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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7073

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (11:01 PM) —I will not be supporting Senator Barnett's amendment. It would require the licence holder to report every six months, describing research undertaken including an analysis of whether the work could have been achieved by other means, variations in the licensing conditions and the number of embryos used. Clause 24 gives the licensing committee a wide power to determine conditions of licence and these conditions can include, but are not limited to, the number of embryos, reporting and monitoring. The licensing committee controls specific conditions included in individual licences and asks for monthly reporting, if it so determines.

Since there will be a range of different types of licences granted, it is up to the licensing committee to set the reporting requirements, depending on the nature of the work, so that the reporting periods can be varied from licence holder to licence holder as necessary. There needs to be flexibility in the legislation to allow this. I do not support Senator Barnett's amendment that a licence holder must report a variation in circumstances to the NHMRC Licensing Committee. The legislation already provides that a licence holder must comply with any condition of the licence. If licence holders vary their circumstances, this may place them in breach of their licence conditions. Therefore the legislation already provides that, if a person wishes to change their circumstances in a way which will affect the licence or the licence conditions, they must apply to the licensing committee for a variation of licence before they undertake the changes.

With regard to the fourth condition proposed by Senator Barnett, that a licence holder must report every six months detailing the number of embryos used, it is expected that conditions of licence set by the NHMRC Licensing Committee will deal with this. Members of the public will be able to check this on a publicly available database of licence applications, which will be updated regularly to reflect the actual number of embryos used as part of a project. For these reasons, I will not be supporting Senator Barnett's amendment.