Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006
Consideration in Detail
I acknowledge the good intent of all of those who speak in this debate, however I do want to pick up on some arguments against this amendment. I thank the member for Bass for his thoughtfulness in finding an aspect of the original bill that has been overlooked and which, as we have discussed it further, has caused a good deal of disquiet in this House and beyond.
I want to go to the question of the Senate, which the member for Lalor has raised. We should not foreshadow what will occur in the Senate, nor should we allow members of the House of Representatives to work in less than good conscience, which I have no doubt they all do, by presupposing what the Senate might or might not do. Nor should we look on our Senate colleagues and suppose that, in addressing this amendment, they will not exercise good conscience.
There is no trickery here. We should give due respect to the members of the House of Representatives that they can deal with an amendment rightly without some alleged object in mind to do with the other house. We should also trust our Senate colleagues to deal in good conscience with what comes from the House. So I think those arguments should be set aside. This amendment has been brought in good faith and we must deal with it on its merits in good faith, without looking over our shoulder at what the Senate might or might not do, because they will in good conscience make their own decisions.
I want to make some points, which others have made, about this amendment. At present in Australia precursor cells are indeed used in biomedical research, but they have never been used to create a human embryo. In 2002 both houses of this good parliament voted to ensure that the practice of using precursor cells to create human embryos was prohibited under section 17 of the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002.
Having dealt with the substance of the bill, we now find that hidden within the bill—and I do not say deliberately—is yet another significant change. We are not talking about tissue; we are talking about eggs. There is serious public disquiet about what is being proposed. The Minister for Defence used the term ‘morally repugnant’, although he in good conscience supports the present motivation of the bill, and I respect that. But it is morally repugnant. A female foetus who will herself die will become a mother to an embryo created also to die. Can I say that it is almost a form of intergenerational death. This is something that is greatly concerning to those in the public who have become aware of it in the short time for debate on this bill. Others have said ‘morally repugnant’. I agree: it is morally repugnant.
Can I go back for a moment to the slippery slide on which we now find ourselves. Professor Sherley, who is an expert in adult stem cells, has said that the asymmetrical division of adult stem cells does not extend to embryonic stem cells, and that the cures and the results being sought are almost impossible to achieve. Time will not allow me to go into the science behind that. Now we are being asked to take another very serious and morally repugnant step in the public’s eye to justify what so far has not been proved to be effective science in the laboratory on animals. (Time expired)