Conscience votes in the federal Parliament

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Conscience votes in the federal Parliament

Posted 9/11/2010 by Deirdre McKeown

On 29 September 2010 the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, introduced the Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2010 into the Senate. All political parties have granted their senators and members a conscience vote on this legislation. This is the first conscience vote in the federal parliament since the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill was debated in 2006.

A Parliamentary Library Research Paper has more details on conscience votes during the Howard Government and a list of conscience votes in the federal parliament from 1950.

In his second reading speech Senator Brown outlined the objectives of his current bill:

The first is to recognise the rights of the legislative assemblies of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island to make laws for the peace, order and good government of their territories, including the right to legislate for voluntary euthanasia. Secondly, and more directly, the bill repeals the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, the Andrews act, which removed the right of the territories to legislate on voluntary euthanasia.
The Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 was debated in the House of Representatives in 1996 and the Senate in 1997. It passed both Houses. The party and gender voting patterns on this bill are as follows:

Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996

House of Representatives

  Total ALP LP NP (a) IND Male Female
  Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
2nd Reading                            
Ayes 91 71 22 50 55 81 12 86 2 67 75 69 16 76
Noes 38 29 22 50 13 19 2 14 1 33 33 31 5 24
Total 129 100 44 100 68 100 14 100 3 100 108 100 21 100
3rd Reading                            
Ayes 88 72 22 51 53 83 11 85 2 67 73 70 15 79
Noes 35 28 21 49 11 17 2 15 1 33 31 30 4 21
Total 123 100 43 100 64 100 13 100 3 100 104 100 16 100

 

Senate

  Total ALP LP NP (a) AD AG IND Male Female
  Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
Vote % of
total
2nd Reading                                    
Ayes 38 53 9 32 21 75 5 100 1 14 0 0 2 100 31 63 7 30
Noes 34 47 19 68 7 25 0 0 6 86 2 100 0 0 18 37 16 70
Total 72 100 28 100 28 100 5 100 7 100 2 100 2 100 49 100 23 100
3rd Reading                                    
Ayes 38 54 9 33 21 75 5 100 1 14 0 0 2 100 31 65 7 30
Noes 33 46 18 67 7 25 0 0 6 86 2 100 0 0 17 35 16 70
Total 71 100 27 100 28 100 5 100 7 100 2 100 2 100 48 100 23 100

(a) includes Country Liberal Party

The table can also be found on page 21 in the Research Paper.
Of the senators and members in Parliament when the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 was debated, 35 members and 22 senators remain in the Parliament today. Of these, 26 members voted for the Bill or indicated support for it, eight voted against it and one member did not speak or vote on the Bill. In the Senate 15 senators voted for the Bill, while seven voted against.


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