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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 922 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Chief Minister, do you agree that this would indicate that, in fact, there has been action on the part of the former government to pursue the very issue you said yesterday had not been attended to?

MR STANHOPE: No, I wasn't aware of the brief, Mr Speaker.

I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

Stem cell research

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mrs Cross, proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The potential for stem cell research to benefit society.

MRS CROSS (3.35): Mr Speaker, I will speak only briefly in this debate, in order to allow as much time as possible for other members to contribute. I trust that this is but the first of a number of debates on the merits of stem cell research. As a passionate supporter of stem cell research, I look forward to these opportunities. I believe that the eventual application of stem cell research will prove to be a breakthrough for humanity, akin to the discovery of electricity.

The great good that stem cells have for society is yet to be fully recognised, even by those at the forefront of science. Stem cells can be made available from a number of sources, both from adults and in embryonic form. Science is increasingly showing that adult stem cells are less suitable for treating disease and impairment than was first thought. They lack the plasticity of embryonic stem cells-that is, the ability to become any type of tissue.

Embryonic stem cell research is, of course, not without its detractors. Those detractors, in the main, come from two sources-the ignorant and/or uninformed, and the church. Firstly, for the uninformed, here are some facts: IVF treatment for infertility is now commonplace and non-controversial in Australia. For each IVF pregnancy, a number of embryos must be created. Other than the two or three that are implanted, the rest are surplus to requirements, and are either stored or disposed of. There are currently some 70,000 spare embryos in frozen storage in Australia. If not used for stem cell research, they will eventually be thrown away.

Mr Speaker, embryonic stem cell research is not abortion, and it is not cloning. It involves taking a small amount of material from a minute group of cells that, grouped together, are about 100th of a pinhead in size. However minute, these stem cells contain medical hope for humanity.

Imagine a world where kidney dialysis was no longer needed, or where diabetes did not exist, the blind could see again, and those disabled, or otherwise hindered by impairment, were restored to full health and ability. That world is now close at hand.

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