Page 1073 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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Clause 16 agreed to.

Proposed new clause 16A.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.26): I move amendment No 9 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 1160].

Mr Speaker, this amendment inserts a new clause 16A and is of an entirely different tenor and goes in an entirely different direction from those which have previously been discussed. This relates to the pecuniary interests of researchers and a statement of what researchers stand to gain as a result of research. It is no secret that the business of assisted reproductive technology and embryo research in general is big business. A lot of that money is made off the back of commonwealth taxpayers, who pay for a large proportion of the egg harvesting cycles and many of the procedures that are undertaken, although there has been some clawing back of the commonwealth contribution in this area. But it is big business and companies make a large amount of money out of it.

Most of the embryo research—the sort which people hold out much hope for in this legislation—is conducted by IVF companies in Australia who undertake assisted reproductive technology techniques. It is also no secret that, for instance, when Monash IVF was sold recently it sold for some hundreds of millions of dollars to a merchant bank. I think that the amendment is reasonable, as in many other cases where researchers seek licences to do things or seek grants to do things, they have to state where their financial backing is coming from and what their relationship is to the financial backers. For instance, when Monash IVF was sold, the principal of that company walked away with some tens of millions of dollars as a direct result of his share ownership. He is now doing very nicely in the United States earning large sums of money on the back of this research.

If an organisation wants to obtain a licence that may end up with a patent for a technique or a serum or whatever as a result of this, I think that it is reasonable that the researchers state to the National Health and Medical Research Council what their relationship is with their backers, who stands to gain and what their financial relationships are. This is about transparency. It is not necessarily about the publication of that information, because some of that may be considered commercial in confidence.

I did contemplate going down that path, and some staff of some of the members in this place asked me whether I would go down that path. At this stage I am not prepared to do so, but I do want at least the National Health and Medical Research Council to be able to come to some understanding of where the money flows go. It may, in time, be appropriate for that to be reported on, but that is a bridge that we can cross if there is a large volume of licences issued and a large volume of patented material coming out the other end.

This is a first step, Mr Speaker, and a modest one. It requires better accountability for those people who are seeking to undertake this research. There will be at least some

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