Page 921 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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Mr Corbell: No.

Question resolved in the negative.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2007

Debate resumed from 6 December 2007, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (10.49): The bill we are debating today, which comes out of the legislation that flowed from the commonwealth government’s Lockhart review of human cloning and embryo research and the amendment bill passed late last year, is a good example of how science almost inevitably outstrips the legislation meant to deal with it. Science is entitled to seek its holy grail, and I feel that embryo cloning falls into this category, along with the pursuit of a blue rose or a black tulip.

Academic curiosity has led to many wonderful scientific developments. However, science must not be immune from adhering to ethical guidelines. The pages of history are littered with the expression of marvellous notions of purity and idealism that have resulted in the licensing of murder. It should be remembered that the scientists who preached eugenics at the start of the 20th century, and who were successful in persuading legislatures of the benefit of their ideas being put into practice, brought about compulsory sterilisation in around 20 states of the United States for certain classes of people, and in Germany the euthanising of the mentally ill and the gassing of 6.5 million Jewish people in the name of preserving the purity of the Aryan race. The road to hell, is, as someone once said, paved with good intentions. And so it is with this bill, which legitimises science without ethics.

Cloning involves creating a human embryo where all the genetic material has come from one person, not from two, as in normal reproduction. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the method used to create a cloned human embryo. The bill we are debating today is a copycat bill to give effect in the ACT to the amendments made by the commonwealth Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Act 2006, passed late last year.

In 2002, the federal parliament passed the Research Involving Human Embryos Act, which allowed research on surplus human embryos created as part of the IVF process but not selected for implantation. Parliament also unanimously passed the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act, which forbade the creation of cloned human embryos. The 2002 act included a provision for review in three years time, and this review began in 2005. As people will know, it was chaired by Professor John Lockhart. It needs to be pointed out that the small committee had a narrow perspective dominated by scientists.

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