Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

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

In Committee

4:21 pm

Photo of Kerry NettleKerry Nettle (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move Greens amendment (2) on sheet 5112 revised.

(2)    Schedule 2, item 19, page 20 (after line 3), at the end of subsection 24(1), add:

           ; (c)    the licence holder must agree to deposit in any Australian national stem cell repository, a sample of any stem cell line derived specifically for research.

I was going to move my amendments together but, after some discussion, I have decided to move them separately—but I will talk about them together. Both of these amendments are about establishing a national stem cell bank. This is a debate we have had in this chamber before, in 2002. A national stem cell bank exists in the United Kingdom. One of the provisions about the way it operates is that everyone who gets a licence to do stem cell research must deposit a stem cell line into the bank. In the United Kingdom, commercial operators—or people who have done the research on the basis of private funding—also still deposit a stem cell line into the bank, so it is in the public domain. That does not stop people from being able to do commercial or private research, but it ensures that the information is held in the public domain and therefore can provide public benefit or be used by a variety of different researchers. It means that people who are doing public sector research can have access to the stem cell lines and are not impeded by intellectual property or patent law.

A similar model operates, in some respects, through the Australian Stem Cell Centre, but it is a private company, not a public institution. These amendments do not say that it has to be a public institution. I happen to be of the view that it would be best if it were a public institution, but these amendments do not say that; they just say that we should have a national stem cell bank. The first amendment says that everyone who gets a licence to do stem cell research will be required, as a condition of their licence, to put a stem cell line into the bank.

I will explain why I am working from the revised sheet rather than the first sheet. I changed it so that it is clear that it means a stem cell designed specifically for research. I have done that because I have had some representations from a director of an IVF company who said that we want to make sure that we are not putting into the stem cell bank the stem cell lines—the genetic information—of private individuals who choose to access IVF. I have changed the wording in the revised version to ensure it is clear that it is not my intention that everyone who has IVF should have to have their genetic information put into a national stem cell bank in the public domain. It is about the research that is being done. That is why I have moved to this wording.

I could have moved both of these amendments together—because the first one says that the licence requires you to deposit the stem cell line in the stem cell bank—but I am moving them separately. That has the potential to create some difficulty, because, if we do not have a stem cell bank, how can we require people who want to get a licence to put a stem cell line into it? Because I have had a request to move these amendments separately, I will also seek leave to amend this motion so that it reads: ‘The licence holder must agree to deposit in any Australian national stem cell repository a sample of any stem cell line derived specifically for research.’ I am moving the amendments separately because, if a stem cell bank does not exist, you cannot say, ‘put it in the stem cell bank’. I am going to seek leave to amend that to say ‘any Australian national stem cell repository’ so that the intention is clear without using a term or phraseology that does not exist. I might now seek leave to amend that motion.

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