by Steven Ertelt
August 31, 2006
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — A new report commissioned by the Australian government finds that human cloning is not necessary for scientific research. Despite the results, Prime Minister John Howard restated his support for a conscience vote in the nation’s parliament on whether to overturn the nation’s ban on all forms of human cloning.
The report indicated that there has been no scientific progress using human cloning to advance science in the last three years since parliament voted for a human cloning ban.
Howard has said he would allow a free vote on human cloning but indicated for the first time on Thursday that the vote could be on a private member’s bill sponsored by Liberal Senator Kay Patterson. Typically such bills don’t get a vote unless the government allows it.
“If there is a Bill put forward – and I think there will be, possibly by Senator Kay Patterson who is a former health minister and a wonderful parliamentarian – let’s debate that and vote on it as free individuals and not as members of any particular party,” he told Macquarie Radio.
Howard’s previous comments didn’t pertain to any specific bill but he said he backed a free vote in general. He said the mood among government MPs has changed and pressure has increased to allow a vote.
Patterson and Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja have introduced legislation to legalize human cloning.
Commenting on the report, Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research spokesman Dr. David van Gend said the report showed a previous review by the Lockhart commission was "based on their own ethical prejudice and their unsubstantiated wish list of what cloning might achieve."
An August poll shows Australians oppose human cloning and ten times more Australians prefer adult stem cell research to studies involving embryonic stem cells.
The survey, conducted by Sexton Marketing, found 51 percent of Australians opposed human cloning, 30 percent supported it and 12 percent had no opinion on the issue.
The survey of 1,200 people also found that 90 percent of those polled were aware of stem cell research.
Assuming each type of research brought equal benefits to patients, 40 percent preferred using adult stem cells and just 4 percent preferred using embryonic stem cell research. Some 51 percent had no preference.
The Sexton poll also found that 48 percent of those surveyed would change the way they vote in the next election depending on how their local MPs stood on the issue of human cloning.
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.