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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6153

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:16 PM) —I said this was like a debate about how many angels there are on the head of a pin. I just want to make sure that I have said that the Prime Minister was talking about making amendments to the customs regulations. I think I have used `act' and `regulations' interchangeably, and I should not have. I should have said `regulations', and I just want to clarify that.

I can understand the point that Senator Jacinta Collins is making. We have an issue, though, that some people here in the chamber would agree that it is appropriate to import human stem cell lines.

Senator PATTERSON —One of the problems we have—and I can hear Senator Harradine and, Senator Harradine, it is getting late and we are both getting tired—is that, if the amendment were passed, a person could end up being charged with having innocently imported, for the purposes of research, a stem cell line without knowing that it had been derived from a human embryo clone. It would be possible. So I presume that if you wanted to achieve your outcome you would have to ban the importation of any products derived from human embryos, because I would defy anybody to say that a researcher would be able to know beyond reasonable doubt the derivation of any embryonic stem cell line that they were working on, or had imported to work on, for research purposes. They could be told one thing and they may believe that. That is the issue I was talking about: to be able to identify the source of the product, or the source of the therapeutic outcome. It could be a product derived from embryonic stem cell research, which may have come from a gifted embryo—and I know `gift' also has another meaning in reproductive technology—or an embryo given for the purpose of research or an embryo that has been legally cloned in another country. Therein lies the problem— the angels on the head of the pin. I think the amendments would make it difficult. It is a problem for people who in all honesty with the best of intentions believe that they are importing an embryonic stem cell line or a product derived from a human embryo, not a human embryo clone. Therein lies the problem.