The New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has avoided a spill motion that three rebel MPs threatened to bring against her for her ‘shameful’ handling of the legislation to decriminalise abortion.
At 8.30pm on Monday night the former minister for women, Tanya Davies, and upper house Liberals Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato, released a statement that they would bring a motion to spill the leadership of the party.
The three have been outspoken critics of the bill and were seeking a raft of amendments to the legislation. They were advised last night their proposed changes had been rejected.
“We have come to the conclusion that the right course of action is not to leave the Parliamentary Liberal Party but to hold the Premier to account for presiding over this shameful process," their joint statement read. "We have also been alarmed by the Premier’s continued failure to address the impasse in the Legislative Council which has slowly ground the government’s legislative agenda to dust. This position is also untenable and must be urgently resolved for the good government of this state."
The development was greeted with shock and disbelief last night – from politicians of all persuasions as well as journalists and voters - considering that it was only six month ago that Berejiklian had successfully led the state party to victory at the election and that the bill is believed to be supported by 70% of voters.
Berejiklian remained calm and on her way out the door to work on Tuesday morning said ‘the numbers would speak for themselves’.
Shortly before 8am on Tuesday morning the MPs stood down and confirmed the spill was off.
Davies released a statement that read: "Since releasing our statement last night, we have received confirmation that further concessions will be forthcoming in relation to the amendments to the abortion bill. On that basis, I have called the Premier this morning and advised her that we will withdraw the spill motion to continue negotiations prior to the debate commencing in the upper house later today."
The amendments the trio are seeking include a prohibition on sex-selection abortions, proper medical care for aborted babies born alive, protection of conscientious objection rights for doctors and allied health professionals, and stricter regulation of late term abortions.
Online support has gathered for the Premier for standing her ground. Federal Labor MP Tanya Plibersek tweeted: “I’ve said it before, and I say it again today: @GladysB
was brave to allow this long overdue reform to come forward. She deserves congratulations and respect, not this nonsense.”
Abortion has been a crime in NSW for the past 119 years. Earlier this year independent MP Alex Greenwich introduced a bill to decriminalize abortion that the Premier has backed for ‘future generations of women’.
The original bill was co-sponsored by 15 MPs from across the political divide. It was based on legislation introduced in Queensland last year and created a standalone healthcare act to regulate the procedures, allows for terminations up to 22 weeks, and after that with the approval of two doctors.
In August after lengthy debate the bill passed 59 votes to 31, with some amendments.
Despite having widespread support across the major parties, the bill has been zealously opposed by conservative MPs, the Catholic church and anti-abortion activists. It will be debated in the Upper House in NSW on Tuesday.