People count

Wednesday 8 November 2006 6:11 AM

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.