Page 1000 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clauses 1 to 6, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 7.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.40): I seek leave to move amendments Nos 1 and 3 circulated in my name together.

Leave granted.

MRS DUNNE: I move amendments Nos 1 and 3 circulated in my name together [see schedule 2 at page 1013]. These two amendments, moved together, would create a prohibition in all circumstances on creating or developing a human embryo that contains genetic material provided by more than two people. The genesis and the reason for these amendments go back to the points that I made at the very beginning of this debate this morning. I reinforce that, if the minister had been entirely honest, she would have repealed the previous legislation and introduced a new bill, because the intent of these amendments is almost diametrically opposed to the intent of the existing legislation.

The legislation, as it was originally intended and as is borne out by the long title, was to prohibit the creation of human embryos and other unacceptable reproductive technology practices. What we see here is one of the things which could be categorised as an unacceptable human embryo practice. These things were, in the previous legislation, absolutely and completely prohibited, but now we are actually having a move whereby these things can be allowed if you obtain a licence to do so.

The licensing depends upon the goodwill of the National Health and Medical Research Council which, as we all know, is a body of eminent scientists, medical technicians and, sometimes, ethicists. In this case the licensing committee will meet to decide whether or not to issue a licence.

There are some protections, but they are not the protections that Ms Gallagher claims are in the legislation. Those protections in fact still rely on prudential judgements by those people who sit on the licensing committee. They still have to make a judgement. It is possible that we will go from a circumstance where, at the moment in the ACT, it is absolutely prohibited to create a human embryo by any means which has more than two sets of genetic material to a situation where we will be able to do that. We will be able to create embryos that have essentially three or more parents.

As the legislation currently stands, of course you cannot develop those for any length of time; they are only there for experimentation. But we have already progressed a significant distance since 2004 when these things were absolutely ruled out by the Minister for Health and by the previous legislation.

When do we move further down the path so that yes, we can develop these things and then destroy them, because we live in a utilitarian age? But how much longer will it

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