I am a science graduate. My father has Parkinson’s

Only those Crikey readers who are watching a parent succumb to
these degenerative afflictions can understand the emotional strain for the
family. To watch him physically struggle for dignity now is heartbreaking. If I
were offered a miracle cure tomorrow I’d probably kill my granny for it. If she
weren’t already dead.

Which is exactly why I want to disown myself, and
by proxy my dad, from Crikey’s cheap editorial attack yesterday on the Health
Minister Tony Abbott. I disagree politically with Tony Abbott on just about
everything. I don’t like Tony Abbott “the Liberal Party polly” one bit. But this
is not a political issue, and to attack him for what is clearly an honest,
morally unimpeachable and intellectually consistent position on cloning issues
is secular-liberal smugness of the shallowest kind.

And for what it’s
worth – it is not the kind of “pro-cloning” contribution with which I want my
father’s struggle to be associated – even though, like Crikey, we support
therapeutic cloning.

Mr Abbott is exactly the kind of Health Minister –
a democratically-accountable “lay” leader – via whom our contemporary science
and medical fraternities can best fashion, with the Australian community, a
mutually-acceptable “new covenant” regarding the technically and ethically
complex medical frontiers genetic science is now forging. If there’s one thing
the staggering new field of genetics (and its derivatives) demands, it is a
rock-solid and actively-articulated moral and practical framework within which
we, as a society, can agree its potentially awesome medical fruits will be

Those who bridle – or worse, shut down their minds – just
because Abbott’s moral vocabulary happens to be a religious one are
small-minded. Ha! As if the non-god of secular human reason has any better moral
track record in recent years than the Catholic – or any other – Church. Theology
aside, we smug scientists play “defacto god” in many clinical matters already,
so God’s existence or otherwise is in a policy sense becoming somewhat

There are desperately difficult medico-ethical questions looming
not far ahead. Whatever your view on therapeutic cloning, to get the right
ethical, practical and financial balance, every fundamentally decent, morally
serious and intellectually honest leader we have must feel able to put their
(and thus their intellectual constituencies’) views into the public mix in good

Mr Abbott is one such leader. I thank him on my dad’s
behalf for tackling this issue with rigour and honesty and good

Jack Robertson is a former Army helicopter pilot who believes
in both doG and modern clinical science – provided both are kept on
appropriately-democratic leashes. His B. Sc (Melb) major was in History and
Philosophy of Science.