The Democrats’ one remaining senator with any media profile, Natasha Stott Despoja, made headlines last week with her support for therapeutic cloning. I’m not surprised the Democrats have come out in favour of the technology. Large-scale duplication of their few remaining voters may be the only solution to electoral oblivion.
The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has opposed the legislation, arguing, as ever, that the wellbeing of living people is not as important as that of hypothetical people. He says the scientific benefits aren’t yet proven. Of course they aren’t; the research hasn’t been done. That’s like arguing you shouldn’t try to circumnavigate the globe because there isn’t yet proof that it’s round.
It also seems particularly cynical of Abbott to ban research that could help Alzheimer’s sufferers when he knows they won’t remember to punish him for it come election time.
Abbott claims that if we allow therapeutic cloning, people will want to clone humans and create human-animal hybrids. His own Liberal colleague, Mal Washer, a former GP, has called these claims “sensationalist”. But while Washer may not want to clone people, I do. Specifically, myself. Imagine always being able to hang out with someone who’d never fight over the remote control with you? And if I needed an organ transplant, my clone would be right there ready to donate a kidney, a lung or even a heart.
These ideas may explain John Howard’s new-found support for a conscience vote on the issue, a development almost as surprising as the notion that politicians have a conscience in the first place. With enough Howard clones, Peter Costello might never become leader. It’s probably also occurred to Howard that if scientists can perfect the technology, they could clone Don Bradman.
Any concerns our “cricket tragic” leader might have would seem trifling compared with the opportunity of a comeback by the game’s greatest batsman. You can imagine Howard’s delight at the prospect of selecting a Prime Minister’s XI made up of 11 Don Bradmans.
Cloning could solve another problem close to the PM’s heart: the future of the monarchy. If we whip up a few Queen Elizabeths, the unpopular Prince Charles need never become king.
And even if Australia did become a republic, the Prime Minister, John Howard, would no doubt have an excellent working relationship with the first president – John Howard.
Read more of Dominic Knight on the Radar blog at radar.smh.com.au.
Photo-illustration: Kate Oliver