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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7068

Senator MARK BISHOP (10:33 PM) —I foreshadow that I will move my amendment (1) on sheet 2750. I understand the government is going to move a further amendment to insert two other words to this, subsequent to my amendment being carried. The committee might recall that this debate started right at the beginning of the committee stage, when there was extensive debate on the first evening on an amendment, which was later withdrawn in my name, to seek to restrict the number of embryos that might be used for the various purposes authorised under the bill and authorised by the NHMRC Licensing Committee. After some hours the point was made in a number of places that it was inappropriate to insert that provision in the objects of the act and, if my amendment was withdrawn at that time, it would be given fuller consideration if inserted into an appropriate place later in the bill.

I will not retread all of that ground. It is exactly the same discussion and the same debate, and the matter is fully on the record. Just very briefly, I would say the bill does not include any requirement for the NHMRC Licensing Committee to seek to minimise or restrict the number of human embryos that will be destroyed. The COAG decision, which this legislation is meant to reflect, stated that in the regulatory regime for the licensing of research involving the destruction of human embryos a licence would only be issued on a case-by-case basis, provided that the procedure involved a restricted number of embryos. That COAG decision had not been included in this bill prior to this amendment.

The amendment, when carried, will require the NHMRC Licensing Committee to go beyond simply having regard to the number of embryos that the research requires in deciding whether to issue a licence for destructive embryo research. Should this amendment be successful, the committee will instead be required to have regard to restricting the number of embryos that will be destroyed for the purposes of this licence. I understand there has been discussion on both sides of the chamber and that the amendment as circulated has been agreed to by both the parties.