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Private member's bill on therapeutic cloning passes first stage in Senate.

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Tuesday 7 November 2006

Private member's bill on therapeutic cloning passes first stage in Senate


MARK COLVIN: The private member's bill put up by Senator Kay Patterson on therapeutic cloni ng has passed its first senate stage, but it's still not certain yet how much further it will get.  


The first reading passed 34 votes to 31, but some of those who voted yes, suggested that they could change to a no vote, if some amendments weren't passed. 


So for the next few days, the senate will debate several amendments with a final vote on whether to expand stem cell research likely by the end of the week. 


From Canberra Gillian Bradford reports 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The initial debate on whether to allow a new form of stem cell research seemed rather more clear-cut than it is now.  


While the senators in the No box haven't budged, there's a new group who support the bill in principle, but would like to see amendments. The Democrat's Andrew Bartlett is one of those. 


ANDREW BARTLETT: I've been somewhat surprised to find that the more I've examined the issue involved in the arguments put forward, the more unsure and conflicted I become about some of the key issues. A process that's continued over the last week, and continuing as I speak. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Greens leader Bob Brown has told the Senate he's decided to support the bill, but would still like to see amendments  


BOB BROWN: There are, of course, great ethical issues involved here, but I think we should look to those not by opposing this legislation, but by building in greater safeguards. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Bob Brown's fellow Greens senator Kerry Nettle is one of those proposing amendments. She's concerned allowing therapeutic cloning could lead to scientists designing treatments for those who can afford it. 


So Senator Nettle wants the National Heath and Medical Research Council to only grant licences to allow research if it's likely it would reduce the global disease burden. At the moment the council's focus is on whether there'd be an increase in knowledge. 


KERRY NETTLE: I don't want to see any benefits that come out of stem cell research only being available to the wealthiest individuals for a massive amount of money. I would like to see any benefits that come from this being able to be delivered across the board. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: While there are some in the Senate who'd like amendments to the bill, those who are opposed, say there are no changes that would persuade them to support therapeutic cloning. 


Labor Senator Helen Polley. 


HELEN POLLEY: This bill is not just a vote to allow for cloning. It is a vote to allow for the destruction of human life, and the first step towards handing science a free reign over our morals and over our very lives.  


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Nationals Senate leader Ron Boswell holds a similar view. 


RON BOSWELL: I don't believe you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and this is certainly a sow's ear.  


And I will not be moving any amendments; I will be voting strongly, I will be voting against the third reading. It still is cloning; it is the way Dolly the sheep was made.  


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Senate will spend the rest of the week debating whether to allow embryos to be created for the purpose of collecting stem cells.  


It will be tight vote with some Senators still not sure where they stand. 


MARK COLVIN: Gillian Bradford.