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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6351

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (11:37 AM) —With respect, Senator Patterson, you actually highlight the reason why we have not gone down the path of just putting `restrict' into clause 21. We accept the view that `restrict' is a difficult term for a licensing committee to apply in that context. The point I am making is that in the absence of this amendment nowhere in the bill does it refer to the objective of COAG, which is to restrict. This is why we have sought to put that into the objects.

I would also like to bring to the chamber's attention that in any of the ethical discussions on this issue—and I have to say this third way ethical position that was canvassed in the process is not mine—it seems implicit in many people's view that these embryos are human and they have some status, though in going to the state of extremes that status is not equivalent to that of an adult human being. If you accept the logic of that, then what flows from that position is the view that they do not attract full human status—a clumsy way to express it.

But what do they attract? Nearly the first thing that comes forward in ethical discussions is that if research is to occur it should occur only under tight restrictions. It should not occur easily and should not involve large numbers of embryos. I recall that Professor Hearn was one of the people who was very keen on that issue—that there should only ever be restricted numbers. But that object is nowhere in this bill. This is my point. It is in the AHEC guidelines. Other key parameters in the AHEC guidelines have been adopted but not the ethical concept not only that we take account of the numbers—that is not the point—but also that the licensing committee should take account of restricting the numbers. I do not want to see this bill just turned into a log of the numbers. That is not how the licensing committee should operate. Certainly I know AHEC understands this, but for the life of me I cannot understand why the bureaucracy within the NHMRC cannot. It is clear that COAG understands it, it is clear that AHEC understands it, it is reasonably clear from my discussions with people who accept this philosophy about embryos that they understand it; and Professor Hearn understands it. Many others have expressed that view in the debate. My point is that nowhere in this bill do we give effect to that ethical position that the number of human embryos used in these processes should be restricted.