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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 997 ..


this matter has moved from a conscience issue to the position taken by the government. The issues put forward in Mr Smyth’s motion go to the heart of almost everything that has been said in this place today. Many people have said that they have thought long and hard about this and that they have been troubled by some of the issues. Mr Hargreaves himself actually asked for some confirmation as to why things needed to be done in a particular way. An adjournment would give you an opportunity to address Mr Hargreaves’s concerns on these issues.

There are a range of matters that have been raised by members across the chamber today that go to the heart of whether a range of techniques which will now become potentially approved by the NHMRC are, in fact, the absolute acme of what good science is at the moment. I have spent a lot of time over the last little while discussing this with eminent geneticists of all sorts of political persuasions, and the take-out message that I have got from a range of conversations, including those that I had with a number of people last night on this bill, is that what is proposed here in this legislation is entirely and completely outmoded.

In a sense, even if the permissions were given, it may be the case that there would be very few people who would take it up because there are better ways and more efficient and in fact cheaper ways of doing this now. Therefore, it begs the question: if there are better ways, why is it that this minister is continuing to push this and why are we being told that we have to come on board because this is a nationally consistent approach?

If we want a nationally consistent approach on the matter, why does the minister not have the courage to go to her federal colleague and say, “Let’s look at the situation: the world is not going to come to an end if the people in the ACT do not give permission for researchers in the ACT to conduct experiments in the creation of hybrid embryos or experimentation in relation to the production of embryos with more than two lots of genetic material, or the experimentation and the creation of stem cell lines from precursor cells”? The world will not come to an end if we do not do this in the next six weeks or eight weeks.

What Mr Smyth is proposing is that the minister assure this place and the people of the ACT that, when we pass substantial pieces of legislation which do go to the very heart of the matter about when life begins and what is a legitimate and moral and ethical thing to do in relation to a small part of our community, we actually have all the information to hand.

If you look at what the minister said in her introductory speech you see that she basically repeated it in her conclusion to the debate. If you look at the explanatory memorandum, you see that it essentially says we are doing this because Lockhart said so. Recommendation 5 of Lockhart says this, so therefore we are doing this. The advice from everyone that I spoke to is that Lockhart is outmoded. What Mr Smyth is essentially asking for is a reprise of Lockhart—Lockhart mark 2—to see whether the recommendations that were made four years ago or more in relation to these matters still stand the test of time.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.30): I led the debate this morning for the opposition. I read these words and they still hold good now. These leading international


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