Brian Harradine, 1935 – 2014
“I first met Brian Harradine in June 1985, ten years after he was first elected as an Independent senator for Tasmania,” FamilyVoice national research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“I was an unknown editor of a small pro-family magazine, but my amateur status did not worry him. He readily agreed to be interviewed, and his answers to questions on human embryo experimentation three decades ago are as relevant now as they were then.”
Senator Harradine answered the following questions about his private member’s bill to prohibit experiments on human embryos in Light, August 1985, p 3 (edited):
Have you received much support for your Human Embryo Experimentation Bill? Yes indeed. Already 25,198 people from all over Australia have petitioned parliament to pass the bill. I have received a substantial volume of mail with letters running 8:1 in favour. Two opinion polls conducted last year show that between 54-59% of Australians disapprove of human embryo experiments. Only 32-34% approve – the rest are undecided.
How have other MPs reacted? They have been heavily lobbied against the bill by some IVF scientists with a vested interest in experimentation. But as the facts emerge, more MPs are recognising that the issue is vital to the future of humanity.
Would your bill prevent IVF programs from going ahead? No. While IVF raises many unanswered questions, my bill does not seek to settle them.
What did you think of the damaging report on your bill by a Senate scrutiny of bills committee? The committee produced its report after a brief 20 minute meeting. It then issued an extraordinary press statement against the bill before allowing me to comment. I subsequently answered all its claims in the Senate on 15 May, but the committee has persisted with its main objection, contrary to advice given by its own legal counsel.
Are you worried about the outcome of the debate? Scientists have told me that if the bill is not passed within 18 months, it will be too late. Human embryo experimentation would be firmly established in this country.
History shows that Brian Harradine’s bill ultimately received the support of 100,000 petition signatures and in 1986, even the support of a Senate committee. But the Hawke government refused to allow time for debate, and the bill lapsed.
“Despite Brian Harradine’s efforts, human embryos and their stem cells have indeed been the subject of experiments,” Ros Phillips said. “But those experiments have not produced any of the miracle cures we were promised.
“Embryo stem cells produce tumours as well as the desired tissue: the remedy has proved worse than the malady. The many truly miraculous cures have come from adult stem cells that do not involve any destruction of unborn humans.
“Australia could have avoided much wasted time and money had parliament listened to this humble warrior for life. I salute him!”
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