Page 986 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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that would be permitted as a result of these amendments is a risk or an outcome that they find impossible to support. I am one of those that do believe that the potential ends, the outcomes, of some of the research may be pursued—we do need to give it the opportunity and capacity to be pursued—will, at the end of the day, have potentially lifesaving potential for people with the most debilitating diseases and life-threatening and life-ending diseases such as cancer, most particularly leukaemia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and a whole range of other diseases that render the lives of many people very difficult and that do impact enormously on the quality of their lives or the capacity to live meaningful lives.

To that extent, I am one of those that believe in some of the ends that we believe are possible as a result of some of the research that may be pursued. There are lots of ifs, buts and mays in all of this, but at the end of the day I believe the potential for outcomes that will alleviate significant suffering and enhance the quality of lives of many Canberrans, many Australians, many people throughout the world, does justify and support the need for these particular amendments to allow that possibility or that potentiality. So I will be supporting the amendments.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (4.39): I have been listening to the debate as best I could upstairs and I offer, by way of explanation for my absence from the chamber, the fact that I have been trying to do a number of things at once. This is a very difficult issue and it is not the first time that I have had to rise in this place, having been faced with a particularly difficult issue because I differ quite a lot from a lot of people in this place in my view about when life commences.

I have the very strongly held view that it commences when a sperm penetrates the membrane of the egg. As far as I am concerned, that is then a life. Then, if anything needs to be done with that life, for whatever reason, and that causes it to die through intervention, then we should acknowledge the need to do that as a community and that we are taking a life. Let us not fool ourselves. The minute an egg divides because of the insemination it is therefore alive. Whether it will proceed to a condition of developing a consciousness will really depend upon the environment in which it is nurtured. That is where, in fact, in my view, a lot of our attention needs to be placed.

However, there are other issues at stake. Let me put my position. One of the things that I brought to this consideration very early was my total opposition to the farming of embryos for any reason. I do not believe in it and I will not ever support it. So people can save themselves a bit of time later by asking me to, because I just will not.

However, there are occasions—and we have discussed them here before—when an embryo will be destined for a certain fate. One case that I could think and that comes to mind is where a person will have an embryo inserted by IVF but there were two created. But there was only ever meant to be one. We have seen some cases in the media recently where there happened to be two and there has been litigation. One of them is destined to be destroyed.

In my view, I would be saying, “We will keep the other one as long as we can for implantation later.” But if it is a decision by all of those people that have responsibility for this that that should be destroyed, then that would be, I believe, a sad thing to happen.

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