Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Abortion hardliner could pose problems for Abbott

Senator Madigan believes holding the balance of power would be a privilege. AAP/Julian Smith

If Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister, what sort of Senate he has will be crucial for handling the carbon tax and much else. At present the Greens have the sole balance of power but if there was a strong swing to the conservatives, right-leaning senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon could become key players.

Madigan, from Victoria, is the first DLP senator since the party was swept from federal parliament in 1974. Elected in 2010, he is a fixture for the coming term. If he found himself with a share of power, how might he seek to use it? A speech he will deliver tonight at the Sydney Institute titled “Integrity in Politics” may give the Liberals some food for thought and Labor some potential ammunition.

Madigan takes an uncompromising pro-life position. He does not believe in abortion even after rape. He is scathing in his speech about politicians who fail to follow their conscience.

“There is more to me and the DLP than [the pro-life] issue but… it is an issue I will not shy away from”, he declares in the address.

“For those of us who for decades have fought for justice for the unborn it galls me to watch political candidates strut around seeking votes from pro-life groups only to hear their entourage proclaiming platitudes such as ‘just wait until so and so gets in. They’re staying quiet now but when they are in they’ll sort things out.”

“Then the aptly named ‘so and so’ is elected, having ‘kept quiet about their principles’ and the excuses start. … To those politicians I reserve my utmost disgust. Integrity is not a virtue to them – it’s a tool to be used at their convenience”.

In his speech Madigan chides Tony Abbott, who has recently reaffirmed that he believes abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. “An aim shared by Barack Obama in his second inauguration speech,” Madigan says. “However I would like to point out that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ abortion; someone always dies”.

Several years ago Parliament, on a conscience vote and against the will of Abbott, then health minister, removed ministerial control over the importation of the abortion drug RU486. Pro-choice MPs across the spectrum celebrated the decision.

“On October 10, 2012 another ‘celebration’ of RU486 was held in the House. This time it was to ‘celebrate’ the Therapeutic Goods Administration approval for Marie Stopes Health to distribute Mifepristone in Australia”, Madigan says in his speech, adding that the gathering was sponsored by the cross-party Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. Noting the “extraordinary display of bipartisanship from the abortion lobby” he asks: “Where is the pro-life political lobby? … Where is their commitment to the cause?”

After the Labor government’s election, the parliamentary group was instrumental in having scrapped the ban on Australian foreign aid being associated in any way with abortion counselling or services.

That ban, as well as the ministerial discretion over RU486’s importation, had been concessions to independent Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine, whose vote the Howard government needed (he had also got a family planning foreign aid program stopped under the Keating government).

Harradine is a hero for Madigan, who describes him as a “model senator”. “All the senators should aspire to walk in the steps of Brian Harradine”, Madigan told The Conversation. “He never sold out his state; he never sold out his conscience”, and he was “an extremely good tactician”.

Madigan believes that to be in a balance of power situation would be a “privilege”, not a “licence to bludgeon”, but an “opportunity to put your case” and bring transparency to the parliament.

Although he does not canvass the foreign aid issue in his speech, Madigan told The Conversation he “most definitely” concurred with the Harradine position and would be willing to use any influence he had to pursue it. “I don’t believe taxpayers' money should be used to fund abortions in other countries”.

Abbott has been working hard to reassure Australian women he wouldn’t translate his strong personal views about abortion into any attempt to change the status quo. Despite this, a Galaxy poll in the Daily Telegraph at the weekend found nearly four in ten women were concerned about his views on the subject. Labor strategists will fan these doubts as much as they can; the possibility of Madigan being in a position where his vote counted could feed into their efforts.

A Senate tilting rightwards would be much better for a Coalition government than one totally controlled by Labor and the Greens. But negotiating with Madigan might throw up some testing moral challenges for Abbott if the former blacksmith from Ballarat turned up the heat.

Join the conversation

50 Comments sorted by

  1. Vincent Restuccia

    retired senior technical officer

    Just what the country needs another right wing extremist having the balance of power in the Senate. I would prefer the Australian voters to give the Senate to either Labor or the Liberals and not have all of us held hostage by the likes of Senators Madigan, Xenophon or the Greens.

    report
    1. Delete this account as requested!

