I will make a brief contribution. I acknowledge that a number of members have chosen to take a detailed look at the science behind this legislation. I mainly wish to share the reasons for how I will vote, and from the outset I indicate that I will not support the bill. I have received many letters on this issue, and the majority of this correspondence has been from people who have the qualifications and expertise to comment on the legislation. I have certainly done a lot of reading and have been interested in the material people have taken the time to send me.
Members would have received a letter from Professor John Martin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne. This highly regarded professor has written to me about IPS cells or induced pluripotent stem cells. Professor Martin states in his letter:
Progress with research into IPS cells has been extraordinary in 2008, firmly establishing the conversion of normal adult cells to a form that behaves exactly as embryonic stem cells and circumventing any need for cloning to produce patient-specific cell lines. As it stands now, there is no basis for any further efforts to achieve therapeutic cloning using the transfer of adult cell nuclei to human eggs. Indeed, it would be irresponsible to attempt this.
To me this is compelling evidence from a highly respected professor of medicine, and I have received several other letters to support this argument—many letters—and very few which support the bill. Essentially the main point I have taken from the correspondence I have received, and my major reason for voting against the legislation, is quite simple. This legislation is not required at this time, and that is the overarching reason I have chosen not to support the bill. I have other reservations and historically I have been cautious and conservative when it comes to similar legislation.
Members in both places have shared their concerns regarding the need for tight regulation of the medical profession and have shared their concerns from a moral and ethical perspective. Their concerns are well documented and I share many of them. It is really the latest scientific evidence that has made me much more comfortable in choosing to vote against this bill. Dr David van Gend, National Director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research, made the following point in his recent letter to me:
Cloning has been very clearly left behind by new science which obtains exactly the same type of stem cells.
I am sure other members have received the same letter and other advice that points to the fact that this bill is now outdated and has been superseded, because now we have pluripotent stem cells being made much more efficiently and without what we describe as ethical difficulties.
As I get older—and hopefully wiser—I try to see things from different perspectives, but in this case my decision to not back this legislation was quite easy. I considered the evidence presented to me and made up my mind quite swiftly. I again refer to the letter from Professor John Martin, who explains how debate has moved on to a new form of technology and in his view there is no need for the parliament to pass this bill. Professor Martin made the following succinct conclusion, which best defines why I am voting against the legislation:
As it stands now there is no basis for any further efforts to achieve therapeutic cloning using the transfer of adult cell nuclei to human eggs. Indeed, it would be irresponsible to attempt this. There is no reason for any parliament to consider or maintain legislative approval for therapeutic cloning.
For members who support this bill and for proponents of the bill who read my contribution later in Hansard, I choose at this stage to do what I consider the responsible thing by not lending my support to this bill. With that, I conclude my remarks.