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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Page: 133


Dr NELSON (Minister for Defence) (6:57 PM) —It gives me no pleasure to disagree with the member for Gwydir, for whom I have a very high regard. I too want to go home, but there are a lot of people in this country who also want to live. In 1980, research on aborted foetuses was approved and it has occurred for the subsequent quarter of the century. As morally repugnant as any of us find the idea of research on an aborted foetus, the fact is that it has occurred and our understanding and treatment of many diseases, particularly those specific to women and ovarian diseases in particular, has progressed as a result of women who for a variety of reasons have agreed to have their aborted foetuses researched. In an ideal world there would be no aborted foetuses, and I have the highest regard for some of my colleagues sitting immediately behind me who have campaigned all of their lives to see that this is limited as much as it can be. The fact is that the law and the regulations and guidelines of the National Health and Medical Research Council restrict that research to foetuses less than 20 weeks, and that is very ably administered by the Minister for Health and Ageing.

The concept of conducting somatic cell nuclear transfer on a cell derived from an aborted foetus is, I agree with the member for Gwydir, something about which many of my constituents will say to me, ‘Dr Nelson, what is this all about? Why did you,’ as I will, ‘basically vote in support of that continuing?’ Firstly, the science at the moment is not yet sufficiently mature for that to be able to occur. It could proceed, however, under the legislation as it stands. Throughout all of the very detailed inquiries by the Senate committee, this issue was not specifically raised. That does not necessarily mean that all wisdom resides in the Senate inquiry.

But I would put to you that, if an aborted foetus has been provided by a woman for research, and if that research includes the production of an embryo through somatic cell nuclear transfer—governed by this legislation to exist for no more than 14 days and from that research give the kind of hope which is embedded in the science that is offered by it—then frankly I do not see an enormous amount of difference from what has actually been proposed. In fact, one could argue, as morally repugnant as it quite rightly is to many people in this parliament and to many people in the community, that in many ways it is different but provides the same outcome is an ovum produced from an adult woman.

With the greatest respect, I do not support the amendment. I admire the conviction and I admire the motives of those who put it up. And I too join with the member for Gwydir in criticising those who suggested that this is some sort of clever political ploy on the part of those who put it forward. I know the member for Bass very well, and I know that he has a longstanding conviction with regard to this. But with the greatest of respect, some of the things that have been said are not correct. I do not support the amendment.