Final Senate votes on RU486 Bill

After the 2nd Reading of the Bill passed by 45 votes to 26, there were 2 sets of amendments put in the Committee stage of the debate – 1 on behalf of Senators Barnett & Humphries, (lost 28 votes to 44) and the other on behalf of Senators Colbeck & Scullion (lost 33 votes to 41).

The concluding 3rd Reading vote was called at 4.45pm. The result was announced at 4.52 pm

In Favour (45 )

Judith Adams, Liberal – WA; Lyn Allison, Democrat – Vic; Andrew Bartlett, Democrat – Qld; Bob Brown, Green – Tas; Carol Brown, Labor – Tas; George Campbell, Labor – NSW; Kim Carr, Labor – Vic; Richard Colbeck, Liberal – Tas; Helen Coonan, Liberal – NSW; Trish Crossin, Labor – NT; Chris Evans, Labor – WA; John Faulkner, Labor – NSW; Jeannie Ferris, Liberal – SA; Mitch Fifield, Liberal – Vic; Robert Hill, Liberal – SA; Annette Hurley, Labor – SA; David Johnston, Liberal – WA; Linda Kirk, Labor – SA; Joe Ludwig, Labor – Qld; Kate Lundy, Labor – ACT; Ian Macdonald, Liberal – Qld; Anne McEwen, Labor – SA; Jan McLucas, Labor – Qld; Gavin Marshall, Labor – Vic; Christine Milne, Green – Tas; Claire Moore, Labor – Qld; Andrew Murray, Democrat – WA; Fiona Nash, National – NSW; Kerry Nettle, Green – NSW; Kerry O’Brien, Labor – Tas; Kay Patterson, Liberal – Vic; Marise Payne, Liberal – NSW; Robert Ray, Labor – Vic; Nigel Scullion, Country Liberal – NT; Nick Sherry, Labor – Tas; Rachel Siewert, Green – WA; Glenn Sterle, Labor – WA; Natasha Stott Despoja, Democrat – SA; Judith Troeth, Liberal – Vic; Russell Trood, Liberal – Qld; Amanda Vanstone, Liberal – SA; John Watson, Liberal – Tas; Ruth Webber, Labor – WA; Penny Wong, Labor – SA; Dana Wortley, Labor – SA

Against (28 )

Eric Abetz, Liberal – Tas ; Guy Barnett, Liberal – Tas; Mark Bishop, Labor – WA; Ron Boswell, National – Qld; George Brandis, Liberal – Qld; Paul Calvert, Liberal – Tas; Grant Chapman, Liberal – SA; Stephen Conroy, Labor – Vic; Alan Eggleston, Liberal – WA; Chris Ellison, Liberal – WA; Alan Ferguson, Liberal – SA; Steve Fielding, Family First – Vic; Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Liberal – NSW; Michael Forshaw, Labor – NSW; Bill Heffernan, Liberal – NSW; John Hogg, Labor – Qld; Gary Humphries, Liberal – ACT; Steve Hutchins, Labor – NSW; Barnaby Joyce, National – Qld; Sandy Macdonald, National – NSW; Brett Mason, Liberal – Qld; Julian McGauran, Liberal – Vic; Nick Minchin, Liberal – SA; Stephen Parry, Liberal – Tas; Helen Polley, Labor – Tas; Michael Ronaldson, Liberal – Vic; Santo Santoro, Liberal – Qld; Ursula Stephens, Labor – NSW;

Did not vote:
Ian Campbell, Liberal – WA; Ross Lightfoot, Liberal – WA, Rod Kemp, Liberal – Vic.
Note: Ian Campbell has stated that he was in favour of the legislation, but didn’t vote to enable an informal ‘pair’ for Rod Kemp, who was against the legislation but couldn’t vote due to being overseas on ministerial business. I have not counted them in any of the voting breakdowns below. (Senator Kemp, our Sports Minister, was engaged in the stressful task of representing the Australian government at the winter Olympics)

Breakdown of vote by Party:

Liberal: 14 in favour, 17 against.
Labor: 21 in favour, 7 against.
National/CLP: 2 in favour, 3 against.
Democrat: 4 in favour, 0 against.
Green 4 in favour, 0 against.
Family First: 1 against.

Breakdown of vote by Gender:

Male: 21 in favour, 25 against.
Female: 24 in favour, 3 against.

Breakdown of vote by State/Territory:

ACT: 1 for, 1 against.
NSW: 6 for, 6 against.
NT: 2 for, 0 against.
Qld: 6 for, 6 against.
SA: 9 for, 3 against.
Tas: 7 for, 5 against.
Vic: 7 for, 4 against.
WA: 7 for, 3 against.

There was a much greater number of people in the public gallery to witness the final vote than is usual for a Thursday afternoon, although not as many as there were for issues like Workplace Relations. The press gallery viewing area also had 15 observers.

The Bill will now go to the House of Representatives. It will probably be debated throughout next week. I expect the government will want to get it voted on and out of the way by the end of the week. Despite the fairly comfortable majority in the Senate, it is unclear how the numbers are looking with the 150 members of the House of Representatives.

