Page 993 - Week 03 - Thursday, 3 April 2008

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Non-compliance with safeguards can attract maximum penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment.

Currently in the ACT, ART is conducted under a self-regulatory framework through the Fertility Society of Australia code of practice and the National Health and Medical Research Council ethical guidelines. Assisted reproductive technology is conducted by two facilities in the ACT—the Canberra Fertility Centre and Sydney IVF Canberra.

It is possible that these facilities may, in the process of assisting couples to have children, generate excess human embryos that, with the consent of the two people whose sperm and egg were used to create the embryo, may be made available for research purposes. Under this bill, the only embryos that will be made available for research purposes will be the excess assisted reproductive technology embryos that donors have consented to being used for this purpose.

The NHMRC Licensing Committee will be tasked with scrutinising applications on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the use of each embryo is fully justified and that the embryos are donated with informed consent. The researcher that seeks such consent cannot be the assisted reproductive technology provider who obtained consent for the creation of the embryos at the outset. Consenting donors will also be able to specify research restrictions on the use of their embryos.

In granting a licence, the licensing committee will have regard to whether the outcomes of the research will be likely to provide a significant advance in knowledge or improvement in technologies for treatment as a result of the proposed research which could not be reasonably achieved by other means. The research must also have the approval of human research ethics committees and comply with all ethical guidelines issued by the NHMRC.

The Standing Committee on Legal Affairs in their scrutiny report raised concerns about whether new sections 20, 21, 25A and 25B of the act, if enacted, would create strict liability offences. I would like to emphasise, as I stated in my response to this report, that these are not intended to be strict liability offences. If it had been the intention to apply strict liability, it would have been explicitly labelled as such, as required by the Criminal Code. Fault elements will apply to these provisions as per section 22 of the Criminal Code.

I believe that the Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Bill, in conjunction with the commonwealth act, meets the objective of providing a nationally consistent approach to human cloning and embryo research. I believe that this bill provides an appropriate and balanced approach to the issues at hand. It prohibits unacceptable activities, such as human cloning, and it responds to community concerns that we regulate scientific research on the use of excess assisted reproductive technology embryos. At the same time, it keeps open the ability for research to find therapies and cures for debilitating and life-threatening illnesses within strictly legislated parameters.

As other jurisdictions have found, I think this bill strikes the right balance. I acknowledge the difference of opinion that exists across this chamber and the debate that has gone on today, but I believe this legislation allows certain research to occur in

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