Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006
Consideration in Detail
I say at the outset that amongst the scuttlebutt that has passed around the place is the sense, when it became evident that an amendment was going to be moved, that this was somehow a tricky device—‘stunt’ was the word used by some—to force it back into the Senate where perhaps there might be a different vote. I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for being so frank as to say that she has a concern about that and to face that possibility front-on. This for me is not about a stunt at all. I do find this particular provision in a bill that I cannot support anyway to be quite odious. I have absolutely no doubt that every member of this House would have a very significant number of people in their electorates—I suspect a clear majority in every electorate—of good conscience and great decency who would be horrified to know that we had not put beyond doubt that it would not be defensible or legal in this country to create embryos using eggs from aborted female foetuses. I genuinely believe that. I ask all members of this place to stop and think what will happen when a person of decency whose views have to be respected asks them in their electorate why they did not take the opportunity to put this beyond doubt.
The advocates of the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006 have been trying to reassure us that there are sufficiently tight guidelines or, where there are no guidelines, that they will be devised over the next six months by the National Health and Medical Research Council. I make the observation that in the recent Senate inquiry there was a question put to the Lockhart members about whether their recommendation 26 that creation of embryos using precursor cells from a human embryo or a human foetus should be permitted under licence was intended to allow the creation of embryos by fertilisation using ova obtained from a foetus. Lockhart members on 25 October replied, ‘The committee’s recommendations envisaged that an embryo could be created for research in this way.’
The bill reflects the objectives of Lockhart. I thought that was what we were on about. So I can see no room for obfuscation here. In simple terms, the legal advice from the Parliamentary Library says that the result in effect of the amendments to the bill will be such that it will remove the licensing aspect of the activity in the bill, replacing it with a blanket prohibition. I cannot for the life of me see why that is not a reasonable and safe thing to do. I do not believe for a moment that, if the Australian people were fully aware of the possibilities allowed for under the licensing, this would be something they could embrace.
It is the end of the year and we all want to go home—no-one more than me, as I think is well known around this place; I have had 18 years in the place and I look forward to a different life—but if on a matter of this importance we want to say, ‘No, it should not go back to the Senate,’ we deserve the hearty condemnation of the people we represent. This is an important matter. It does go to very deeply held convictions in our society about the value and the sanctity of life upon which our very freedoms and our very culture are built. Many of us have a very real concern that our culture is under threat, that it is being weakened and that we are losing sight of the great values that made us the free people we are. Many of us and many of our constituents feel very deeply that it is time we called a halt—that in this relativist age we see, as the Prime Minister said, that there are some absolutes. I believe that one absolute we all ought to be prepared to embrace in all seriousness and we ought to put beyond doubt—and I say this with all the conscience I can muster despite the fact that it is close to Christmas and people want to go home—is that we are not going to allow the possibility of the creation of embryos from aborted female foetuses under any circumstances.