Repeal of ministerial control of RU486 bill passes Australian House of Representatives

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Australian House of Representatives have considered the bill regarding whether the Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott, or the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate the abortifacient mifepristone (RU486), and has passed the bill unamended.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister John Howard (Australian Liberal Party, Bennelong) has spoken on the amendments earlier proposed by Jackie Kelly (Liberal, Lindsay) and Andrew Laming (Liberal, Bowman), speaking in favour of the Laming amendments and reiterating his support for Abbott, stating that he is the "best friend that Medicare ever had", Abbott's usual phrase he states in Question Time in support of the Government's handling of Medicare.

Howard's counterpart, the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley (Australian Labor Party, Brand), spoke in support of the bill in its unamended form, noting that it is "simply commonsense that the minister does not have the scientific capacity" to evaluate the drug, and reiterating that the bill is "not really about Tony Abbott". More controversially he however said that those with certain personal views such as Tony Abbott's conservative Catholic faith should not hold certain offices in Government, which drew criticism from the Government later in the debate noting that an earlier Labor Prime Minister of Australia John Curtin's pacificism was a strong wartime leader.

Later, the Kelly amendments were put to the vote and were lost on the voices and in subsequent division with 49 agreeing to the amendments and 96 disagreeing. The vote on whether the bill should be read a second time 95 for to 50 against. In the consideration in detail stage, the Laming amendments were debated, but the vote on these amendments were lost with 56 supporting the amendments and 90 against them.

The bill as unamended was agreed to and passed the third reading on the voices, without having to resort to a vote.

Reactions from Australian bloggers

Larvatus Prodeo (LP) blogger "Kate" welcomed the decision, but warned that the abortion issue was far from settled. "Personally, I think this is not only a good thing for women in Australia, but also demonstrates democratic processes at work. Now we can commence stoushing about whether or not the TGA should allow the drug into the country," she said.

One commenter on LP, Paul Norton, suggested that division over the issue would deepen in the next few years, and that people opposed to legalised abortion would become more vocal. "I expect that the loud minority will become louder over the next couple of years, and more authoritarian and fanatical in their attempts to twist legislators’ and candidates’ arms, until State and Federal election results show that their loudness is directly proportional to their minority status amongst Australians."

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • ABC NewsRadio broadcasts of the House of Representatives, February 16, 2006.
  • Australian House of Representatives, Hansard, February 16, 2006. (available from February 17, 2006)

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