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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7116


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (11:37 AM) —I thank Senator Patterson for acknowledging that perhaps in part the genesis of this amendment was her own comments to the effect that if people had such a strong objection to the use of embryos in this sort of work it would be interesting to see whether they maintained that objection once treatments were developed or related to the destruction of human embryos.

I support this amendment quite strongly because that is essentially the basis of my view. I take strong moral exception to our taking this step of utilising human life. It is a very utilitarian approach and a very dangerous approach. It is likely to have significant implications in the future and it is a step that we should not have taken. I am quite happy to face that challenge in the future. I am quite happy to be able to deal with the issue in the future as to whether I access treatment related to this type of research.

But the problem is that Senator Patterson's response now to this amendment is to say, `Yes, I can accept that I did issue that challenge earlier on in the piece, but it's going to be all too difficult to hold you to the challenge. It's just all too difficult to do.' I find that very difficult to accept, Senator Patterson. You have argued against Senator Harradine's comments that this is not quite the same as smoking, and I agree with you on that point. I think the better analogy—even though it involves voluntary labelling—is probably the dolphin-free tuna example. People who have problems with consuming tuna that involves harming dolphins want to see tuna cans labelled to indicate that point so that they will not consume that tuna. This is much the same point.

What we are doing here is establishing a regime for research on embryos, and this is where I do not think your argument that we should do this elsewhere, perhaps under trade practices legislation or the like, holds up either. If we are establishing a regime for research on embryos, then let us make sure that the information stays with it. Let us make sure that it is not too complicated in the future to be able to say, `This research involved the use of human embryos.' Because, if we do not do it now, then you are right: perhaps we never will be able to do it. But if we do it now and, as Senator Harradine is suggesting, make it a requirement of the licensing process that the participants in this process ensure that if it does involve the destruction of human embryos then that information is available for the community as a whole, then it will happen. Then, Senator Patterson, you will in the future be able to hold me to your challenge. We are asking you to be able to do that.

With respect, the reasons that you have come up with as to why it is so difficult and complicated to do it do not stand up. If we require it now in the regime, that information will be available in the future. If we do it as part of the licensing process, that information will be available in the future. If we put it off onto trade practices or just say, `It's all too hard,' then of course the ethical perspective which is in my view much akin to this third-way ethical perspective—which is really more ethical fudginess—is what prevails in our community. I do not want to be fudgy on this, Senator Patterson. I want you to be able to hold me to my view in the future, which is that I find it quite abhorrent to start tampering with human life for the potential benefit of the community as a whole.

I did not make this contribution in last night's debate, which went on for a very long time, as to where we are heading on this and whether we should perhaps just restrict this research to the extraction of stem cells. I want to take this moment to refer to an article from New Scientist that Senator Patterson herself referred me to, because I think this best emphasises the point. Here is an example of where some progress may be likely in the future in relation to stem cell work—that is, with animals, or cows, in this case. The article reads:

They ... injected blood-forming stem cells (which also give rise to immune cells) from the cloned fetuses back into the cows. One cow had its immune systems suppressed with drugs.

They have had some success in this research. But the critical aspect of this research involving cloned cows is that the blood cells injected into the cows came from 100-day-old cloned foetuses. It was not possible to succeed with this research otherwise because for the cells that needed to be extracted— from the liver, I think—you needed the cloned foetuses to develop to the 100-day-old stage. The article in New Scientist goes on to say:

There is no question of allowing human cloned embryos to grow to that stage to harvest stem cells, but Lanza says ACT—

which is Advanced Cell Technology—

and others are trying to derive blood stem cells directly from embryonic ones.

But there is the question of what happens when we fail to get stem cells from embryonic ones or when elsewhere in the world, where we have more liberal regimes on cloning, we are able to look at examples where perhaps the argument becomes, `If we could just let a human clone be developed beyond 14 days to, let's say, 20 days, we could have a liver that was advanced enough for us to be able to extract these cells, and it would have such a significant advance in relation to problems associated with immune deficiency.'

Where are we then? Are we then contemplating, or elsewhere in the world are they contemplating, that cloned human embryos be allowed to develop beyond this 14 days? This is why I am also not convinced about the 14 days issue in this bill. Those who say that the slippery slope argument has no validity simply do not understand what is happening in science here, and those who do not have a firm view in their mind about what are appropriate limits in this issue also do not understand.

For those who say things like, `If you are opposed to using humans under a utilitarian type perspective, for the common good, for research, then don't use it yourself in the future,' this is their chance to hold us to that. I must say I am surprised that Senator Patterson has not struggled further against the advice she is receiving and found some way of enabling the likes of me, Senator Harradine and a broad range of people to be able to say in the future, `This is why we found this problematic; this is why we never wanted to go down that path ourselves; this is why we have not accepted the results of that research ourselves.' I want to be able to meet that challenge, Senator Patterson, and I am very disappointed that the government is not allowing us to be able to do that in the future.