Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 April 2008) . . Page.. 1071 ..
that. No, the Greens do not support the creation of hybrids for scientific research. However, we believe that there is potential in using stem cells from animals to reduce the need to harm animals in our quest for solutions to human problems.
In regard to ranking life, probably everyone is aware of the 17th or 18th century tables or graphs ranking the value of different lives—of course, with humans at the top. We are wiser than that now. We know that human life is very important. Since we have given ourselves more power over other species—or taken that power—we could be seen as having a huge moral responsibility. But every aspect of life we now know is really important, and we cannot know what the loss of any one life form might mean in that chain of life. Consequently, I do not feel myself to be in a position to regard the experimental mouse as less important than any other species.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (11.15): This amendment really does go to the heart of the legislation which has been passed in principle. One of the key features of this bill was to allow, as I have said a number of times, particular types of research to occur under very strict licence conditions. One of those is that there should be available, on application or having a licence granted, the ability to develop a hybrid embryo.
This is very much about testing impact; it is all about testing the viability of sperm in ART treatment. The legislation is very strict where it explains that the licence is only granted up until the first mitotic division, which is 24 hours. It really is once the sperm penetrates the egg membrane that the research ceases. It is really taking into account the fact that there are not abundant amounts of human eggs to test the viability of sperm on. This is one way to deal with that issue. I will not be supporting the amendment. If the amendment passes, again, it significantly changes the bill that we are debating today.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.16): Ms Gallagher, the minister, has got to the nub of it—it is designed to significantly change the bill we are debating today. It is interesting to listen to people and to see how their positions shift according to the matter that we are talking about. I am heartened to hear from Dr Foskey—and I gather from the way she speaks about herself as the Greens—that the Greens are opposed to the creation of human-animal hybrids in this research. But at the same time, she is not prepared to use her vote to support that opposition and rests rather glibly on the so-called protections that are in the legislation.
As I said the other day, these protections are only as good and as strong as the sum of the people who make them. These decisions will be made by a committee of scientists and, to a lesser extent, ethicists. Whether or not people will get permission really depends on how people are feeling on the day. The protections are fairly weak. There are no real protections here, because it really boils down to someone making a value judgement.
The minister likes to hang her hat on clause 30 (4) (b) and what that does is—again, a value judgement. Someone has to determine the likelihood of whether there will be a significant advance or improvement in technologies for treatment as a result