Michelle Lensink

Statutes Amendment (Prohibition Of Human Cloning For Reproduction And Regulation Of Research Involving Human Embryos) Bill

This speech is to indicate support for the Statutes Amendment (Prohibition Of Human Cloning For Reproduction And Regulation Of Research Involving Human Embryos) Bill, which has been passed by all parliaments around Australia, with the exception of Western Australia.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 3 March 2009. Page 1445.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:46): I note that this bill has been passed by all parliaments around Australia, with the exception of Western Australia, and that the commonwealth was the lead parliament in implementing these provisions. Because the states and the commonwealth have responsibility for different aspects of regulation of such practices, it will be necessary for South Australia to pass this bill to allow for the cloning of human embryos.

This a somewhat controversial area, and I think that, for a number of people, it brings into focus the issue of the sanctity of human life. I state at the outset that I respect the views of other people who hold those views very strongly and deeply. I think I have more respect for people who have advanced that as their reason for not supporting this bill than for those who have come up with all sorts of spurious and pseudoscientific reasons for not supporting this measure. I support this bill, and I do so for a few simple reasons. I believe that there is great promise in assisting people who are suffering—and suffering very severely—from various incurable illnesses.

Indeed, in the press recently, there have been reports about the death of Ivan Cameron, the son of David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK. Ivan Cameron was born with severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a son with cystic fibrosis, which is, in effect, an illness which ends one's life sooner than the average life expectancy, although medical advances have improved life expectancy. I accept that there are moral issues involved here and that a number of people, particularly those who adhere to certain aspects of their Christian faith, believe that it is a slippery slope. However, I believe we have faced these issues before in relation to IVF, when that initially became a possibility some decades ago, and the parliaments at that time determined that that would be allowed within limited scope—and this practice will be allowed within limited scope.

There have also been people who have argued against this practice because the recent advances with induced pluripotent stem cells negate the need for it. However, I do not accept that that is the case, and I refer to a letter, which I think has been read into the record already by one of the preceding speakers. I am referring to a letter from Professor Robert Norman, who is one of our local pre-eminent scientists. He says that, while it is welcomed that induced pluripotent stem cells have great potential, even the inventors of iPL agree that it is too early to rule in or out any one type of stem cell technology.

So, I believe that it would be wrong of the parliament to close the door, in effect, on all the potential benefit that could come from allowing this measure to go ahead. For those who fear the Dr Frankenstein scenario, I ask them to have regard to the professionalism of our scientific community. I believe that our scientists here in Australia adhere to high ethical standards and, while there may be a slip, as there was at Flinders University with the cloning of mice, I think it was, by and large we need to trust that our scientists are not there to become Dr Frankenstein or set up the Island of Dr Moreau, but they are there working hard for not particularly great pay because they are very passionate about their work and, as a body of researchers, they have made many advances from which we all benefit. So, for the promise that this potential research holds for us, I support this bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. B.V. Finnigan.

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