Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 April 2008) . . Page.. 1066 ..
minister quaintly calls “excess embryos”, but creating a regime that allows them to be experimented upon and then destroyed does not actually take us any further down the path of addressing a substantial and serious public policy issue. These amendments are about maintaining what I see as the first and most important thing a legislator does—upholding human dignity from the moment it comes into existence until the moment it naturally expires.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (10.49): I will be opposing this amendment. I have listened to what Mrs Dunne has said and I think it does come down to your own beliefs about when life is created—at what point it is created. I can understand Mrs Dunne having the view that she does, but it is not one that I agree with, and I think that there will be other members in this place who do not share that same view and who have different belief systems around that.
This legislation allows research into an embryo that contains genetic material provided by more than two persons. Again, this is a recommendation coming out of the Lockhart review—that a licence to create human embryos using the genetic material from more than two persons or including heritable genetic alterations should be permitted for research, training and clinical applications. That was recommendation 26.
The commonwealth legislation and the ACT bill before us today permit the NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee to issue a licence to create embryos that contain genetic material provided by more than two persons in research subject to stringent criteria. That is really what this bill is about. It is about allowing a particular type of research under very strict regulations and controls—research that has not been allowed before but that many believe will provide significant insights into treatments for people with very debilitating conditions.
The use of embryos created using genetic material from more than two persons is required for research aimed at assisting embryonic development or preventing mitochondrial diseases. These diseases are complex diseases caused by the body’s inability to convert food and oxygen into life-sustaining energy and can affect the heart, brain, muscles and lungs. Mitochondrial diseases are responsible for a range of conditions, including dementia, multiple sclerosis type disease and diabetes mellitus when it is combined with deafness.
The use of embryos created using genetic material from more than two persons may also be required when an existing embryonic stem cell line is used for somatic cell nuclear transfer. I am advised that the NHMRC has not received any applications for a licence to create embryos using the genetic material from more than two persons in research, but this legislation allows that to occur in the right conditions if the research is seen as being necessary. Again, it really is up to the experts on the NHMRC—experts in their field—to go through the very strict licence conditions and controls that are set out in the bill.
If this amendment were to pass and the relevant clause be removed from the ACT bill, it is not clear whether the commonwealth would be able to declare the ACT