Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

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

In Committee

5:27 pm

Photo of Natasha Stott DespojaNatasha Stott Despoja (SA, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I want to reiterate the position that I put previously, and that is that the Democrats support this amendment. I do not wish to hold the Senate up, but I just want to point out that this is different from the last amendment we dealt with: this amendment deals with the requirement that the minister provide legislation for the establishment of a stem cell bank within two years of the current bill being enacted. If this does not pass the Senate, there are still provisions within the bill before us to be considered, as there were in the exposure draft from Senator Webber and me. Essentially, that dealt with—if not an investigation into the applicability of a stem cell bank or how you would establish it—the requirement that it be provided in a six-month period. I am happy with Senator Nettle’s two-year time frame. There is also pretty much a six-month time frame under Senator Patterson’s bill. So I figure this is win-win, and I am happy to support the amendment before the chair.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Nettle’s) be agreed to.

by leave—I, and also on behalf of Senator Webber, move our amendments (1) to (15) on sheet 5113:

(1)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 5 (line 14), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(2)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 5 (line 27), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(3)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 6 (line 7), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(4)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 6 (line 16), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(5)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 6 (line 25), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(6)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 6 (line 29), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(7)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 5), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(8)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 9), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(9)    Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 13), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(10)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 16), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(11)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 21), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(12)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 25), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(13)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 7 (line 29), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(14)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 8 (line 28), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

(15)  Schedule 1, item 7, page 8 (line 32), omit “10”, substitute “15”.

The amendments by Senator Webber and me on the sheet circulated are very specific, very clear and very easy to understand. These first 15 amendments change the 10-year penalty to a 15-year penalty. We have sought to make all penalties in terms of imprisonment completely consistent throughout that division. In some respects, this will mean the status quo, in that there are some penalties that are already 15. However, those we have sought to change were previously lower—that is, 10 years. This amounts to a beefing-up of the penalty provisions for those acts and practices that previously the parliament has deemed abhorrent, inappropriate and, indeed, criminal.

This is actually the model that Senator Webber and I used in our draft exposure bill. It was not commented on in the Lockhart recommendations, and I can understand that some senators who want to follow Lockhart to the letter might think, ‘Oh well, we can leave the penalties as they are.’ But I think it is a reasonably strong and good message for the parliament to send that, if people are in breach of this legislation, they cop a very hefty penalty. That is, if people are involved in human reproductive cloning or indeed, specifically, in putting an embryo created through any of the processes—other than fertilisation, of course—into the body of a woman, for example, that is not a 10-year penalty; that is a 15-year penalty.

I know that there are senators who have preferred not to vote for amendments in this debate, but I do ask what kind of a message that sends if people have a fundamental ethical or other problem with the legislation. If senators have a problem with the legislation and the practices that are there—certainly if they support the outlawing and the prohibition of certain practices under the current acts and indeed under the legislation before us—I think providing 15-year penalties can be considered quite appropriate.

We have made it completely consistent. All division 1 offences are treated equally. By increasing the 10-year penalty to 15 years, I think the parliament sends a very clear message that we are pretty serious about the punishment for engaging in the activities that are prohibited outright under this bill so there is no lack of clarity there. These are not difficult amendments. There are 15 of them, dealt with in a block. This is one of the four areas where Senator Webber and I seek to amend the bill.

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