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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7065


Senator BARNETT (10:12 PM) —Yes, that is fine. I accept that. I have two other amendments on this issue. I seek leave to move amendment (R5) on sheet 2694 revised, together with amendment (1) on sheet 2757 revised.

Leave granted.


Senator BARNETT —I move:

(R5) Clause 21, page 16 (after line 2), after subclause (3), insert:

(3B) The NHMRC Licensing Committee may only issue the licence to authorise the extraction from human embryos of human embryonic stem cells and for no other purpose.

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

(3C) The NHMRC Licensing Committee must not issue the licence if the use of an excess ART embryo proposed in the application involves the testing, creation or manufacture of any pharmaceutical or cosmetic product.

I stand to support both amendments, but amendment (R5) makes the issue very clear. It states:

The NHMRC Licensing Committee may only issue the licence to authorise the extraction from human embryos of human embryonic stem cells and for no other purpose.

I will be brief, because I have made these arguments before, but I will repeat them again. This whole debate is about cures—to do that, you extract the stem cells from a human embryo. If that is what the proponents and everyone else agrees is the main purpose of the bill, why don't we say it and advise the committee accordingly? We could authorise the committee to issue licences only for that purpose and for no other purpose. Surely that is an appropriate amendment. Then you can rule out all these other options in terms of drug testing on a human embryo or on a human embryonic stem cell.

I am moving these two amendments together because I can see the numbers—the support is not there—but I am still making the argument that I think they are valid. The second amendment is the weakest amendment that I could possibly envisage in regard to drug testing on human embryos or embryonic stem cells. It says:

The NHMRC Licensing Committee must not issue the licence if the use of an excess ART embryo proposed in the application involves the testing, creation or manufacture of any pharmaceutical or cosmetic product.

That, as I have said, is an amendment which I could live with. I hope that the minister can advise whether she is willing to live with that amendment or whether she does not wish to support it. It would be good for senators to get that on the record. That amendment is different to the other one because it specifies the testing, creation and manufacture of pharmaceutical or cosmetic product and it includes both the pharmaceutical—that is, the drug—and the cosmetic product.

I seek the minister's response to those two amendments. The same arguments as those that were put by Senator Harradine apply. We want to close the door on drug testing on human embryos and the testing of cosmetics on human embryos or human embryonic stem cells. I do not believe that having confidence in a regime will do the trick. For the sake of brevity, I have been through those arguments before. If we can seek from the minister clarification of whether she supports that amendment, that would be good. If she does, so be it.