Debate starts on the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006 – the cloning laws – in the House of Representatives today.

Three weeks ago the bills scraped through the Senate 34-32. The Australian reports today that the bill’s supporters are saying they won’t accept amendments in the Reps, as they don’t want to test the legislation with a second vote in the Senate.

“If it went back we’d lose,” the MP who will introduce the bill to the house this morning, West Australian Liberal Dr Mal Washer, told the Oz.

But that’s just what the Australian Christian Lobby wants to see. Its director, Brigadier Jim Wallace, says one Senate vote is an inadequate mandate for cloning.

“The Patterson Bill passed the Senate by just one vote, with several saying their conscience was not easy with the decision they made to support it,” Wallace says.

“To cross such a pivotal threshold in our growing disregard for human life is tragic. To allow that decision to stand when it was passed by just one vote in the Senate is irresponsible.”

Perhaps Wallace read Democrat Andrew Bartlett’s musings on the bill at the time of the Senate vote:

The final vote was 34 – 32, which means if I had voted the other way, the legislation would have been defeated…

I would have preferred the extra day or two to think further about the matter and discuss my concern with others, and I really didn’t reach a conclusive view in my head about how I would vote until the very final minutes. I suppose that just makes me look indecisive, but it’s an indication of how conflicting my views were (and still are) about a key issue within the legislation, and my feeling that both sides had weaknesses in their arguments that weren’t adequately addressed. My views changed quite a bit over the months as I kept examining and exploring some of the issues involved, and I can’t recall any occasion where I have been so unsure about the best way to vote…

A 34-32 vote is scarcely a ringing endorsement – particularly on such a contentious ethical matter – but it’s also democracy at work. The same sort of democracy that will be tested in the Reps.

Peter Fray

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