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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1569..

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Human Embryo (Research) Bill 2004

Debate resumed from 30 March 2004, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the opposition) (8.23): Again I inform members of the Assembly that the Liberal Party considers this to be a conscience issue and that members will be exercising their right to vote as they wish. For my part, I will be voting against this bill. The Human Embryo (Research) Bill 2004 is an interesting bill because it holds up the illusion that we might create cures. But to do so we gloss over ethical concerns of human life. The concept of sacrificing one human life in the hope that we might find a cure to affect another human life is something we need to have a serious discussion about before we go ahead with this bill. That discussion has been going on in this country for some time now and there have been a huge number of claims of what being allowed to use embryo cells, as well as stem cells and embryos themselves, for research might achieve. And the word is always "might".

Before we get to the argument about what they might do, I think we need to have the argument, which again in always glossed over and lost, as to what it is that we are tampering with or using. The definition of "embryo"states that it is a human embryo up to the age of eight weeks. I find quite interesting this arbitrary number of eight weeks. Why not six weeks? Why not 10 weeks? If it is 10 weeks, why not 12 weeks? It always seems that, if you can do something in the first trimester, it is more acceptable.

My dilemma is that, as we go through these ethical arguments, no-one who is advocating the use of embryos or embryo stem cells-the destruction of embryos to garner cells-tells us what it is that we are destroying. As I said in the debate on the previous bill, I believe that life begins at conception. I cannot come to any other conclusion as to where else in that 41-week cycle one could reasonably say that the life has begun. It is a debate that we are going to continually come back to; it is a debate on which we may never reach an answer.

Certain developments take place such as the meeting of the sperm and the egg at six days. Fourteen days is an interesting point because that point is the last opportunity for the cells to divide in such a way as to clone naturally and create twins. As the father of twins, day 14 was pretty important to me and pretty important to my kids. After about day 14 nothing occurs that will change the already established pattern. The cells will not split again into triplets or quads. The characteristics are there and the environmental influences of course will be important, but after about day 14 nothing changes.

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