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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7111

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (11:07 AM) —I cannot see any reason why this amendment would not be supported by every member of this chamber. If we sell a packet of peanuts, the labelling shows the salt content, the potassium content and every other content—and that is legal. In fact, it is illegal not to do so. If we do decide not to label products developed from human embryos, I wonder whether the ACCC would investigate it with regard to truth in labelling. The Greens and the Democrats pride themselves on openness, particularly with regard to openness on labelling and complete information that should be available to the purchasers.

I can see absolutely nothing that would prevent any member of parliament voting for this amendment. If you buy a bottle of tomato sauce or a packet of anything it is required to be labelled. There are many people in this community of Australia who find that absolutely repugnant. You can find them in the charismatic churches, the Church of Christ, the Baptist Church and the Catholic Church, and those people have moral objections to this. On the other side, you have people such as those Senator Brown represents. They do not want genetically modified food and fight very strenuously to oppose it. That is not a view that Senator Brown and I share, but we do share the values of requiring a product to be labelled.

The National Party support genetically modified food—we think it is good for a number of reasons which I will not go into now—but we feel that genetically modified products should be labelled. At least we respect the rights of people who do not share our views to be able to make an informed decision. Even though we think that genetically modified food can solve a lot of problems—food shortages and a number of other issues—we respect the right of people to know what they are buying.

There are many people who have a moral and ethical view that this is wrong, and they are not all to be found in the more conservative churches. A great many of them who have no moral or ethical objections object on ordinary grounds—cures were promised and they supported that, but now we are getting down to the commercialisation of it. I do not think many Australians would support the commercialisation of human embryos. But even the fair-minded who do so would say that everyone has a right to know what they are buying. I will be listening to the minister and to Senator Stott Despoja. I think that if Senator Stott Despoja is not with us on this she will have a great deal of trouble explaining—

Senator Stott Despoja —On a point of order: Ron, you talk about your thing; don't anticipate what I am going to say.

Senator BOSWELL —I should not anticipate what Senator Stott Despoja is going to say, and I apologise to Senator Stott Despoja. I always find her a pleasant person, although we do not have very many similar views. I have just been given an ESI flyer— like you would sell spaghetti or something else. It is titled, `The complete human embryonic stem cell solution' and has the subheadings `Total package', `Quality' and `Training and support'. ES Cell International are not ashamed of what they are doing. They are going out and promoting it. And why shouldn't they? They should if that is their view. They say:

Researchers are provided with a comprehensive package of material which includes detailed scientific protocols, and essential hES cell reagents, including qualified feeder cells.

ES Cell International can transport its hES cell lines anywhere in the world, and will assist researchers in obtaining the required import permits.

If you are prepared to go out there and put your name on a product, sell the qualities of that product and believe in the product, then you should not have any objection to labelling that product and telling the people what it has been made of, how it has been tested and so forth. I cannot, for the life of me, see that there would be any person who could reasonably object to an amendment on labelling. I have a similar amendment. I not sure whether it crosses over with Senator Harradine's, but I will certainly be supporting his amendment.