Australia Prime Minister: No Conscience Vote to Overturn Human Cloning Ban

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Prime Minister: No Conscience Vote to Overturn Human Cloning Ban Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 6, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — Australia Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out allowing a conscience vote in the nation’s parliament on overturning the country’s ban on human cloning. Howard said his government favored keeping the ban and he doesn’t want to allow a vote to overturn that position.

Some members of Howard’s political party have called for allowing a vote on overturning the ban, but Howard said banning human cloning was not an issue "people are very disposed to have a conscience vote about."

He said he believed a majority of MPs would support his government’s position of keeping the human cloning ban in place.

"It’s quite a hard issue and I think people have to be careful that they are not ultra-dogmatic on either side," he told Network Ten television.

"But let there be no doubt the clear view of Cabinet is the status quo. My sense in the party is that there could be a majority in that direction as well," Howard added.

"There’s a limit, in a sense, to the willingness of a lot of people on these issues to have divisive conscience votes," he said.

Liberal backbencher Wal Washer, an embryonic stem cell research advocate who wants to allow human cloning for research purposes, says he plans to still pursue a conscience vote anyway. He estimate’s 20-30 percent of the Liberal party favors a vote.

In July, Howard said two Australian states may lose federal research dollars if they move forward with plans to legalize human cloning for research purposes.

"The commonwealth’s disposition at present is not to agree to any legislative changes," he said, according to a report in The Australian newspaper.

"We note that some of the states will look to taking action of their own to the extent that that can be done without facilitating commonwealth legislation, which would not, at this time anyway, be available," he added.

Previously, Health Minister Tony Abbott argued there have been no scientific breakthroughs due to human cloning that warrants lifting the ban on the grisly practice.

Abbott also pointed 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.

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.