Recent abortion and voluntary assisted dying votes in NSW

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A look at votes in NSW on secular issues, and the influence of the religious lobby, and a gesture ...

We have had recent votes on two secular issues, which I thought I'd review for my web page. These were the vote on the 11th May 2017 on the "Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016" and on the 16th November 2017 on the "Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017".

The were both lost - the abortion bill by 14 to 25 votes, and the assisted dying by 19 to 20 votes, a much narrower margin. Now, in the minds of some they are separate issues, but being informed by both my secular background in the NSW Humanists and also the Pirate Party of Australia, I prefer to see them as facets of the same issue - the influence of religion on Australian law. While advocates against abortion and voluntary assisted dying couch their arguments in non-religious terms, the fact remains that the vast majority of such partisan advocates do have a religious agenda. There are some pro- Voluntary Assisted Dying groups with a Christian basis, but they are not involved with organised religious groups having political influence.

For me as a humanist, I see such anti positions as representing an ill informed view of human life and thinking that we can intervene in people's lives because of our religious doctrine, ignoring personal wishes. While the Pirate Party of Australia is strongly informed by secular notions - it also champions the autonomy of the individual to make his or her own decisions.

In spite of the fact that these votes are - for the Liberal Party - claimed to be conscience votes, in fact there is the threat that party resources and even the expectation of pre-selection will be withdrawn if the representative does not follow the "unofficial party line", even though there's no written-down policy. When you have the ability, you can flex your muscles without worrying about what is in fact written down. It's actually one of the best ways of controlling things - erase your tracks.

Still, sometimes people can misunderstand ... The "Iron Fist Velvet Glove" podcasts notes in episode 177 - see here :

At a meeting of state council in Bundaberg, Liberal National Party president Gary Spence lambasted three of its MPs " Tim Nicholls, Jann Stuckey and Steve Minnikin " for voting with Labor for abortion to be legalised in Queensland, even though they had been allowed a "conscience vote" on the issue by their own party room.

In effect, it was a "Clayton's" conscience vote, designed to give the appearance the party was keeping to the convention of allowing MPs to exercise a vote independent of party direction but with the underlying threat to pre-selections by the organisational wing due in 2020.

So, the votes are in the following table :

Party Pro Abortion Vote Anti Abortion Vote Not Voted Pro VAD Vote Anti VAD Vote Not Voted
Greens Buckingham Buckingham
Faruqi Faruqi
Field Field
Shoebridge Shoebridge
Walker Walker
Labor Graham Donnelly Graham Donnelly
Mookhey Moselmane Houssos Primrose Houssos
Primrose Wong Searle Mookhey
Searle Sharpe Moselmane
Secord Veitch Secord
Sharpe Voltz Wong
Liberal Amato Ajaka Mallard Amato Ajaka
Clarke Mason-Cox Phelps Clarke
Cusack Cusack Ward
Farlow Farlow
Harwin Harwin
MacDonald MacDonald
Maclaren-Jones Maclaren-Jones
Mallard Martin
Martin Mason-Cox
National Blair Blair Colless
Colless Fang Mitchell
Franklin Franklin
Gay Khan
Khan Taylor
Animal Justice Pearson Pearson
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Borsak Borsak
Brown Brown
Christian Democrats Green Green
Nile Nile

This table is based on the results in : Hansard-Abortion and Hansard-VAD . I was somewhat inspired by reviews of the voting in Mama Mia, the NSW Dying with Dignity Website, and The New Liberator, newsletter of the NSW Rationalists.

Note that The Hon John Ajaka is President of the Legislative Council, and so I would expect does not vote. There are a total of 42 seats in the Legislative Council, and so there were 2 members that did not participate in the two votes. Also, note that Jeremy Buckingham was a Green at the time of the two votes.

We can generally observe that there is much more support for Voluntary Assisted Dying than Abortion, with many National members voting in support. Equally, more Labor candidates were willing to vote against Voluntary Assisted Dying than against Abortion.

Clearly, the Greens, along with the Animal Justice Party are quite progressive in their voting, and Dying with Dignity NSW will turn off their brains and just tell you to vote for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party(VEP). Now, I have nothing against the VEP, and if they want to advocate on their own behalf, good luck to them. I actually hope they do well. But I am however disappointed that DWD NSW are not broader in their outlook. They are not a political party.

Unfortunately, no Liberal or National members voted in favour of Abortion. However, a few Labor members did. To me, that suggests a way of making a statement. However else you order your preferences, when it comes to choosing between Labor and Liberal/Nats, vote first for the Labor candidates that voted in favour of both ( essentially the "Pro VAD Vote" column), then the Liberals and Nats who voted in favour of VAD, and put the other Labor and Liberal candidates well down amongst the riff-raff in your preferences.

I don't know how strong a statement it will be, but at least it is something you can do if you are a below-the-line voter.

As a separate issue, I have given a nod to my local State member, Victor Dominello, on his support for Voluntary Assisted Dying. I don't have much more advice to give on local members, as I do not have the resources. But, needless to say, numerous smaller parties pursue this issue, including the Pirate Party of Australia ( though not at state level). I've also written on broader around development and the NSW State Liberal's record on other issues, as you can see here.

See ya! Enjoy the democracy sausage!