Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 996 ..
because new research has emerged. All I am asking is that the minister take a little bit of time and refer it back to the federal minister and ask that that minister confirm that the research that is the basis of the Lockhart report and the basis of this template legislation which is being enacted across the country is still valid.
The one thing the minister said that was correct is that, yes, the progress of scientific research is moving at a great pace. Before we put legislation in place, we should not be legislating for something that was valid two years ago when we know that there are techniques available today that now supersede that. That is all I am asking. It is a very simple request. We talk in this place a lot about the precautionary principle—let us apply it for once. We heard quotes from Professor Skene this morning that there are new techniques that supersede the need for using embryonic stem cells that can be done simply from adult stem cells. If that is so, then we should avail ourselves of that information.
With that in mind, I am simply asking that the Assembly adjourn this debate and that the minister write to the federal minister, from whom I assume she can get a quick response, and bring back debate on the bill in the sitting week in May. That is plenty of time to enact the bill in June, if necessary. However, we all might be surprised by the fact that, yes, indeed, some Australian scientists have made significant progress in processing adult stem cells to do the research that two or three years ago seemed to require embryonic stem cells. I think this is about getting it right and not about getting it done quickly.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (5:23): The government will not be supporting this motion. There has been enormous discussion and consultation around this issue stemming back more than six years. This legislation was introduced in December. There has been ample time for briefings and further discussion to be had. In fact, we briefed the opposition and no concerns were raised, other than it is a conscience vote. We did not ask for any commitments around that.
There was time, other than at the last minute today, to put this on the table and ask for this issue to be referred on. This is largely a delaying tactic, as far as I can see. Human stem cell research is allowed to happen under legislation now, so the research that you want to see continued can continue. This bill simply allows another type of research to occur, if it is proven and if, under the licence requirements, it is approved by the NHMRC and it sees it as the best way to conduct the research. That does not discount all the growth and advances in technology and research in the area that you are interested in at all. Those can all continue. This simply allows for particular types of research to occur in tightly regulated, controlled and approved conditions.
What you are asking me to do is to make sure that scientific techniques still represent best practice. This is allowing a whole range of research to occur, and that will not change. I can see no reason why the debate that we have had today cannot be concluded. This is a delaying tactic. The government will not be supporting it.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.25): I would like to support Mr Smyth’s motion. It is interesting to see that suddenly the corporatist Labor Party is coming out. Suddenly