Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1584..
MR PRATT (continuing):
be supporting this bill in its entirety and will not be able to support Ms Tucker's amendment.
MR STEFANIAK (9.27): This is a difficult issue. Like Mr Pratt, I have spoken to a number of people about it, including my wife. I will be supporting Ms Tucker's amendment. I am certainly all for scientific research. It is amazing in the last 100 years just how much research has been done in advancing the cause of medicine. It is being done in a wide range of ways, none of which necessarily involves human cells. All sorts of advances have been made. I have certainly talked to my wife about this research and, unlike Mr Pratt's wife, she is somewhat concerned. My wife has a metal valve in her heart and has benefited from scientific research and the advances in medicine. Until someone invented metal valves, pig valves were used which were not nearly as effective. A metal valve lasts for about 30 or 40 years. Whilst, obviously, she still has problems, that particular scientific advance ensured that she is able to enjoy a good quality of life. Had it not been available, she would, most likely, be dead by now.
Scientific research has to be balanced with a number of other things. The jury is very much out even on the value of embryonic cells. There is a lot of growing evidence about the use of adult stem cells. As I indicated, scientific improvements have been made in a wide range of areas. Nothing to do with human beings is being used. I again use the example of the metal valve being used to fix my wife up and help her heart. I am sure a lot of other scientific advances are going to be made over the next 10 years.
The average life expectancy of people in Australia is about 82 years of age for women and 75 or 76 years of age for men. Fifty years ago, it would have been about 60 years of age or so for men and about 65 years of age for women. A lot of countries in the world do not have the benefits of science or this type of research. The average life expectancy of people in these countries is still very low.
I have no doubt that cures might be found for some of the illnesses that Mrs Cross talks about-illnesses that concern us all-in the not too distant future. Polio injections were available about 50 years ago. My godfather suffered from polio and had great difficulty getting around. He had polio as a teenager. Had he been born 20 years later, there was no way in the world that he would have contracted that disease. All of these improvements in modern science were done without stem cell research or anything like that. The very concerning illnesses that Mrs Cross talks about will be solved and improved by other advances in medical science other than embryonic stem cell research. The jury is out on this issue.
We recently had a debate on when life begins. That is a very important issue as well for me. I moved an amendment to section 9 (2) of the Bail Act to take out "life begins at birth". It is a vexed issue as to when life begins, but some of us do believe that it begins at conception. I was thinking about when life on earth started. The earth used to consist of just rocks; it was quite barren. I cannot quite remember my geography or history lessons on this, but life on earth started perhaps billions of years ago with a couple of cells. I am a little vague on that, but certainly the first life on earth started with cells. To my mind, an embryo, which consists of cells, is a life.
I do not think we need to reopen abortion debates or anything like that, but that is an issue in relation to this. I can see that this bill is going to get up and that Ms Tucker's