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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6338

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (10:20 AM) —I thank both ministers for their contributions. I have a question for Senator Ellison in relation to the amendments he has proposed to the Customs Act, I believe. My question relates to the definition of viable materials. My understanding is that the minister in his explanation specified that this would include stem cells. I do not want to misrepresent the minister's contribution. That is why I seek clarification. Minister, the amendment, as you outlined it to the chamber, involves `viable materials'. What does that mean? How could that be defined? I am presuming that stem cells are only one part of what you would define as viable materials. Am I on the wrong track? I just want to get clarification of the wording and what it actually means. I had sympathy similar to the minister's with the intent of Senator Harradine's amendments, for the same reasons. I was concerned not only about consistency but about the fact that in this chamber we have deplored the notion of human reproductive cloning, and thus the legislation—

Senator Patterson —That was what I was meaning by consistency.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —I am agreeing with you.

Senator Patterson —But you said there wasn't consistency—

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —No, I said I was concerned not only because of consistency but for a whole range of ethical and other reasons. My concern with the original amendments put forward by Senator Harradine—which I understand was also the government's concern—was the broad-ranging nature of the amendment. By that I mean the terminology in relation to products and whether or not that took into account everything from intellectual property through to stem cells et cetera.

I guess one of the things that we were discussing both in the chamber and behind the scenes with all senators involved in this debate was whether we could achieve the intent of those amendments but perhaps with a tightening of the definitions. I wonder if that has been achieved by the amendments that Senator Ellison is proposing or whether we still have some issues that we have to confront when we use terminology such as `viable materials'.