Page 983 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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I just want to stand up in support of the University of Canberra. I have heard comments made that we perhaps are a little pre-emptive. I agree that we have to keep a watching brief and keep an eye very closely on what is happening out there. But to be dragging it out—maybe somewhat prematurely given that the end-of-year financial reports are not out yet—is a little sad. We need to be very careful about doing that to such a fine institution in the ACT.

MR SPEAKER: The time for the discussion of the matter of public importance is concluded.

Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2007

Debate resumed.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (4.27): The speed of developments in research and emerging technologies constantly presents our society with difficult ethical and moral challenges for consideration. Recent changes in the field of reproductive technology—in particular, the refinement of cloning techniques, the isolation of human stem cells and the development in vitro of stem cell lines—have caused considerable debate and attracted significant media attention both in Australia and internationally. Much of the discussion on these technologies has centred on potential therapeutic benefits, including the possibility that many diseases and disabilities characterised by tissue degeneration such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, arthritis, liver disease and muscular dystrophies may be effectively treated or cured.

It is my view that this bill will increase the chances of this future success by allowing research on stem cells created by somatic cell nuclear transfer to proceed. The advances in this field are already significant. Regenerated cells derived from adult cells are already being used to treat leukaemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood diseases.

However, there are also concerns in the community about the fundamental ethical issues posed by work with embryos and the level of oversight applied to such work. Debate has focused on the possibility of producing a clone of a human being and the destruction of human embryos in research for a potential therapeutic application. In my view, the Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2007 does address these concerns. As has been highlighted in the debate earlier by the minister when the bill was introduced, the purposes of this amending legislation are to ban human cloning and other unacceptable practices associated with reproductive technology and regulate research involving human embryos.

The nationally consistent scheme as outlined in detail by the health minister was developed through an extensive consultation process in which the ACT played a significant role. Indeed, this was a matter which was the subject of consideration by ministerial councils which I was a member of when I was Minister for Health.

As the current minister has stated, the introduction of this scheme was originally agreed to at the Council of Australian Governments, COAG, meeting in 2002 and

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