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Parliament votes in favour of TGA -

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(generated from captions) Welcome to the program. the Parliament today voted By a margin of almost two to one, power of veto to remove the Health Minister's

over the abortion drug RU486. would be close, Some had thought the vote particularly after the PM widely known last week. made his view opposing the bill the private members' bill But in the end, members of the Lower House. won the support of 91 of the 150 will now be determined Approval for the abortion pill Administration, by the Theraputic Goods

like all other drugs. of differing political persuausions The rare conscience vote saw MPs of the debate. join forces on either side It also divided friends. Michael Brissenden reports. Political Editor

I'm not somebody who shirks from

free votes. I think they're a very good thing from time to time on

these issues and I think Parliament

rises to its greatest heights when

we have debates of this kind.

To be able to look up and see

struggling honestly to arrive at To be able to look up and see people

right conclusions on this matter struggling honestly to arrive at the

frankly has been inspirational.

It is indeed a rare thing in

Australian politics - a triumph of

conscience over political

partisanship, although this being

the Parliament, politics was still

everywhere, it just wasn't enforced

along party lines. I think the ayes

have it. In fact, in the end the

vote was carried on the voices

alone. Clear that an overwhelming

majority would be in favour of the

bill, the PM - one of those who

voted against it - and the leader

Government business in the House voted against it - and the leader of

Tony Abbott, declined to push for a

division and record the numbers and

the names officiallily in Hansard.

Tax Office move that confused at

least one member, a parliamentary

rookie, Malcolm Turnbull. The

amendments having been defeated I

support the bill. As many of those

who spoke during the two and a half

days of emotional debate noted,

was not a debate on abortion, days of emotional debate noted, this

on who should have control on was not a debate on abortion, rather

approving the controversial drug

RU486. But the politicians know

these sort of debates stir up

powerful emotions in themselves and

in their electorates. Very few

topics generate such a passionate

lobbying effort. There are some

with entrenched positions, there lobbying effort. There are some MPs

others for whom the conscience vote with entrenched positions, there are

presents a difficult period of

introspection. In any conscience

debate and vote it's inevitable for

every single one of us in this

and for every single Senator in the every single one of us in this House

other place that we will all

disappoint some and please others.

But it's incumbent on us to weigh

the issues involved to review the

facts in evidence and to make our

best individual judgment. Each

should be allowed to make her own best individual judgment. Each woman

decision, be guided by her own

conscience and beliefs and her

individual circumstances. If RU486

can be proved to the satisfaction

the TGA to be a safe alternative can be proved to the satisfaction of

a woman wanting to give effect to the TGA to be a safe alternative for

that decision, then it should be

available to her. The success of

private members' bill will now available to her. The success of the

remove the Health Minister's

ultimate authority to decide access

to RU486. And give it instead like

all other drugs, to the Therapeutic

Goods Administration. There were

two amendments to the bill put to

vote that would have reserved a

for the Parliament in the final vote that would have reserved a role

approval process. Both were

defeated by a margin of nearly two

to one. As this debate progressed,

many expressed concern that religon

had inevitably become entwined in

the issue. Mr Speaker, I accept

resolutions made in church often the issue. Mr Speaker, I accept that

wilt under the hot breath of

passion. I think I know that as

well as any person in this chamber.

But every abortion is a tragedy and

up to 100,000 abortions a year is

this generation's legacy of

unutterable shame. It is a fact

Catholic faith is a strong unutterable shame. It is a fact that

motivation for many of those who

argue a passionate anti-abortion

Health Minister Tony Abbott are position. The view of the current

well-known. But the sponsors of

this bill say it wasn't directed at

the minister of today. I don't

that certainly from our viewpoint the minister of today. I don't think

that it's ever been about the

current Health Minister. REPORTER:

Tony Abbott seems to think so.

From our point of view it never has

been. It's been about health

policy, getting the right outcome

and the right process for this drug

to go through and certainly hasn't

been about the current Health

Minister. That may be so, but it

for some, most notably the Greens' Minister. That may be so, but it was

Senator Kerry Nettle and Tony

made it clear that he was unhappy Senator Kerry Nettle and Tony Abbott

with the way his religious

conviction had become an issue.

In the course of this debate there

have been many suggestions some

explicit, some - that ministers who

have personal religious views are

incapable of making objective

decisions. Others clearly thought

decisions. Others clearly thought Mr Abbott was taking it all far too

personally. I actually feel very

sorry for the current Health

Minister who in every other aspect

is doing an excellent job, but

something the member for lawless

said is right. She said, "It's not

about you, Tony. " I think one of

the unfortunate aspects of the

debate Tony Abbott's proposition

that it is people of religious

that it is people of religious faith versus the rest of us. The I find

the notion that those supporting it

have less faith or belief than

have less faith or belief than those opposing it deeply offensive. I

would not have become a member of

Parliament without my Catholic

faith. I am Catholic. In fact, as

the term conscience vote suggests,

there were many things that

influenced individual MPs, many of

them deeply personal. I can't think

of another issue in my 25 years in politics which has from time to

politics which has from time to time more exercised my mind than the

issue of the termination of

pregnancy. My own views on this

have gone through changes in the

period of time that I have been a

member of Parliament and the life

experience s that I've confronted

experience s that I've confronted on the way, many of which have had

nothing to do with my life in

Parliament. I think it is common

knowledge that when my wife Tanya

was pregnant and unconscious in

hospital, some 18 years ago I was

faced with this terrible situation.

I was advised my expert medical

opinion that the pregnancy was

complicating the medication she

would need to survive. She was

unconscious. I was faced with the

choice, an awful choice, but the

choice I made was to continue both

the treatment and the pregnancy.

the treatment and the pregnancy. By the grace of God, both survived.

But I have no doubt that the law

should not have prevented such a

choice, that the law should allow a

choice, whether physical or mental

health of the woman is at risk.

We probably shouldn't read too much

into this, but it is noticeable

into this, but it is noticeable that Peter Costello has also taken of

late to expressing some carefully

considered policy positions that

considered policy positions that set him apart from the PM. In this

debate, he set out a skillfully

argued rejection of the PM's

position that this was an issue

position that this was an issue that was one that should be left to the

Parliament. The fact that the

Parliament delegates a decision he

said, doesn't lessen its power or

accountability. The vote finally

came just before Question Time,

Government and Opposition MPs

shoulder-to-shoulder on both sides.

But just a few minutes later it was

over, and it was back to the

politics we're all much more

accustomed to. This leaflet which

carries disgusting lies is

authorised by one D Feeney, Mr

Speaker, who I believe is a

Victorian Senate candidate, part of

the Conroy-Marles-Shorten-Pakula

disgusting factional group down

there in Victoria. Ask the question.

We accept the Treasurer's expertise.

You are such a gutless goose,

aren't you? The Leader of the

Opposition will withdraw. My

question is to the PM. Well, we

couldn't really expect the

conscience to override the

conscience to override the political cut and thrust for too long, could we? Political Editor Michael Brissenden. And after that conclusive vote for RU486, the way is now clear for applications to use the drug to be processed directly by the Theraputic Goods Administration.