Page 933 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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consider following what other states do when it is clearly of benefit to them and also a benefit to the people of the ACT, such as sensible legislation in New South Wales over things like sentencing—and, I must say, that the three people with a shotgun who got a suspended sentence the other day might not have received such lenient treatment if we had a scheme like New South Wales. This government, of course, will debunk something like that because it goes against its own ideological or other predilections. It makes very selective use of the argument of national schemes.

National schemes are good if there is logic in following them, and, invariably, a lot of the time, the schemes we follow are good. However, there are big problems with this one, which previous speakers have pointed out quite clearly, and I do not need to go into any great detail in relation to this. I will say this in terms of national schemes: they are often different, and I can think of two examples, one of which is this bill. Another which comes to mind, with which members might be a little bit more au fait, is the Criminal Code. That has been on the cards for about 15 years. A lot of its chapters have been introduced and passed by a number of states, and the ACT is at the forefront there along with the commonwealth. But other states are not passing certain chapters; they are doing it very differently. Some of the chapters they pass are not uniform with the national scheme as initially drafted, and there are variations all the way through at state level. You get that even in national schemes.

In this particular bill there is a difference from the commonwealth legislation in the area that we are dealing with now—that is, the commonwealth definition of what is an embryo. It is a very different definition from that which applies in Queanbeyan, for example. If a woman in certain circumstances carries an embryo over the border from Queanbeyan to the ACT there is a difference even within this scheme. So, following blindly any national scheme, especially something as problematic as this, is of very grave concern. There are very few national schemes where the wording is exactly the same, and this is one where there are huge problems. Science has actually outstripped legislation.

I understand—this is a worry too—that the world’s first cloned human embryo was reported in the scientific literature in early 2008, and I understand the researchers involved used somatic cell nuclear transfer to clone five early-stage embryos, called blastocysts, from donated human eggs and skin cells from two men. The news of the world’s first cloned human embryo did not generate the media hype that might have been expected, and that is most likely because work of the cloners from California was outstripped by a breakthrough in ethical stem cell research which was reported in November 2007, making this type of legislation totally unnecessary.

Over 70 treatments have been developed using ethical adult stem cells. That list includes treatments for brain cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, several types of leukaemia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, anaemia, stroke and regeneration of the corneas—in fact, all the diseases that people say we need embryonic cloning to cure. For the many years that this debate has continued groups have come to see me and said, “You can get all the stem cells you need for adult human beings, and this will do the same job and indeed is far more ethical than using an embryo.”

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