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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6338


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (10:15 AM) —The other night an important issue arose in this debate concerning the import and export of cloned human embryos. I can see why Senator Harradine sees the need to move his amendment, and I think that the minister's adjournment of the matter was wise, because of the importance of this issue. I note what the minister has said. Although it is frustrating to adjourn matters to discuss things, this is so important that I think it was worth while, and the discussions that the minister had were indeed worth while. After discussions with government I, as the Minister for Justice and Customs, can say that the government will be amending the Customs (Prohibited Import) Regulations to implement a ban on the import of viable materials derived from human embryo clones. This would include stem cells derived from human embryo clones and would be reviewed in 12 months.

That means that this regulation will stand in place until otherwise revoked. There will be a regulation in place that will ban the import of viable materials derived from human embryo clones as well as stem cells derived from human embryo clones. This works in tandem with clause 11 of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill, which prohibits the import of cloned human embryos. As far as importation goes, we will now cover the field from the importation of human embryo clones at the one end to the components or the stem cells or the viable material which has come from human embryo clones at the other. To that extent, I would commend that approach to the Senate. As well as that, the Prime Minister has announced that, in the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations, the government will implement a 12-month prohibition on the export of human embryos. That is across the board. There will be a review to look at that in the meanwhile. Of course, there is nothing to stop the Senate from reviewing it as well under its own processes, in a Senate committee approach. There is nothing to stop the Senate from reviewing any of this as it sees fit.

As the minister has said on the changes to the customs regulations, members of the government will be allowed to exercise a conscience vote. One question that has been raised is in relation to the export provisions. Under clause 11 of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill, the export of a cloned human embryo is banned. What of other components? As the minister has said, it is not necessary to explicitly prohibit the export of stem cells derived from those human embryo clones, because under this very bill it is an offence to create, develop or import a human embryo clone, and therefore it would not be possible to legally derive and subsequently export stem cells from a human embryo clone. We have a situation which accommodates the concerns of those who want to see the field covered in relation to the import and export of human embryo clones and material derived from them. I can see why Senator Harradine moved his amendment. I think there is merit in such an amendment, but I believe that with these regulations we can cover the field. On that basis, I will not seek to pursue my amendment which has been circulated in the chamber.