Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 939 ..
Ms Gallagher: Have you read the bill, Brendan?
MR SMYTH: Yes, I have read the bill. If you proceed today on the basis of knowledge that is now proven to be wrong, that makes a mockery of when you pick and choose to make a backflip. I suspect much will be made of backflips between now and the election. The potential for lives to be lost, for lives to be taken in the notion of excess embryos—to simply describe them as “excess” is appalling—for lives not to go ahead when there are huge ethical concerns that have still not been addressed dictate that I will vote against this bill. I will be consistent in that I have voted against abortion; I have voted against euthanasia; I have voted against capital punishment and I have voted against this. In all those things I will be consistent.
Ethical concern hangs over this legislation. When we now know that there is another solution to this problem that will bring us, we hope, the miracle cures that people with debilitating diseases deserve, if we can do it by another way, which is just as easy, without the destruction of life, then we should take that way.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.01): I am going to start because I have got a lot to say and my time has already started ticking over; so you can have your conversation under or over me. When the original bill was first introduced and debated in the ACT Assembly in 2004, the main questions on the issue at the time were whether and how to allow research on human embryos. For the large part, I think that the “whether” question has been agreed to nationally and internationally, excluding those people who take a religious position on this. The majority of people agree that the research benefits using the opportunities of stem cells outweigh the problems of the origins of the stem cells.
The “how” has been an incredibly complex issue and the answers make a huge difference to the supporter numbers of “whether”. It was a major focus of the Lockhart review which grappled with questions like, “What makes a human? At which point of development does it become unethical?”
This bill will allow somatic cell nuclear transfer in research on embryos produced by this process to take place within a strict licensing regime. Most importantly was the agreement by all on the Lockhart committee that embryos could not be allowed to develop beyond 14 days.
The bill also prohibits certain practices such as reproductive cloning, surrogacy, the creation of hybrid or chimera entities and the creation of fertilised embryos solely for the purposes of medical research. The human cloning and other prohibited practices legislation 2003 authorised the use of excess embryos resulting from in vitro fertilisation processes for research. This bill extends that authorisation to somatic cell nuclear transfer embryos.
But it is what the bill is not that is most important. The bill maintains the ban on human reproductive cloning for reproduction. This bill also does not allow collecting a viable human embryo from the body of a woman, selling or trading of sperm, eggs and embryos, developing an embryo outside the body of a woman for more than 14 days, creating a human embryo by fertilisation of a human egg by human sperm