In what has become an annual ritual of governments of all persuasions to ‘clear the decks’ just prior to Christmas, the Federal Government yesterday announced the composition of a committee that will review Australia’s cloning laws.

The timing of the announcement is doubly interesting given the relevant legislation stipulates a review of the laws was meant to be complete by the end of this year!

As announced by The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, the members of the cloning legislation review committee are: The Hon Peter Heerey QC (Chair), Professor Loane Skene, Professor Ian Frazer, Doctor Faye Thompson and Reverend Kevin McGovern.

The announcement has been met with strong scepticism by Dr David van Gend, a Toowoomba GP and National Director of the organisation, Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research. Writing on the announcement, he opens a blog article by saying:

This is part disgrace, part farce. A Review that is only announced a few days after the final date at which the statutory report was meant to be completed and tabled; a Government Minister who does not even know the year of the legislation to be reviewed; a new Committee of Review featuring the architect and chief activist of the last Review! What a display of government amateurishness, and what a despicably cynical process for conducting a new Review on such a contentious matter.

ACL anticipates that the review process will indeed be a contentious issue in 2011 and will follow the debate with some interest.