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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7108


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (10:50 AM) —There are two issues that I want to briefly address, and I have just briefed informally with Senator Ian Campbell. I take the point he made earlier that there is some level of flexibility to ensure timeliness in this debate. Some issues have already been deferred because they relate to a cluster of issues that can be dealt with all at one time, following the report of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills that we are anticipating being tabled around four o'clock this afternoon. There may be some limitations to take account of that report before five o'clock this afternoon, so I foreshadow that that is a likely issue in relation to the timeliness. The issues around a proposed regulation in regard to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 relate to clauses 8, 11 and 21. My suggestion would be that we deal with them together in looking at the issues around clause 21, and deal with them once, so that we are not duplicating the arguments. That has been the justification for deferring those issues in the debate so far. I should say that I have got Senator Ian Campbell's assurance that that flexibility is what he was envisaging when he said that there would be the ability to be flexible around those issues.

The other issue I wanted to address follows on from Senator Bartlett's comments about the debate. I can appreciate that someone who is not intimately involved in this debate might have a perception about it taking up excessive time. I could agree, for instance, that the debate we had yesterday on Senator Harradine's amendment (3) stayed around that particular amendment for quite a considerable period of time. However, that debate was in fact dealing with a series of amendments. The debate related to at least the next half-dozen amendments, and once the debate occurred around one amendment the committee moved very quickly through the next half-dozen or so.

This is the second time the issue has been raised that there are attempts to scuttle this debate. I have not heard them directed to me personally, but I find those comments quite offensive. I do not believe that the character of this debate in committee has been of that nature. Unlike the debate in the House of Representatives—where there was no realistic prospect of most, if not all, of the amendments being carried—in this case anyone looking at the running sheet will see that we are considering serious issues related to the character of the regime to be established.

The question that has been addressed by most of the amendments is that COAG had promised that there would be a strict regulatory regime. This issue was addressed by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. Various recommendations were raised in the various Senate committee reports, and this committee has been addressing them quite seriously in a series of amendments. Some of those amendments have succeeded, some of them have failed— in some cases they have been very close failures—and some matters have been resolved by agreement. This is how the Senate committee process works. I understand why for some people the amount of time that might be involved is frustrating, particularly if they are not intimately involved in the debate. But there has been concrete work occurring in this committee process, and I find obnoxious any suggestion that the time being taken to do this is simply an attempt to scuttle the bill and I do not think it in any sense accurately reflects the work that has been going on in this committee.

Question agreed to.