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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7121

Senator BARNETT (12:02 PM) —I stand again to support Senator Harradine's amendment and to respond to the comments of Senator Evans and, if I heard them correctly, of Senator Stott Despoja. Senator Evans, on behalf of the Labor Party, gave the clear impression that this matter is best dealt with in other legislation. That was the feeling. But I did not hear any undertaking, any 100 per cent commitment, that it would be done and would be done within a certain period of time. If it is important—and I and many senators in this chamber believe that this is an important issue—then why can't we have an undertaking that, within a certain period of time, we will fix this anomaly in the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002?

There is agreement in this chamber that we have a problem here with setting up a regime, but some of the senators in this chamber believe that it would be best dealt with in other legislation. The minister has made the point that, with the tobacco legislation, the warning labels are fixed via the Trade Practices Act. At least they are fixed. That is the point: the warnings are on those tobacco products. What we are doing here today is designing a regime—according to COAG, a strict regulatory and legislative regime—for research on human embryos, which through this bill opens the door to drug testing on human embryos and on human embryo stem cells. Let us fix the problem. Let us have that commitment and that undertaking, if you are not willing to go with this amendment today.

We have not actually heard arguments against the amendment. I would recommend that the advisers provide some more arguments against it, other than saying that it should be dealt with elsewhere, in some other legislation. That is simply not persuasive. I would seek a response from the minister, in the same way as I have asked for one from Senator Evans, that there will an undertaking, a commitment, that within a certain period of time this will be dealt with and will be fixed. Surely we can do that as a minimum. If we all agree that this is an area that requires addressing, let us fix it. I say we should do it now, here in this chamber; but if your proposal is to deal with it elsewhere, can we put that on the record? That might alleviate some concerns. I hope it does.

This whole thing is like the consumer's right to know and to have full disclosure. Drug testing on a human embryo is a controversial issue. It is like the situation with the importation of clothes—you want to know whether they were manufactured in an overseas country and whether slave labour or child labour was used. If that were the case, maybe you would not want to wear those clothes. Maybe that would be inappropriate and you would not feel right about that. Some perhaps would; some would not. Let us see if we can fix this. I would like to fix it here and now. I think the amendment is a sensible one, but I would like to have an undertaking to fix it, if we cannot fix it today. We have an acknowledgment of a problem. It needs to be fixed.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Harradine's) be agreed to.