Australian politics are beginning to seethe again with regard to embryonic stem cell research. Prime minister John Howard was refusing to put the Lockhart recommendations up for debate, and the Cabinet had previously decided not to change the current laws. However, Howard is feeling a backlash and has agreed for a coalition party debate on the issue. According to an article on ninemsn, he believes the feelings of the party as a whole are aligned with the Cabinet and does not expect a conscience vote. An article on the same subject in The Age reports that at least one legislator will introduce a bill supporting embryonic stem cell research in order to bring the issue up for debate. The Health Minister was quoted as saying that a vote would be appropriate if the matter does come up for debate in the whole parliament. However, he believes not enough has changed since the last debate four years ago for it to be worth re-debating. ABC (Australian) reported briefly that Howard said he did not think there were very many people who wanted to have a divisive vote on this issue.
For non-Australian, non-parliamentarians, a conscience vote is one in which the voter votes his or her own conscience and not as part of a party bloc.
Not being in Australia, I can’t really assess the current public vibe, but from the stories I’ve seen over the last year it seems to be fairly similar to the United States.