Page 1074 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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markers that this is not entirely altruistic activity and that, if the processes succeed, people will stand to make a lot of money out of it.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (11.31): I will not be supporting this amendment. Again, this is covered extensively already in the NHMRC’s national statement on ethical conduct in human research. In fact, section 5.4—I was just getting someone from my office to get a copy of that because I left it upstairs—specifically deals with the issue of conflict of interest. One could also argue that these matters should apply to all types of medical research, not just to the research that we are debating today in relation to this bill.

Again, I guess it comes back to the fact that I think we have to let the experts determine the guidelines and the conduct of research. I am not comfortable saying that we have all the knowledge and understanding in this place to determine criteria when we have the NHMRC already issuing their guidelines on this. It does go to values and principles of research, for example, taking into account the scope and objects of the proposed research; the selection, exclusion and inclusion of categories of research; ensuring that the process of recruiting participants is fair; ensuring that there is no unfair burden or participation in research of particular groups; ensuring there is a fair distribution of the benefits of participation in research; ensuring there is no exploitation of participants in research in the conduct of the research; and ensuring there is fair access to the benefits of the research.

As I said, section 5, which I just do not have with me, goes to the issues of conflict of interest and financial considerations. My argument would be that this already exists. It has been determined by the relevant body which will be issuing the licence, which we have to rely on. I would prefer to rely on their advice and their expertise on this matter, I have to say, than I would on Mrs Dunne. That is just because I have a very different response to this bill than Mrs Dunne has.

Whilst I do not think we are shirking our responsibility as legislators by allowing the NHMRC to be the key body here in determining licences and the criteria for research, I am much more comfortable with an eminent body of scientists and ethicists determining these issues than I am with the ACT Legislative Assembly doing that. That is just from my own feelings and my own response to this bill. In a way, it goes straight to this amendment in that I feel that these guidelines, the ethical conduct criteria, are very clear and have already been determined by the NHMRC.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.34): The Greens certainly support the principle behind this amendment because we, of course, are also concerned about the potential for financial interests to direct the work. We are very concerned about the financial relationships between the companies that run the IVF programs, the scientists who do the research for each IVF company and each research body and the biotech and medical companies that stand to gain from the whole process. Indeed, the ethics behind what drives the IVF industry is really the very huge question that we are grappling with today. However, that is not the issue that we are looking at. Instead, we are looking at research that comes out of the excess assisted reproductive technology eggs.

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