Premier bows to concerns over ‘rushed’ abortion bill
PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian has bowed to pressure from Liberal colleagues who are worried legislation to decriminalise abortion is being rushed through parliament, telling them no amendments will be moved for another three weeks.
It's understood Ms Berejiklian told MPs in a Liberal Party room meeting today that the government only wants the second reading debate this week and will allow amendments to be moved when parliament resumes next month.
It comes after Liberal MPs Tanya Davies and Matthew Mason-Cox this morning called for a "proper" joint parliamentary committee to be established which would examine the legislation over six months.
Liberal MLC Scott Farlow received a guarantee during the meeting that any future bills of a "sensitive" nature that are worked on by a cross-party group should be raised within the party room before the legislation is introduced.
Leader of the government in the Legislative Council Don Harwin will move a motion to conclude the vote on the second reading stage and hold over amendments until the next sitting period.
However there is no guarantee this motion will get up because it requires the support of Labor and the crossbench.
Earlier, Shooters Fishers & Farmers party leader Robert Borsak threatened to never support the Berejiklian government again if a contentious Bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW passes in its current form.
This could see MPs block government legislation in both houses of parliament "right out to the next election" and create a rift in the party given three Shooters in the Legislative Assembly supported the abortion bill.
Mr Borsak was among 15 upper and lower house MPs who banded together this morning to call for the proposed laws to be put on ice and thoroughly examined by a joint parliamentary committee.
After passing the lower house 59 votes to 31, the legislation will today be debated in the Legislative Council where members are expected to negotiate up to 20 amendments.
Mr Borsak slammed the bill as the "worst kind of possible deregulation that will, in my view, lead to infanticide".
After previously flagging he would support the legislation, the SFF leader changed his mind over a lack of protections against sex-selective abortion and for babies born alive during terminations.
"If this bill goes through in the way they think it's going to go through with no amendments, no changes … our party will have lost total confidence in the leadership of this state by Premier Berejiklian and her proxy in our house Don Harwin," Mr Borsak said.
"Without that leadership, our party for one will not be supporting them in either place - whether it's the lower house or the upper house."
Asked whether it was fair to force lower house Shooters MPs, who voted for the bill in a conscience vote, to block future government legislation, Mr Borsak said: "I'm the leader of the party".
The legislation is expected to pass the upper house with the support of Labor, Greens and Nationals MPs.
Ms Davies said the government was facing a "crisis" after almost two-thirds of Liberal MPs in the Legislative Assembly voted against the legislation.
She was among six party members who attended the press conference to delay the Bill.
"I believe it is a crisis of government that we are facing because my community is absolutely outraged that they have been shut-out and denied any opportunity to participate in this process," she said.
Mr Mason-Cox lashed out at Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who first announced he would move the abortion legislation in March.
"Who is the member for Sydney … the reality is he's a nobody and he's made a comment in relation to this bill that nobody noticed," he said.
"He's had a secret process he set up with a working group the Health Minister has secretly been part of that's brought a secret bill to the parliament on Sunday a day before it sits the following week with the expectation it gets rammed through.
"This is a completely appalling process."
Mr Mason-Cox insisted Ms Berejiklian had his "full support" and would not be drawn on whether the issue had irreversibly damaged her leadership.
"This is a conscience vote and I am allowed as a member of Liberal Party to put my views in relation to a conscience vote," he said.
Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile said it was a "killer bill" that would "legalise the killing of babies in the womb up to 22-weeks.
"There's also a section in the Bill which allows two doctors to kill the baby right up to birth," he said.
Labor MLC Edmond Atalla said he'd heard the NSW abortion bill was "one the most extreme bills in the world behind Canada".
"We all want women to have safe access to these procedures but to put in the bill clauses that allow late-term abortions for social reasons, basically for any reason … that is unacceptable," he said.
Ms Berejiklian told reporters that conscience votes gave colleagues latitude and she had no issue with them expressing their views.
"My only restriction is please be respectful of other people's views and that's the expectation that I have," she said.