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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 229


Senator HARRADINE(9.51) —In view of the time constraints I will be extremely brief. I wish only to refer honourable senators to the letter that has been written by Mr Justice Fogarty to the Attorney-General, Mr Lionel Bowen, which appears on page v of the report of the Family Law Council. In that letter the judge congratulates the members of the sub-committee which dealt with these very complex issues. They are issues of great technological complexity and of considerable complexity so far as jurisprudence is concerned. The committee, of course, did not actually address the latter matter. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the summary of conclusions and recommendations which are attached to that letter and are contained on pages vii to x of the committee's report. In that summary the committee recognised that the questions raised by reproductive technology, which enables the creation of children and the formation of families, are not exclusively or even primarily medical or scientific matters. Rather, they raise fundamental social, moral, legal and ethical issues which involve the whole community.

It is of considerable concern to me and, I believe, to all members of the Senate who represent the people-the whole of the community-that certain scientists appear to regard these questions as being primarily scientific or medical. Indeed, honourable senators will recall the debate on Huw Evans's show Pressure Point in which Dr Trounson indicated that parliamentary consideration of these questions would be regarded as interference with academic freedom. I also draw attention to the point that was made in Mr Justice Fogarty's letter. The penultimate sentence of Mr Justice Fogarty's letter to the Attorney-General stated:

The Council supports the recommendations which would prohibit the production of human embryos for the sole purpose of research/experimentation or the use of spare human embryos for that purpose . . .

That is a clear indication by a group such as the Family Law Council, with which I do not always agree, that this is a matter of concern to the whole community and ought properly be determined by the representatives of the community-namely, the Parliament. Also in the report concern is raised about reproductive technology being exposed to commercial exploitation. The inference is that it is referring to the Monash University group which has established the company IVF Australia Ltd to market reproductive technology in the United States. One might ask why it would market it in the United States. Why cannot the United States undertake these experiments? As honourable senators would know, the Government of the United States has long since placed a ban on Federal funds for human embryo experimentation. It seems very strange indeed that, on the one hand, scientists can claim that what is being attempted by the Parliament on behalf of the community, for the very minute individuals of our species, is somehow an interference in academic freedom and, on the other hand, can set up a company which will be able to attack that very concept of academic freedom.

Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.