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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5838

Senator HOGG (11:30 AM) —I rise today to support the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002. My comments will not refer to the later bill, the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002. I have another speech to make on the second reading of that legislation. However, I am pleased to see the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 before the chamber in its current form because it brings before this chamber one of the most critical issues that this chamber will have to deal with—the issue of cloning. I believe that the bill achieves the purpose of banning any form of cloning. While there appears to be unanimous support for this bill throughout the Senate and throughout parliament, it would be wrong simply to allow the bill to pass without recording a few things in the debate in Hansard so that, when this issue undoubtedly arises again later on, as it inevitably will, there will be some statements in place, particularly regarding the concerns that I and others might express in the debate, that can be revisited and this will be an important record for us to address the concerns at that point in time.

Save that, the bill before us today will achieve the purpose of outlawing cloning. That outlaws reproductive cloning and the quite misnamed therapeutic cloning. I am not going to go into that debate. That debate was well handled in the report brought down by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. The bill outlaws all forms of cloning and, after all, cloning is cloning. There is no way that one can dress up therapeutic cloning decently or with any remote degree of respectability. From my perspective, cloning interferes with the natural processes of life and with nature itself. So long as it does that, it steps across an inviolable boundary which I think we, as the human race, do not have the right to cross.

If my concerns were not real, one might think that the bill would lock everything up for every day from here on in. However, I know what life is like and life moves on. Of course, there will be attempts at some stage down the track to address therapeutic cloning, and perhaps other forms of cloning hitherto not even thought of, by those who would advocate that that form of technology should have its way.

Cloning opens itself to the abuse of the most valued and valuable thing we have— human life itself. Human life has a special and unique dignity. Cloning transgresses normal and reasonably acceptable ethical and moral bounds. The ordinary people of our society today would say that any form of cloning does transgress reasonably acceptable moral grounds. This is simply going to a reasonable argument about what people would accept as reasonable for the conduct of a proper society, for its benefit and sustenance and for the prolonging of society. There is no way that scientific changes, advances or discoveries can alter the abhorrence I feel for cloning. As I read the bill I asked myself whether it was tight enough to prevent the slippery slope that undoubtedly some people will try to set us on at some stage in the future. I do not have the answer to that, but one would hope that it is tight enough.

I want now to turn to some particular concerns that I have with the bill as it is currently constructed. I intend to raise these concerns in committee. Part 2 of the bill relates to prohibited practices. As I read through this section, I noticed the use of the word `intentionally'. This point was covered by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry. I understand that the NHMRC responded to a question that Senator McLucas put on notice. Part 2, section 9, states:

A person commits an offence if the person intentionally creates a human embryo clone.

Section 10 states in part:

... if the person intentionally places a human embryo clone in the body of a human ...

Section 11 also includes the word `intentionally.' For what it is worth, I just raise the value of the word `intentionally' being there. Surely when it comes to establishing intent, that will be done in the courts of the land. There may well be reckless creation or negligent creation. I just wonder whether `intentionally' detracts from the legislation as it stands. As I say, at some stage it will be determined in a court. However, I raise that for what it is worth.

Secondly, in respect of section 10 in part 2, I was puzzled by the fact that section 10 says:

A person commits an offence if the person intentionally places a human embryo clone in the body of a human or the body of an animal.

That is very good. But the issue that I raise is that it does nothing to the person—if it is a person—who receives the human clone. They may knowingly be a participant in the process of the reception of a human clone, and there is no penalty associated with that person's participation in the illegal act. Now I might be misreading that but, if it is the case, it seems to be something that is lacking and that should be there. If a person is knowingly and willingly—and I cannot see how they would not be—a participant in the reception of a human embryo clone, it seems to me that there needs to be some sort of ability to punish that person as well. Of course, again, it would ultimately be left to the courts to determine that particular matter.

Those are the two issues: the issue in respect of `intentionally—and the word occurs not only there but elsewhere in the piece of legislation; and, of course, the comments that I have made in respect of the section 10 offence of placing a human embryo clone in the body of a human or an animal. The second area that I have some concerns with in part 2 goes to section 14, where it says:

Offence—creating a human embryo for a purpose other than achieving pregnancy in a woman.

