Page 988 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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I do believe, in fact, that this legislation will, in all probability, have beneficial effects on people like my good friend into whose eyes I looked when he was in his wheelchair. I do believe that the safeguards are in place around the use of human sperm and non-human eggs. The mere mention of the words “chimeric embryo” in the prohibition lists is, to me, making it particularly obvious and up front that there is no intention of allowing a hybrid human being to be developed. That is quite clear.

Against this background, however, I would share with the Assembly a concern that I have. I will be asking the minister to check this out and let me know how this goes. If my fears are realised on this, I may very well have a different view. We do not have the time today; we need to vote on it today, I believe. It is this: we talk about the creation of a hybrid embryo. A hybrid embryo is actually the wrong terminology to use anyway, I believe, because, if the egg and the sperm are destroyed pretty much immediately after penetration, then you do not actually proceed to the mitotic stage anyway. It happens before that; so it is not actually that point. But it is good enough for the conversation.

If the process and the procedure are to say yes, that particular sperm is viable, therefore the conclusion about the predominance of those millions accompanying it is also a viable group and is therefore destroyed, I ask the question: why is it that we have to leave it and have the prohibition that we cannot develop a hybrid embryo after 14 days? Four hours would be better, in my view. I cannot see any reason why that is not so. It has not been explained. However, I do believe that the prohibitions address the issues that I have. I do believe that the penalties reflect the depth of seriousness with which this issue has been addressed.

On a lighter note, the test of viability of a sperm is usually the intention to create life. This procedure and this process are really about trying to make sure that life can be created. So we need to be a little bit careful about that. We do know that you could not and should not test the sperm on a human egg because then you will, if it is viable, create life. Then you have got some horrendous decisions on your hands. We do not have laboratory techniques to test it in some other way, as far as I know. I do not have a difficulty with that now, but I did have before.

We can see that one of the prohibitions quite clearly is that it will be an offence to create or develop a chimeric embryo. For those people who do not know, and for the record, what that term means is: it is essentially a two-headed monster in the definitional stuff. Therefore, we are talking about a Minotaur-type creature. That, of course, ought to be prohibited. I have confidence that that prohibition covers those sorts of possibilities. It also ought to be noted that we actually already implant other parts of animals into the human body to make sure that we can prolong life. There is an integration here. There is not a total prohibition on that.

I know that I disappoint Mrs Dunne and I know that I disappoint Mrs Burke. I respect their positions, and I would ask them to respect mine.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.54): This is, I think, most probably for all of us, a very personal issue. But I do believe that, in spite of the fact that it is a personal issue for me—in fact, a very personal issue for me—I do have a responsibility to explain the way that I vote on this.

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