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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7267

Senator HOGG (12:27 PM) —I believe that the most important aspect of the debate on the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 has been the access to a conscience vote for all senators. The debate in this chamber ensured, up to a point, that the legislation was properly reviewed. I was concerned at times in the debate when the Minister for Health and Ageing gave the impression that, as state governments had seen drafts of the legislation and had ticked off on it, therefore we the Senate should automatically tick off on the legislation.

Senator Patterson —I never said that.

Senator HOGG —I said `gave the impression', Minister, if you listened to my comment. I reject absolutely that the Senate should be viewed as a rubber stamp. Clearly the Senate is a properly elected and constituted body. It should never be taken for granted or treated in a manner that could constitute contempt. By and large, the point of reference has been the COAG agreement. However, the Senate has the responsibility to ensure that the legislation passed is good law and will stand up to basic transparency and accountability tests. The COAG agreement is not the only reference point and should not dictate, but rather form, the basis of the legislation.

In this sense the bill as first presented has been improved—not necessarily to the degree and satisfaction that everyone would like, but at least it has been improved. However, the basis of the bill still remains completely objectionable to me. One cannot avoid that the destruction of embryos for research is a destruction of life. As I said in my speech in the second reading debate, I started life as an embryo and, through the continuum of life, I am here today to participate in this debate. Interference or destruction at the earliest stage of my existence would have denied me the right to be here now. The value of life does not change, only the quality. It is disappointing to see the embryos, which were created for the purpose of life in the IVF program, becoming the by-product of the process to become the raw material for another process. I believe that, in spite of the improvement to the bill, it should fail to pass the Senate.