Subclause (1) refers to a `particular' woman. I am a little at odds to see how that word fits in precisely in that subclause. But, again, when we come to the committee stage I will pursue that question. The issue that does seem to go without any comment, though, in division 2 `Other prohibited practices' is surrogacy. It is my concern that the issue of surrogacy needs to be addressed in this particular piece of legislation. The other comment that I make is in respect of part 4. I think Senator Harradine foreshadowed that he has a proposal in respect of the review. If the review stands as it is in the legislation, then part 4, division 1 at section 25 (2) says that:

The review is to be undertaken by persons chosen by the Minister, with the agreement of each State.

As I read that, it means that if there is not agreement by each state the review is in jeopardy or, if I read it correctly, will not proceed. If one turns to the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 there is a similar matter for a review there, but I understand that the review in that case needs to be carried out by persons from only a majority of the states rather than from each state. So, again, that is an issue that I will pursue when we get into the committee stage. I have not seen a Senator Harradine amendment circulated in this chamber on that review but, if it is successful, he may well have addressed that issue. The other thing that concerns me about part 4, section 25 (4) in particular, is that the criteria in (4) which are:

The persons undertaking the review must consider and report on the scope and operation of this Act taking into account the following:

(a) developments in technology in relation to assisted reproductive technology;

(b) developments in medical research and scientific research and the potential therapeutic applications of such research;

(c) community standards.

My concern is that the criteria in (4) seem to assume—or maybe even presume—that changed circumstances in some way will make cloning permissible or respectable. Now, of course, my view is not shared by everyone, but I have quite clearly stated that my view is that cloning is cloning and that, no matter how one may wish to dress it up and no matter with what sort of guise one might try to give a bit of respectability to it, it cannot be given that. It seems to me that there is a skew and a bias in the way in which that is constructed. Now that might not necessarily have been the intent, but that is the way it has come across to me. Those are some specific issues that, whilst I am supporting the bill, I think need to be raised now. They may need to be addressed, or they may be an overstatement of concern on my part—in which case, I am quite prepared to accept that. Nonetheless, it does raise in my mind some legitimate concerns.

But, of course, my underlying concern at the end of the day is that we do not end up on the slippery slope that takes us down the path of so-called `therapeutic cloning'— which, as people have already accepted in this debate, is a great misnomer indeed. I understand that 29 countries have joined forces to request a UN statement against all forms of human cloning. It is a Spanish initiative and, in particular, I believe they are seeking a prohibition on therapeutic cloning. It is worth while noting some of the statements they have made that I think would stand us in good stead in this nation as well. The Spanish memorandum says:

... contrary to what is often alleged [the practice] also implies experimentation with human embryos and is incompatible with legal and safe scientific research.

It goes on to say:

... it is not possible to control the efficacy of the prohibition of human cloning for reproductive ends if cloning for therapeutic ends is not also prohibited.

Further, it says:

Given practical experience, the results obtained in experiments of animal cloning reinforce the need to prohibit all types of human cloning [as] the accumulated experience in the cloning of animals has manifested a very reduced efficiency of the techniques used and considerable risks of malformation and deformation of the embryo.

And last but not least the memorandum states:

... to oppose human cloning is not equivalent to denying the progress of science and genetic research.

If that Spanish initiative has any legs—and I understand that it does—and can get a statement out of the United Nations which bans all forms of cloning, then that indeed is a worthwhile initiative, to say the least. I believe the concept of human cloning, no matter what purpose people might claim for it, is complete anathema for many of us in the community. I concede that there are others who have a different view but I still think that, whilst they are entitled to their view and I am entitled to my view, at the end of the day there have to be basic ethical and moral bounds which one does not cross.

Life is, after all, unique. Individuals are unique. The dignity of the individual must be protected at all costs. Cloning cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Having said all of this on a very serious note, one needs to also take a look at the lighter side of life. If we had cloning and had two Senator Eric Abetzs—

Senator Abetz —Wouldn't we be fortunate!

Senator HOGG —Others would say otherwise. If we had three Senator John Hoggs, there would be an outcry in our society. If we had four Senator Browns or five Senator Sherrys, then the case would cause all sorts of problems in our society. Whilst that is said in a moment of jest, nonetheless it is a real concern that this is the sort of thing that could await us at the long end of the slippery road. Whilst we are all in support of this bill today, it does pose some real problems that we as individuals, as participants in our society, must come to grips with. Under those circumstances I would hate to see cloning— no matter how it was dressed up—given any legs. The consequences of some of the things that I have mentioned are horrifying for some, although they may be pleasant for others.