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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7070


Senator HARRADINE (10:42 PM) —I move amendment (7) on sheet 2696:

(7) Clause 24, page 17 (before line 7), before subsection (1), insert:

(1A) A licence is subject to the condition that before the use of an excess ART embryo may be authorised by the licence, the regulations must provide a mechanism for the proof of date of the creation of each embryo covered by the licence.

(1B) A licence may only be issued in respect of an excess ART embryo which has a proven date of creation.

This is a rather important matter. The amendment is self-explanatory. It seeks to add another subclause to clause 24. Clause 24, on page 17, deals with the matter of the licence being subject to certain conditions. I am proposing another condition, as outlined in my amendment. The background for this is, I think, unexceptionable. I ask the minister to consider this very seriously. The amendment specifies that there must be proof of the date of the creation of the embryo proposed to be used for research. This is a significant amendment that addresses a fundamental flaw or loophole in the bill.

Both clauses 21 and 24 of the bill refer to this particular date as a threshold issue which, in part, determines whether or not an embryo can be used for research. Lack of proof of this date is, I believe, a major oversight. The COAG communique also states, in paragraph 6.5:

... the system should enable appropriate monitoring of compliance with the national standards and provide legislated penalties for non-compliance.

One of the central responsibilities of a government in establishing a new regulatory regime like the one proposed in this bill is to create an effective environment to ensure that the objectives of the legislation are met. One of the key requirements of the COAG communique, detailed in appendix 1 of the communique, is that the embryos to be declared surplus `must have been created before 5 April 2002'. I quote their words. As I said, this date is mentioned in clauses 21 and 24 of the bill, but an important factor in establishing this regulatory regime is recognising that the decision on whether or not an embryo was created before this date is dependent on the accuracy of information from the ART centre concerned. As the ART centres are self-interested organisations—I use that term in the technical sense—there is an obvious need to have some proof that the claimed date of creation of embryos is correct.

This is a key risk factor that the intent of the legislation will not be achieved. It is a risk that should have been identified in a risk assessment of this bill. I am wondering what type of risk assessment was done. It is not unusual to have such requirements in legislation. For example, in the child support laws paternity is regarded as a threshold issue which requires proof. My amendment simply strengthens the audit controls of this regulatory regime to ensure that one of the key objectives of this legislation is achieved. The licensing committee will not be able to monitor compliance with this legislation without documentary proof of the date of creation of each and every human embryo. I hope, in the interests of a `strict regulatory regime'—to quote the words of the COAG agreement—this amendment will be adopted by the chamber.