House debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006

Consideration in Detail

6:45 pm

Photo of John MurphyJohn Murphy (Lowe, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to support these amendments and I congratulate the member for Bass for this initiative. I do not believe that it is a valid argument that, if these amendments are supported, this will then put the Senate in a position where it has to reconsider the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006, having passed it before it came to this place. When you look at these conscience votes, they have historically been initiated here before they went to the Senate. I am most concerned at the lobbying that was done and the way that the bill was introduced into the Senate to get it through the Senate.

My friend and colleague the member for Menzies chaired the cloning inquiry from 2000 to 2002. I was on that committee, along with the member for Mitchell, and I have a clear recollection of visiting the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development where we were shown all these embryonic stem cells which had been obtained from Singapore for the purposes of medical research. All that those scientists asked of us was that we would allow them to continue the research that they were doing and to have sufficient stem cells to supply the needs of Australia and possibly other parts of the world. That is true—and members know that. The legislation went so far as to allow them to have those surplus embryos for a finite period. That parliament supported that and the scientists went away in 2002 satisfied.

But we know that with scientists the ground is ever rolling out from under our feet. From the debate that has taken place in this place and in the Senate, I am certain we will be here in a few years time debating something else to do with thos legislation. If for no other reason than that the Senate passed this bill such a short time ago after a very political and skilful campaign by the scientific and cloning lobby, we—all of us who protect life from the womb to the tomb—have a duty to support these amendments to give the Senate another opportunity to put a search engine through its conscience. For me, this is not a scientific question; it is a moral question.

How can any of us possibly compete with the scientists? I have referred to the member for Menzies and the member for Mitchell, who are sitting here tonight and who were on that cloning inquiry. We cannot compete with the scientists. Of course the scientists are going to advance arguments. They gave us a legitimate expectation that someone like Christopher Reeve would perhaps one day get out of his wheelchair. Sadly for Christopher Reeve, he passed away. There was an expectation that people who suffer the terrible afflictions of motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes would have some miraculous cure. We all know that there have been no significant gains in relation to that research over that period, nor is there any realistic likelihood that such will take place in the foreseeable future. I exhort every person in this place to support the amendments of the member for Bass. I exhort the Senate to once again examine its conscience, reconsider all the issues associated with this legislation and vote again—but this time to vote to defeat Senator Patterson’s bill.


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