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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7196


Senator HARRIS (6:20 PM) —In rising to support both Senator Collins's and Senator Murphy's amendments, I will firstly speak very briefly on Senator Murphy's amendment. I believe that it does have merit and that it also has practical application. Just recently I spent some time on the north coast—that is, the Sunshine Coast in Queensland—and members of the CSIRO were able to relate to me that one of the reasons that they could actually carry out the research and developments in technology that they were doing was that they could access intellectual property that was in the public domain. If they had had to take into account the paying of royalties in relation to either the technology or the samples that they required, that would have impacted on their ability to carry out that research. I support Senator Murphy's statement that he believes that, by not allowing the patenting of developments or actual samples deriving from embryos, we will encourage the actual research.

Senator Collins's amendments will provide for a licence to be automatically revoked if a person applies for a patent as a result of holding an NHMRC licence. The minister pointed out that there are problems in respect of an amendment that is not strictly designed to achieve that end. However, there is a considerable history in this place, even during the 3½ years I have been here, of legislation being brought in, which has had an impact on aspects other than those relating to the relevant bill. If it was the government's intention to eventually amend the Patents Act, all they would have to do is bring in a consequential amendment to delete the relevant section from the legislation. During the interim, the amendment will have carried out its purpose with clarity. It would neither hold up this legislation, nor detract from the assessment of the Patents Act.

In conclusion, I express One Nation's support for the amendments. The intellectual property right that is derived from any embryo research—and I believe that that should be only in relation to IVF—should stay in the public domain. There should be no commercial gain derived from a human being in that respect. Senator Murphy's amendment can coincide with that of Senator Collins and it would merely require the government to bring in a consequential amendment when they alter the Patents Act.