LIBERAL MP HAS CHANGE OF HEART ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Liberal MP Craig Laundy has had a change of heart on the same-sex marriage debate. Mr Laundy had been one of the only Coalition MPs in the class of 2013 who had come out publicly in support of a free vote on same-sex marriage, even though he did not support same-sex marriage himself for religious reasons. Last December, he said he had “zero interest” in forcing his views on other MPs. But after a year in Parliament, the member for Reid has reviewed the situation. Mr Laundy said his experience as a politician had taught him that if the Liberal Party allowed a free vote on the matter, MPs would become the victims of vigorous lobbying to make them “vote against what they believe”.
Mr Laundy said he believed both sides of the marriage equality debate would get involved. “The issue is so emotive and so important to particular people that if we were to go down that path of a free vote, we are the ones that become vilified,” he said. “That’s not what our forefathers had in mind when they came up with a conscience vote.” Mr Laundy said his first year in Parliament had been an education in political reality versus political idealism. “Twelve months in, I now get how political lobby groups work,” he said, noting that people in marginal seats would be particularly vulnerable.
Mr Laundy’s change of heart is a blow to same-sex marriage campaigners within the Liberal Party. While Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s firm position is that marriage should be between a man and a woman, he has said the question of whether there is a free vote on the issue within the Liberal Party would be a matter for the post-election party room. The party room needs a bill to spark a debate. This will probably be provided by Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm, who is preparing to put his same-sex marriage bill on the notice paper during the current sitting fortnight.
While there are only a handful of Liberal MPs who publicly support same-sex marriage, such as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Simon Birmingham and Victorian MP Kelly O’Dwyer, Senator Leyonhjelm believes there is support within the party room for a free vote. Australian Marriage Equality has made no secret about the fact it has been targeting individual MPs with local campaigns in their electorates.
BOTH MAJOR PARTIES PLEDGE TO ALLOW CONSCIENCE VOTE ON CHANGES TO VICTORIAN ABORTION LAW
The Victorian Premier and Opposition Leader will allow a conscience vote if a private members’ bill is introduced to restore freedom to doctors to decline to participate in abortion. Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews were responding to questions at the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) Make it Count forum at Queens’ Hall, Parliament House. Their commitments come following sanctions imposed on Melbourne Doctor Mark Hobart, who declined to assist a couple who wanted their baby girl aborted so they could try again for a boy. “If a private members’ bill was introduced then we would certainly allow a conscience vote,” Dr Napthine said. “My position would be to afford a conscience vote,” Mr Andrews said.
ACL Victorian Director Dan Flynn welcomed the leaders’ commitments to allow a parliamentary vote on whether or not doctors should be forced to participate in abortion by making a referral for an abortion. “No one should be forced to go against their conscience on an issue which involves the taking of a human life,” Mr Flynn said. The leaders were asked about a range of issues including domestic violence, freedom of religion, poker machine reform and the ice epidemic. Asked whether “your Government would commission independent research into whether there are features in poker machines that lead to gambling addiction”, Mr Andrews committed to examining “the best research, the best evidence”.
On family violence, Dr Napthine said: “Men particularly need to stand up”. Mr Andrews said family violence was the leading cause of death or disability for women aged under 45 and was a “national disgrace”. On religious freedom, Mr Flynn expressed disappointment about Labor’s election policy, reiterated by Mr Andrews, to amend Equal Opportunity laws to diminish the freedom of faith-based schools to employ staff who share their ethos. The pre-election Make it Count event was attended by 150 Christian leaders from a wide cross-section of denominations and churches.
AUSTRALIA TO OFFER REFUGEE VISAS TO IRAQI CHRISTIANS AND YAZIDIS
The Federal Government has opened its humanitarian refugee program to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in response to the crisis in Iraq. Under Australia’s annual program, there are 13,750 places, but more than 4,000 visas are set aside for refugees who are “most in need of resettlement” due to desperate circumstances. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the Federal Government is “deeply concerned” by the ongoing crisis in Iraq and has now listed Iraqi Christians and Yazidis as eligible for Special Humanitarian Visas. A spokeswoman says more than 1,000 places were provided last year to people and families affected by the Syrian conflict.
Treasurer Joe Hockey says there is a humanitarian crisis and Australia needs to do its part. “If we do not act now then it will be genocide on the scale that we haven’t seen in the world for a long period of time. It is always the case that evil has its way when good people do nothing,” he told ABC News Radio. “We have to stop the systemic slaughter of people wherever it might be in the world.” Labor’s Immigration spokesman Richard Marles has welcomed the inclusion of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing Islamic State militants. However, Mr Marles says the 13,750 places in Australia’s annual humanitarian intake is too low and it should be returned to Labor’s target of 20,000.