by a drug company making an application to the licensing committee for the use of an ART embryo, or ART embryos. That drug company would then make the application and it would go through the institutional ethics committee of the drug company or its institute, and we have heard in the previous discussion that the information of its evaluation would not be publicly available.

Frankly, I believe that this is consistent with the COAG communique of 5 April 2002, which stated:

The Council agreed that research involving the destruction of existing excess ART embryos be permitted under a strict regulatory regime to enable Australia to remain at the forefront of research which may lead to medical breakthroughs in the treatment of disease.

The communique did not allow a broader range of research. It is not enough to just prohibit the use of human embryos in these activities; it is also important to prohibit the use of embryonic stem cells in this research. A prohibition restricted to human embryos would encourage the destruction of human embryos for their stem cells so that these stem cells could be used for much the same research.

Debate on the bill has shown that whatever support there is for destructive experiments on human embryos it is restricted to the production of embryonic stem cells to produce possible theoretical therapies for particularly intractable diseases. There is a range of other potential research uses for human embryos. Those involving pharmaceuticals and cosmetics appear to be the most likely due to their potential financial returns. These amendments are slightly different from the matter we just dealt with because this then hands it over to the National Health and Medical Research Council Licensing Committee.