Page 3854 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008
This motion, I think, tries to take a complex issue and a difficult issue and an issue which clearly divides the community at various stages and drill it down and turn it into a slogan and turn it into a simple issue. This motion seeks to pretend that there are no differing views in our community on this issue. It pretends that there are no differing views on this issue in this chamber. And we know that not to be the case. We know that in our community there are very passionate, strongly held views on the issue of abortion that are at total opposite ends of the spectrum and we know that most people sit somewhere in between.
But there is no uniformity. What this motion tries to say, and tries to get us to agree with, is that there is some uniformity on this issue; that we all agree; that we put aside all the complexities and the difficulties, some of which Mr Hargreaves just referred to, some of which Mr Mulcahy and others have referred to, about the complexity of dealing with the issue of human life.
I make no apology for who I am or for what I believe. I do believe in the sanctity of human life and this is something that I have always stood up for and said. So I do not think it will be a surprise to anyone that I do not think that this is about getting information. But none of that has changed.
My real problem with this motion and why I cannot support it is that it simply tries to turn the issue of abortion, a complex issue, into a slogan. It tries to say there is consensus on this issue. There is not consensus either in this place or in the community. And anyone who believes that there is is kidding themselves.
I commend Mr Pratt for this amendment—and I will be supporting it—and it is worth going through the various elements of it. This has been a conscience vote, traditionally across parliaments, and certainly we in the Liberal Party believe that it should be a conscience vote and it should continue to be a conscience vote. Under my leadership it always will be. I am sure that long after I am gone it will continue to be a conscience vote in the Liberal Party. And that is something that should not be forgotten. It sometimes seems to be treated as a partisan party-political difference when each of us needs to come to a conclusion on this issue based on our own conscience.
The second part I have already alluded to. “Members of the Assembly”—and this is what is not reflected in the original motion—“and the community do have differing views”. There seems to be in some quarters, and clearly on the part of Mr Gentleman, this view that those who have a different view to his do not have a legitimate view; that they should not have their voices heard; and that we should all pretend that those views do not exist. It is not true and we should acknowledge that. That is why this part of the amendment acknowledges and respects the range of views in the community on this. There has been an imposing of the will of the majority—and it has been the majority view of this parliament in recent times—but to argue that that has been an overwhelming consensus is simply wrong.
The third part of the amendment is:
regardless of those views, the incidence of abortion in our society is a concern …