Tuesday, 7 November 2006
Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006
I rise to make a brief general contribution to the amendment before us from Senate Nettle. I say at the outset that I welcome a bit more discussion as, even though I have been dealing with this issue for some time, I am still not entirely clear in my mind as to the best path to go down. There is no doubt in my mind that the mere passage of this legislation is an important first step in a public health benefit, and it must be at the forefront of all of our minds that there is a public health benefit in any medical research. For me, the thresholds to absolutely ensure the public health benefit are significant funding for the university and hospital research sector and a very well funded, efficient, effective and modern public health system that ensures that all Australians get access to the best and latest medical technology in the treatment of any of diseases, injuries or other health concerns.
I agree with Senator Nettle that, beyond that, ensuring the public health benefit is something that we have all grappled with and I am not entirely sure how we achieve it. Having said on the one hand that those two things are threshold issues, I think that on the other hand there is a need to have a look at the amount of money these developments in new medical treatments and technologies cost. I would not in any way want to come up with a system that says that that must be entirely funded by the taxpayer or that there should be no private support. It is a matter of finding a balance. As I say, I am not sure how we find that balance, so I would welcome some further discussion on that.
Other issues that Senator Nettle has raised about the national stem cell bank and what have you are open for discussion. Personally, I have no problem with samples of stem cell lines being deposited in a national stem cell bank. I think that is entirely appropriate and guarantees some public good and some equity of access. How we establish a national stem cell bank is important. It is something that the government has hastened slowly on, to be polite. Whilst I support its establishment, I would not in any way want my support for this important research to be seen by the government as my wanting to harm the passage of this legislation. Those are the issues on which I am happy for there to be further open discussion. As I say, the deposit issue is a pretty straightforward one.