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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6352

Senator HARRADINE (11:41 AM) —The minister says that she does not know what the term `restrict' means. What does that matter? The minister is sitting there refusing to accept any amendments. Why? Because of COAG— `We can't do this because of COAG.' If that is her approach to every amendment that is going to come up, here is an amendment that does conform strictly with what COAG decided, and it has been deliberately taken out of this legislation. Page 241 of the appendix to the COAG agreement says:

... A licence would only be issued where that project has the approval of an ethics committee established, composed and conducted in accordance with NHMRC guidelines, and that the approval is given on a case by case basis that:

... ... ...

ยท the procedure involves a restricted number of embryos and a separate account of the use of each embryo is provided to the ethics committee and the national licensing body ...

As has been asked by the mover of this amendment to the legislation and the other speakers, why has that not found its way to the objects of the legislation? The authorities, including the licensing authority, would be looking to the objects of the act in order to decide their view on the matter—on the application, for example. Unless you have the word `restricted' there in the objects of the act, as is proposed—and I would have thought it would be better to have the word in the body of the act—then you are acting contrary to the COAG process itself.

I ask the minister: why does she refuse to accept these words as is proposed to amend the guidelines? It is a very serious matter. We have the minister stating that she will not accept them, but she has not said—as she has on previous occasions—that she will not accept them because they are contrary to the COAG communique. She cannot, because they are not contrary to the COAG communique. It is quite the contrary: her refusal is contrary to the COAG communique, which, I repeat, includes the words:

... the procedure involves a restricted number of embryos ...

To refuse to have that included in the legislation is, I believe, contrary to not only the spirit but the letter of the communique.