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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7249


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (11:06 AM) — This amendment seeks to expand the definition of `eligible person' in relation to persons who have the right to appeal to the AAT. The Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 currently allows review of decisions by a defined class of persons: the applicants for a licence and the licence holders. Appeal to the AAT is permitted on a range of decisions, including a decision not to issue a licence, a decision to specify licence conditions and a decision to suspend or revoke a licence. I will be opposing any amendment which gives standing to an interested party to appeal decisions of the NHMRC Licensing Committee to the AAT. I consider that such an amendment would enable any interest group to frustrate the policy intent of this legislation by seeking review of all decisions made by the NHMRC Licensing Committee. The effect of this would be to provide no regulatory certainty to applicants and to ensure considerable time delays before any activity could proceed.

It is important to remember that the AAT does not have the power to make decisions outside the scope of the legislation or change government policy enacted in the legislation. If the objective of the amendment is to provide greater opportunity for the views of interested parties to be heard on general issues rather than on the merits of any specific application, these concerns are better considered in other forums. They are not matters which can be properly addressed at the merits review stage, and the AAT is not the appropriate body through which organisations should attempt to change government policy enacted in the legislation. For these reasons, I will not be supporting the amendment.