Australia Government Wants to Keep Ban on Human Cloning for Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 19, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 19, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — The Australian government is arguing that a ban on human cloning for research should be kept in place and the cabinet will oppose efforts by members of parliament to support legislation to overturn the ban.

Health Minister Tony Abbott argues the ban should remain in place despite the findings of the Lockhart review suggesting that it should be overturned. He says there have been no scientific breakthroughs due to human cloning that warrants lifting the ban on the grisly practice.

Abbott also points to the vast number of ethical problems associated with the embryonic stem cell research scandal in South Korea. The scandal saw scientists completely fabricate the results of their embryonic stem cell research and they claimed to have cloned a human embryo and embryonic cells, but were found to have lied about it.

Liberal Party supporter Cathy Manners disagrees with the decision and wrote a letter to Aging Minister Santo Santoro asking that the government allow a conscience vote.

"My request is simple: please submit the Lockhart review findings in their entirety to the Senate for consideration in a conscience vote," she wrote, according to The Australian newspaper.

Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie will argue against the ban at next month’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

Members of the cabinet spoke out against human cloning for research and Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, Parliamentary Secretary for health Chris Pyne, and Treasurer Peter Costello oppose it.

Victorian Liberal Sophie Panopoulos branded human cloning a "depraved practice" and Costello said he would oppose "creating embryos for the purpose of destroying them for medical research."

Senate Nationals leader Ron Boswell said human cloning for research is unnecessary because adult stem cells have accomplished so much. "You can do everything you can do with therapeutic cloning you can do with adult stem cells and you don’t have the other issues that worry you," he said.

Australia was criticized in November 2004 for changing its position to support a U.S.-backed proposal at the United Nations calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning. Prime Minister John Howard’s government quietly changed its position to support a coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States and Costa Rica.

In 2003, Australia opposed the treaty and supported a competing proposal pushed by a Belgium and a smaller group of nations to allow human cloning for research.

Democrat Natasha Stott Despoja has introduced a private member’s bill to repeal the human cloning ban.

While embryonic stem cells have yet to show consistent results in animal testing, adult stem cells have already produced treatments for patients with dozens of diseases and conditions.