It should also be noted that, while the Bill passed by a majority of 17, some of the amendments – which sought to continue to diffferentiate the approval process for RU486 from any other drug by making it subject to a disallowance vote in the Parliament – only failed by 8 votes. It is possible the House of Representatives may agree to an amendment like this, which would mean the amended Bill would have to come back to the Senate again for further consideration.

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  1. Yay. Woo hoo.

    Finally something good has happened. Very interesting gender breakdown.

    Way to go Andrew. Well done. Good lad. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Andrew, for posting these figures. I was stunned at the gender differences here.

    Second, congratulations for being among the 45 senators to support the bill.

    My full response on my blog.

  3. Thank you, Andrew for both supporting the bill and for your excellent coverage. It really is tremendous to have an elected politician engaging in this way.

    And thank you for the list. I’m going to email all the supporters of the bill to thank them and encourage them to support their House colleagues.

    I encourage everyone else to do the same. Contact info is at

  4. The men vote is deeply disturbing. Is there some sort of disconnect here between the lives of these men and those of women? I live in hope that the men vote here is not representative of Australian men overall.

    I sent a message to my local female (Liberal) MP on this issue, but got a standard non committal response. I think her vote may be lost. Her view does not represent her electorate.

  5. Andrew, how do you think the vote will go in the House of reps?

    Speaking of which…. do you think there is a need for the Dems to be represented there?

  6. Is there some sort of disconnect here between the lives of these men and those of women?

    Yes, there is.

    Women have reproductive rights and men don’t.

    Hence the issue of women’s “choice” is of less interest to men, who have no “right to choose” for themselves.

  7. While I supported the bill on the basis of principle, I dont think the gender issue is something to wring hands about. Its hardly the most momentous issue of the 21st century.

  8. Thanks Zoe for the email addresses, i wrote this to Dennis Jensen my local member for Tangney:

    I am writing to you to request that you vote for the RU486 bill during the conscience vote.

    As an avid fan of Senator Andrew Bartlett and his web diaries and fully support his views, I believe that you should vote on behalf of the constituent and not as Tony Abbot and John Howard believe on ones’ own Christian beliefs.

    RU486 gives power to the specialists, not some Health Minister who claims to be responsible and representative of the people. The bill calls for power to be given to the Therapeutic Goods Administration which is a group who decides in the best interests of the community by weighing the benefits and the costs not some Heath Minister who is confined within his own religion.

    Yes, the bill is about abortion but even more so is about the responsibilities Ministers have towards their electorate and the nation; the divide of power between the bureaucracy and the Ministry. Today Abbot may be against the bill, tomorrow with a change of government or cabinet reshuffle will a sympathetic new Health Minister allow RU486 to be used? Vote for the bill not because it supports abortion but advocates for the checks and balances of responsible government.

    Let not the anti-RU486 campaigners lead you to believe that Australians are against the drug. I concede that there are health risks involved but what drug does not have these risks? The disgustingly immoral advertisement with the quote “RU-486 will probably only kill a few Australian women. Is that okay with you senator?” is not only misleading but a scare campaign focusing narrowly on the costs of the drug. More women will die every year from traffic accidents then the drug. The TGA will ensure that if the drug as to be allowed for public usage, conditions will be imposed to provide the safest circumstances available. Can a Minister guarantee this?

    I beseech you to vote with the conscience of the electorate you elect. Give women the option of making their own decisions. Give power to the specialists and not a Minister confined by prejudices. Show that the Australian government represents the views of the people!

    Please vote in support of the RU-486 bill.

  9. EP, when u r good ur good, but when u r bad ur evil!

    Guys have a right to be responsible over reproduction – use condoms, it’s better than any drug which inevitably effects their partners health adversely.

    Or don’t have intercourse, do foreplay, or do something else – eat one of Five Public Opinion’s silk cheesecakes instead! Jump out of an aeroplane, go for a run ro a swim, bunjy jump, rock climb, abseiling, etc etc ad delerium…

    Men also have responsibilities and rights and options, and it is so great to see guys exercise their options in a responsible way.

  10. It was a vote in the right direction, I think.

    Of course, both men and women have to take responsibility for contraception.

    Women take precautions and don’t lie to men who aren’t the fathers of your children and blokes carry rubbers and don’t sleep with women you wouldn’t be happy to raise a child with. That’s sounds simple, but I appreciate life is complex.

  11. The bill was about taking the last word on the use of this drug out of the hands of a lawyer/politician and placing it in the hands of medical experts like every other drug in Australia.

    Nick Minchin spoke of his girlfriends abortion many years ago but the tenor of his whine seems to have been that they were in a monogamous relationship – with my second child I was deserted by the father after a monogamous relationship of more than 2 years and it took him until our son was 18 to even admit he was the father.

    It’s hysterical that the people who voted against this bill also voted to go and blow up Iraqis and Afghans, lock up children, turn away refugees in breach of the law and not a conscience vote in sight.

