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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7269

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (12:38 PM) —My comments on the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 will be very brief.

Senator Barnett —Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order: I will be seeking leave for those who would like to make a comment to have at least five minutes, once we get to 12.45 p.m.

Honourable senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McLucas)—There is no point of order, Senator Barnett.

Senator BOSWELL —When I started out in this debate—and this may seem strange to some people—I could not get the difference between the terms `expire' and `use'. I think that is where most people started. I began to get my mind around it, and then it started to become clear to me. In fact, I think I even rang Senator Harradine to ask the difference, and he explained it to me. But after that, it started to grip and I began to understand where it was coming from. But that was not so much my problem—although, for ethical reasons, I would not vote for the bill. My problem became the money trail—the commercialisation of life. That is where I became very strongly opposed to this bill.

I think this legislation has failed on many fronts. On the drug testing front, what sort of drug testing is it where you can actually test drugs on human embryos or stem cells? That is not what the people want. If you went around and asked the people, you would get an overwhelming rejection of that. Yes, some people might go for the cure, but they would not go for the drug testing. They would be overwhelmingly against it. On the labelling front, how could anyone reject labelling? It is just not possible to reject. On the export front, we proved—though the minister said it would be unlikely—that it was possible to clone from a stem cell. I put down some references. We proved that the Singapore government has allowed cloning. We proved that BresaGen and ES Cell International are setting up a laboratory in Singapore. Yet we firmly came down and said, `You certainly cannot clone a person in Australia, but once Australian embryos go overseas, that is okay—you can do anything you like.' I cannot understand that. I think this is bad legislation. In fact, as I have said in the debate a few times, I have been here 20 years and I have had some pretty hard knocks on native title and a few things like that, but I have never been so disappointed as I am today.