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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7269

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (12:35 PM) —I take this moment to very briefly add to the comments made by Senator Brown reflecting that, through this committee stage of the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, we have not achieved the strict regulatory regime intended by COAG. The principal reason for that is highlighted by Senator Brown: we have left this system open to commercial interests. I know my perspective is coloured by my ethical position. I am quite happy to be up front about that. But I think anyone reflecting on my contribution to this debate and the nature of my amendments would also understand that I have concentrated on keeping COAG to their commitment on a strict regulatory regime. I come from a state which will go from a total ban to some nebulous guidelines, and we do not even know how they are currently being applied. Thankfully, those guidelines will now be regulations that come back before the parliament, but I believe it is still unclear whether licensing will occur before we get to scrutinise those guidelines. That would be completely inappropriate.

I want to very briefly highlight one issue. I do not believe we have ever had a good feel for what the community sentiment is on this issue. But let me give the Senate one very brief insight that will cause some to pause. There has been a lot of criticism about the role of the Fertility Society of Australia and how well regulated ART has been over the decades. Some believe that has improved in more recent times; some still hold very serious concerns. But this year, at the Fertility Society of Australia scientific meeting at the Radisson Resort on the Gold Coast, during one session that was addressed by Professor Trounson and others, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth asked the 200 delegates for their position on the issue of experimentation on embryonic stem cells. The result was quite illuminating. These are the practitioners in the regulated field. Of those 200, 30 were in support, 20 were opposed and the rest were undecided. There is no clear call in the community to inform the premiers for the positions they have taken here. There is no clear view to inform the Prime Minister for the position he has taken here. Personally, I think the ethical distinction he has found is abhorrent—and I think the result is abhorrent.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McLucas)—I advise the Senate that the minister is seeking the call, and there are a couple of others. We have six minutes.