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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7126


Senator HARRADINE (12:39 PM) —I move amendment (7) on sheet 2751 revised:

(7) Page 18 (after line 11), after clause 24, insert:

24A Requirements before issuing a licence

Before issuing a licence, the NHMRC Licensing Committee must:

(a) publish every application for a licence, including details of the proposed research use to which human embryos will be put, on the Internet within one week of receipt; and

(b) allow 10 working days from the day when the application is placed on the Internet for the receipt of public submissions in relation to the application for a licence; and

(c) consider submissions lodged in accordance with paragraph (b) before issuing a licence; and

(d) report on its consideration and evaluation of those submissions in the publicly available database required by section 29.

The amendment is very important for transparency. It is very important for those who are interested in this whole question of transparency. COAG itself was saying that all of these things should be open and the information should be available to the public and so on. If we are going to be open about this to the public, as COAG recommended, the amendment would improve accountability, transparency, opportunity for public consultation and public scrutiny of licence applications by allowing the public to access and comment on licence applications before the NHMRC Licensing Committee makes a decision. This is consistent with paragraph 6.4 of the COAG communique of 5 April on which this bill is to be based. It states:

The system should provide for public reporting of research involving embryos so as to improve transparency and accountability to the public.

We are talking about transparency and accountability. I believe that the minister should give serious consideration to this matter to see why this does not improve the bill. I believe it does improve the bill and, particularly, it improves the transparency and accountability to the public.