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 from Christian leaders at the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make it Count forum at Queens’ Hall, Parliament House last night.
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 45 and under and was “national disgrace”.
On religious freedom, Mr Flynn expressed disappointment about Labor’s election policy, reiterated last night by Mr Andrews, to amend Equal Opportunity laws to diminish the freedom of faith-based schools to employ staff who share their ethos.
Dr Napthine was called away from the forum to deal with last night’s terrorism-related shooting of an Islamic extremist just moments before Mr Andrews concluded taking questions.
The pre-election Make it Count event was attended by 150 Christian leaders from a wide cross-section of denominations and churches.