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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6282

Senator HOGG (7:43 PM) —Following on from what Senator Bishop has said, in my speech in the second reading debate I lay down a few issues that were of concern to me and one was the proposal under existing clause 25(2), which states that the review is to be `undertaken by persons chosen by the minister with the agreement of each state'. The way I read that was that if there was not an agreement by each state then it would be difficult to form the committee. People might say that that is not the intent. If that is not the intent, it is certainly the way it read to me. I may well be reading it the wrong way. The second thing that I raised was in respect of clause 25(4), which states:

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.

I express the view that that subclause could assume or even presume that changed circumstances in some way will make cloning permissible or respectable. That concern has not been allayed by anything that I have heard in this debate to date. I think that the path being advocated by Senator Bishop is a very good path indeed. It may well be that, ultimately, you could have both forms of review operating in tandem, although that has not been canvassed here tonight. It is not an impossible outcome if this Senate so desired. Looking at the review advocated by Senator Bishop—and I have seen his amendment for the next bill that this chamber will consider—it is clear to me that, on the review process, Senator Bishop has at least tried to establish consistency across the two bills.

Of course, the thing about Senator Bishop's proposal in respect of the review under clause 25 is that his proposal advocates a joint parliamentary committee. Given the intensity of interest that there has been surrounding this debate, and given the various views that have been expressed either for or against the proposals covered by this debate, one can understand that the ultimate responsibility, the ultimate test, rests undoubtedly, in my view, with this parliament. It is the responsibility of the parliament to be accountable for the transparency of the processes it puts in place. I believe that that accountability and that transparency rest with the proposal that Senator Bishop has raised, because it will take into account all the varying interests that are out there in the community. While the existing proposal in clause 25(4)(c) of the bill looks at community standards, it does not necessarily look at the whole raft of interest groups and individuals who would want to take part in an open and transparent process—there is no guarantee of that under the existing proposal in the bill before us.

Whilst the proposal is independent of the NHMRC—and that is itself a good thing— there are a number of problems, as I said. The review must be undertaken by persons chosen by the minister with the agreement of each state. That is a real problem, in my view from what I have read to date. The way in which the review seems to be constructed under the existing proposal lends itself to desiring a certain outcome that will favour a watering down of the cloning provisions or favour access to human embryo cloning, which certainly are not available under the bill in its current form. I believe that in the interests of openness, transparency and also good governance the proposal by Senator Bishop warrants merit indeed.