    Abortion is legal in Australia. All the members of the libs who voted against this bill also want to force single parents to go back to work when their vulnerable children are only 8, penalise them if they earn a few extra dollars, spy on them if they have live in boyfriends and strip them of income if they are able to work. Married mums are paid to stay home even if they have millionaire husbands.

    ON a note Andrew will appreciate and Vanstone alluded to – the men who voted against it should attend the funerals of children who died of AIDS – and another thing, about 35,000 living children died of disease, war and famine while the senate debated changing a procedure.

  12. It’s a conscience vote issue Geoff. These politicians were merely voting for a process but when it comes to real human beings they are not allowed to have one.

    Got it.

  13. EP – I’d love to hear your life story, it’d make a unparalleled tv script I am sure.
    The bill isn’t about the right to abortion or not, it’s not even what the bill’s about.
    It is about the ludicrousness of a pollie having the power to approve or disapprove of a drug instead of medical experts.
    Just focus for a while dear, a cup of hot milo does wonders.

  14. ab, it isn’t about me, it’s about public policy.

    And if you think the RU486 issue isn’t fundamentally about reproductive rights, you’re kidding yourself. If this was a debate over any other pharmaceeutical, hardly anyone would care.

  15. Isn’t it interesting how you are permitted by law to abort a foetus, but you are not permitted by law to kill yourself…..

    Something isn’t right!

    Dont get me wrong I am not anti-abortion as such, I do think that for some it is the right choice. I just think that they make it too easy so people dont bother taking precautions because they know that they can just make it go away and nobody needs to know.

    I think by law we should be allowed to kill ourselves, even with assistance if it is necessary, otherwise we are not really free and we really do not have any rights over our own body.

  16. What a crock marilyn… you comment on refugees on every topic, you’re a one track record. A conscience vote re ru486 has nothing to do with refugees,

  17. When it comes to any issue, it always comes back to refugees for Marilyn. It’s almost like refugees are not real people for her, but some kind of “noble savage”: always pure and always right. That’s a nonsense. What does she propose for people who overstay their visas, that they just be allowed to stay here and it doesn’t matter.

    Apparently, she would like an open door policy on immigration. People like Marilyn make it difficult for DIMIA employees.

  18. Dont get me wrong I am not anti-abortion as such, I do think that for some it is the right choice. I just think that they make it too easy so people dont bother taking precautions because they know that they can just make it go away and nobody needs to know.

    This is a joke, right?
    I love that you started with ‘Don’t get me wrong I am not anti-abortion”.

  19. kayge. NO it is not a joke. There is a difference between being anti-abortion and believing that if we dont give people reasons to make better choices and we make it too easy, then they wont make better choices.

    There shouldn’t be a need for so many abortions and making it even easier is not going to help the situation.

    If you dont understand that, then what can I say? What we need to do is to look at our Education system as it is seriously failing too many students and they looking elsewhere to fill a need that should be filled with knowledge not sex and drugs. We need to change our children’s focus and fix the system as there are some serious issues there.

    Abortion should be available, but not as a first choice, as a part of a series of choices to ensure that the mother doesn’t feel that she has no other choice and makes a rash decision that she will later regret.

  20. So 2 out of the 3 women who voted against were Labor women?

    Labor women are more likely, statistically, to be against women’s choice?

    Kinda creepy, and very disappointing.

  21. armaniac: “Labor women are more likely, statistically, to be against women’s choice?”

    No – 11 female Labor senators voted in favour, 2 against. 13 female non-Labour senators (7 of whom are Liberals) voted in favour, and 1 against. The distribution of votes among female senators does not differ between Labor and non-Labor members, statistically speaking.

  22. Actually, to be a pedant, 11:2 is a higher ratio of against votes than 7:1. 7:1 = 14:2.

    Also the fact that more than one did it is notable. Having more than one suggests it is more than a one-off (literally) discrepancy.

  23. 20 odd years ago racist froot loops were going on about the asians who were about to swamp us, funny how the rhetoric of the borderline-insane stays constant.

  24. That was only 10 years ago, they weren’t racist, nor were they fruitloops.
    I suggest you might look to yourself for anything borderline.
    So maniac.. what did that outburst refer to anyway?

  25. Sorry James, I don’t know the answers to that. I’m not sure there’s a register of what each MPs religion is.

    I think most of the Labor Senators who voted against are Catholic, but some of the Liberals are more of the pentecostal variety of Christian. The Family First Senator isn’t a Catholic. one of the Lib Senators who voted against – Alan Eggleston – is a gynocologist and he gave medial reasons for his position (he may be religious too, I don’t know).

    I’m fairly sure that Claire Moore, the Labor Senator who co-sponsored the Bill, is a practising Catholic. Kevin Rudd supported the Bill and I think he is Catholic too. I don’t think you can pigeon-hole people as easily as one might sometimes think, although obviously religion was a factor in some people’s decisions.

  26. itz not fair that tony abbott couldnt do tha final decision cauz hiz tha health minister. I bet if he did vote he would have a fair final desision about tha abortion pill, not a catholic decision a moral 1. i personally think that tha decision iznt rite cauz it aint moral, in tha end itz still killin a human bein. IT MURDA!! YE

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