The Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean, has welcomed the government’s support for stem cell research but says it is long overdue.
Crean’s comments came in response to the announcement by the Prime Minister of his support for limited stem cell research.
Text of statement from Opposition Leader Simon Crean.
John Howard’s long overdue decision to follow Labor’s lead and support the use of surplus IVF embryos for stem cell research is a welcome development.
Mr Howard’s handling of this important issue has been botched from the start.
He initially moved to outlaw the use of IVF embryos by giving carriage of the issue to staunch opponent Kevin Andrews, the Minister for Ageing, instead of the Minister for Health.
Under intense public pressure from Labor, the states and territories and researchers, Mr Howard now appears to have finally made the right decision to allow this potentially life-saving research to proceed.
Some of the detail in Mr Howard’s proposal needs further clarification, in particular his proposal that only existing surplus embryos may be used.
As such, Labor will be closely examining the detail of Mr Howard’s proposals to ensure that they do not unduly hamper progress on stem cell research.
The requirement that there is a review of the stem cell regulations by a qualified and unbiased body in three years time is essential and we will request that provision is made to bring that review forward should scientific advances make it necessary.
Labor recognises the potential for significant benefits in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and juvenile diabetes that could result from this research.
Labor also welcomes Mr Howard’s decision to follow Labor’s lead in allowing a free vote within his party room in recognition of the strongly held views some members hold on this issue.
Notwithstanding this, Mr Howard must show he is serious about advancing this vital area of research by arguing strongly in his party room to support the use of surplus IVF embryos for stem cell research, as I have.
Mr Howard must take personal responsibility for this issue and introduce the legislation in the Parliament.