Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7248

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (11:00 AM) —I will not be supporting Senator Bishop's amendment to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002. It is quite appropriate that applicants for a licence or licence holders have the right to ask the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review an NHMRC Licensing Committee decision in respect of issuing or declining to issue a licence, specifying licence conditions, varying or refusing to vary licence conditions, or suspending or revoking a licence. I believe that this is explicitly allowed for in clause 32. But I am not sure why it is necessary— and I certainly do not see that it is necessary—to expand the list of eligible persons who can apply for an AAT review to include the woman and the man who provided the egg and the sperm, the woman for whom an embryo was created or, indeed, their respective spouses. These people must give their consent before their excess ART embryos can be licensed by the NHMRC committee for research, training or quality assurance. It is not at all clear, and I do not think it has been made clear, why they would need to access the AAT to review a decision. If the donors of the excess ART embryo become aware that the purposes specified in their consent have not been honoured, that is a breach of the licence—as it should be. Remedies of course exist under the legislation—including, let us not forget, criminal actions—for the licensing committee changing or failing to honour, and thus breaching, the licensing conditions.

We think that expanding the range of eligible persons to any interested group, even if they think they are acting in the public interest, opens up some interesting opportunities—even arguably, at worst, systematic abuse—by allowing vexatious applications to review all decisions made by the licensing committee. I think that this amendment can be misused—in some ways, perhaps, to undermine the very intent of the legislation. The people who should be involved in accessing the tribunal are already catered for under the legislation. I think that any reason why those people would want to ensure a review of a decision is allowed for under the legislation. Even the fact that there is potentially a breach would be dealt with, and is dealt with, under this legislation. I put on record again my grave concern about third parties getting involved. I think that senators can see the potential for abuse under that amendment. We will not be supporting it.