Who, more than anyone else, should Australians be able to trust to look after their health? Err … the Minister for Health? So how can the person entrusted with the nation’s health justify the use of quack theories, emotive hyperbole and pseudo science (he has no medical qualifications) to support a campaign against the therapeutic cloning of stem cells that comes with the imprimatur of his office?

Yesterday the Minister, Tony Abbott – a former journalist, no less – claimed that “what we are seeing at the moment is a lot of peddling of hope, but no great evidence that these new and radical research techniques are actually going to produce the breakthroughs that some of the more evangelical scientists are claiming for them”. And he blundered on: “People are asking us to cross a very serious ethical bridge for no good reason because there is no strong evidence that this kind of research is actually going to produce the massive breakthroughs that people are claiming.”

Is “peddling of hope” the official view of the Health Department’s medical experts? Are the Minister’s comments about “evangelical scientists” the result of scientific investigation within the Department? Is his claim of “no strong evidence” that this research will be successful based on the Health Department’s own rigorous findings?

Of course not. Tony Abbott is a religious pro-life politician who is abusing his ministerial position – to look after the health and future health of Australians – to push an ideological barrow. At the same time he is insulting the intelligence of the vast majority of Australian scientists (and most Australians, according to a recent Morgan Poll) who believe in therapeutic cloning as a possible route to tackling disease and saving lives.

The Minister has an outrageous conflict of interest in this matter. He should either shut up or resign.

Peter Fray

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