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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1425

Senator HARRADINE(4.41) —It was my preferred position, as it was Senator Tate's preferred position, that we immediately proceed to the second reading debate. But it has been put to us-and it has been put to Senator Durack, obviously-that there are a number of senators who need a little more time to consider the conflicting statements that have been made to them about the effect of the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill. I think it is only reason- able under those circumstances that some method is able to be provided to those people who have made those conflicting statements to put their statements to the committee and have them tested; thus the truth one way or the other will be known and the committee can report to the Senate. The evidence as taken down by Hansard will be available for examination by all members of the Senate. After all, we are dealing with a matter of major public importance. It is a matter which, if one likes, can be compared with the problems that were generated as a result of the application of nuclear technology in the 1940s to the creation of the atomic bomb. Just as in the 1940s the development of nuclear weapons posed a threat to mankind as a whole, in the 1980s human embryo experimentation poses a similar threat.

I ask the Senate to listen to what was said by the world renowned academic, jurist and legal philosopher, the late Professor Julius Stone, who died not long ago, in a letter to me in May after I had presented the Bill to the Parliament in April. He stated:

This area of research is par excellence one likely to produce problems for mankind as a whole, which we have no reasonable ground for expecting that we can resolve.

He went on to urge the establishment of stricter limits than those proposed by either Warnock or Waller. A ground for pressing beyond the mere ethical duty towards legal controls lies, as he stated in a previous paper:

. . . in the changing image of the scientist, away from that of the dedicated researcher working in a kind of saintly retreat from the world to the immediate applicator of scientific knowledge, the technologist increasingly becoming exposed to commercial objectives rather than to scientific `learning'.

Senator Peter Baume —Who was that, Senator?

Senator HARRADINE —Julius Stone. That is one of the problems in this instance. An example of the commercialisation, of course, is the establishment of the company IVF Australia, whose objective is to expose reproductive technology to market forces and to market it under lucrative royalty arrangements in the United States of America. It is not generally known, but it has appointed the head of a large United States multinational company, who rejoices in the name of Moses, to take this technology to the United States. That is one of the real reasons that a number of letters to senators have been generated, including from the most vulnerable of people, that is, the people who cannot have children. They are the most vulnerable. They have been told that my Bill will destroy their chances. I am happy to have that Bill exposed to the light of day. Let then come forward to a committee and let them prove to that committee whether it will destroy their chances. What could be fairer than that?

Labor Caucus members have received a document prepared by Deane Wells. Deane Wells stated in that document that new biotechnologies are destined to change the world. Even on his premise, what more important subject can there be to be discussed by this national Parliament? If we have to cut corners, it is better to cut the corners in regard to the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare than to cut the corners on matters that affect the heart of human nature. The main thrust of the paper by Deane Wells was that my Bill would handicap experimentation which could lead to a precise method of preventing the transmission of all hereditary disorders, and that the issue should not be dealt with by parliament but should be left to a national bioethics committee. That was the burden of the Wells paper. That is most significant in view of the fact that the major pressure today for human embryo experimentation is for the establishment of a precise filtering method for humans, designed to search for genetic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities, and to destroy those human embryos that are deemed to be imperfect or abnormal.

Senator Georges —No, not quite that.

Senator HARRADINE —Obviously, there are many concerns about the increasing pressures and strains on health budgets.

Senator Georges —It is not that at all. It is pressure on the person who is born short because of chromosomes and the cruelty imposed upon that person.

Senator HARRADINE —It is an interesting point that Senator Georges has made because he is admitting that the embryo has an interest. That is a very significant point by Senator Georges and one which obviously should be considered by the committee. I believe that it is evident that the original role of in vitro fertilisation as an infertility management program is not of prime importance to those with vested interests in human embryo experimentation. I repeat-I do not know how many times I have to do it-that the purpose of my Bill is to prevent human beings from being created in order to be destroyed or experimented on. I assert it would not halt IVF procedures undertaken primarily for the benefit of the individual human embryo. The purpose of the Bill is to stop the creation of a race of disposable laboratory human beings. I know there are conflicting opinions about the merits of certain parts of the Bill. I believe that the statement by Deane Wells comparing the work of the Parliamentary Counsel in this instance to that of a malevolent draftsman was quite unwarranted. If there are any imperfections in the Bill it is because of my instructions, not the contract draftsman's drafting work.

Senator Peter Baume —It is criticism irrelevant to the question.

Senator HARRADINE —Sure. As I say, I am perfectly happy to have the second reading debate now. However, a number of senators have said: `Wait a minute, there have been all of these matters raised. Let them at least be aired and dealt with'. Senator Durack has taken up those concerns. He has done what he felt he ought to do, not only on his behalf or on behalf of many other members of the Opposition, but also on behalf of quite a number of members of the Government. Under those circumstances I believe that the less I say, the better. I will leave my comments for the second reading debate at a later stage.