People count

It can only be hoped that members of the Federal lower house can work
their social lives around the debate and voting on the therapeutic
cloning bill, in contrast to several senators. More gravely, MPs
should think very soberly indeed before supporting such contentious
legislation. The more so considering that it passed the senate by the
slenderest majority. Had either or both of Senators Brown and
Sherry’s thought processes been differently nuanced the opposite
result may have ensued. Indeed Senator Sherry confessed to voting
“without a great deal of confidence and with a great deal of worry”.

This situation raises a legion of questions. Not least is the
appropriateness of deciding legislation with profound moral
implications on a bare majority. Our forebears may have been wise for
their time in determining that such a margin is adequate. But these
are very different times. In just a few years our parliaments have
dealt with several such matters, and the pace of development in
medical technology can only mean that state and federal legislatures
will be addressing similarly weighty matters for years to come, and
possibly at an increasing pace. If an amendment to the nation’s
constitution requires a two-thirds majority of both houses, should a
change involving significant redefining of moral boundaries require
anything less?

We are on a slippery slope indeed if changes impinging on the very
definition of human existence, well-being and life itself, and
engendering wide and deep disquiet and division, can be carried on a
mere knife edge.

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