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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2632

(Question No. 697)

Senator Harradine asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 26 November 1985:

(1) Who authorized the attendance, as one of Australia's official observers, of Mr Russell Scott at the Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Progress in the Biomedical Sciences established by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

(2) How is the visit being funded and at what cost.

(3) Is not the function of the Ad Hoc Committee to study the set of problems posed for law, ethics and human rights by progress in the biomedical sciences with a view to harmonising the policies of member States as far as possible and, if desirable, framing appropriate legal instruments.

(4) What are the policy attitudes Mr Scott will be expressing at the Ad Hoc Committee meeting.

(5) Has Mr Scott been provided with any instructions by the Government or any Statutory Authority in respect of these questions of major public policy.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) An invitation was received by the Australian Embassy in Paris from the Council of Europe for one or more Australian representatives to attend this meeting in an observer capacity. Australia is not a member of the Council of Europe.

The Department of Foreign Affairs forwarded this request to the Departments of Health and the Attorney-General requesting nominations of individuals to attend as observers.

The Department of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council were aware of this Ad Hoc Committee's activities because of previous invitations which led to the attendance by the Department's Regional Medical Director, Paris, at the January/February 1985 meeting.

The NHMRC's Medical Research Ethics Committee (MREC) was fully briefed by the Regional Medical Director, Paris, following the previous meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee. The MREC's on-going general activities relate to these areas, and the Committee is presently formulating national guidelines for human gene therapy.

It was therefore suggested to the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General's that suitable representatives would be Mr Russell Scott, member of the NHMRC's Medical Research Ethics Committee, and the Regional Medical Director in Paris, who would attend as observers.

Mr Scott is Deputy Chairman of the N.S.W. Law Reform Commission and is a recognised expert in the fields of ethics and law related to national and international biomedical advances.

(2) The NHMRC recommended funding from the Medical Research Endowment Fund for this visit by Mr Scott, to the extent of $6,000.

(3) Yes. However, I understand that outstanding agenda items from the January/February meeting of the Council of Europe's Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Genetic Engineering will be considered at this meeting.

(4) Mr Scott will be attending in an observer capacity only.

(5) No.