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Vincent Restuccia

      Actually the parties are the problem - these fringe candidates would not have this level of power if the senators voted to represent their states as they are required to constitutionally. The parties are to blame for subverting then entrenching this system, not the independents and small party members.
      A party system in anathema to representative democracy, it does nothing but create false dichotomies in every point of debate.

      report
    2. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Vincent Restuccia

      At least the "right wing extremists" like you call them is consistent (Islam excluded). To me the liberals seem like the loony bunch, just look at their logic. They want to ban guns because they might be used to kill kids and other innocents and make a big noise about it, then they turn around and go whoopee for the killing of thousands of babies through abortion. So much for logic and consistency.

      report
  2. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Yes, yes, all very interesting and entirely predictable. But what about the abysmal failure of Gillard and Swan to actually tax on the mining sector? What happened? Was dumping Rudd really a bloodless coup on behalf of global mining interests or not? Even Christine Milne seems to have some idea. What about you, Michelle?

    report
    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony,

      On the homepage for The Converastion, there is a little widget where you can "Pitch an Idea."

      You can suggest an issue you would like to see covered and even who you would like to see write about it.

      So rather than snarkily whining about the fact that an author hasn't written about something you are interested in, maybe let the editors know what you are interested in.

      They respond to serious requests.

      report
    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      OK. Thanks. didn't mean to snark but it is a bit more than something that I'm interested in - by my reckoning this is the reason behind the fact that Rudd now outpolls Gillard as preferred PM.

      report
    3. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Yes, that is a reasonable assumption.

      But Grattan was discussing the possible shake-up in the senate and not the travails of the PM. Your question, while interesting, is not the topic under discussion.

      report
    4. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      off topic or not, Anthony Nolan, you're right, imo. gillard's ambition was the tool the alp right faction used to remove the p.m. whose mineral tax reforms threatened their patrons unconstrained profits & threatened to set an example to other resource rich countries around the world. gillard knew what the hell she was doing: she sold her country short to get ahead. no wonder tanner resigned. a.v.

      report
  3. Trevor Kerr

    ISTP

    We've been eating cake for two decades, we've walked the electoral tightrope, it may be time to jump the shark and let this extremist hold the "balance of power".
    A short term of lunacy may be just what the electorate needs, to re-energise interest in political matters.
    There are a couple of flaws with that proposition. One, history. Two, we would rather sit on our fat butts to be entertained 24/7. I guess show business will win, again. Cake *and* circuses, sounds good to me.

    report
    1. Marie Bosworth

      Administration

      In reply to Trevor Kerr

      haha indeed.

      Easy for you to joke tho, it's not your uterus walking the tightrope ;)

      I think the political apathy in our society comes from a sense of hopelessness.

      report
  4. Robert McDougall

    Small Business Owner

    The interesting thing about the impacts of legalised abortions (notwithstanding the rights of the mother) is that in the US there is solid link between abortions (particularly for young women) and a drop in overall crime.

    report
    1. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      "..there is solid link between abortions (particularly for young women) and a drop in overall crime..."

      Reference please.
      Correlated -maybe-, as is deodourant usage, but correlation is not causation. What is this 'solid link' you claim?

      -

      The DLP exists to remind us how far we've come, and Tony hasn't.

      report
    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Liam J

      The link is that we are really the first generation to have a solid grasp on the answer to poverty.

      The key to the abolishment of poverty is oft refered to as the "empowerment of women"

      Where you educate women and give them control over their bodies, over their reproductive organs and take them off the hamster wheel of reproduction and then come back in a year and everything will have lifted, the crime rate, the poverty rate, the un employment rate - throw in a couple of seeds and maybe a goat…

      Read more
    3. Catriona Nicholls

      Agricultural communicator

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Thank you Michael for taking the time to formulate a well-constructed response.
      How anyone can honestly deny (or miss) the link between reducing the number of children that are born into situations where those involved are ill equipped to support them, either emotionally or financially, and reduced rates of crime beggars belief.
      Education and empowerment of women, to avoid them entering situations where their lives (and those of their offspring) can so easily and rapidly spiral into cycles of poverty, violence and crime is so important.

      report
    4. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Yes, you are right, "abortion is not killing babies anymore than the morning after pill does", or an IUD for that matter. However killing a human being is still wrong, whether an ax, club or whatever is used to commit the act.

      You make some good points until you get to your last paragraph. Then you call murder an " outdated and mis-placed moral conviction". Extending this argument, then the answer to "poverty" is to kill excess/unwanted people. The only difference from killing them in the womb as opposed to putting them against a wall and shooting them is convenience. Again, loony liberal logic.

      report
    5. Marie Bosworth

      Administration

      In reply to Paul Fourie

      From your statement can I assume that you consider the morning after pill, IUD and other methods of birth control are also "murder" and thus "wrong"?

      If so, then what is your "logical" response to dealing with the inevitable overpopulation, starvation and poverty that will ensue if nobody is given access to birth control or abortion?

      report
    6. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Fourie

      "Abortion is not kiling babies anymore than the morning after pill does - abortion is important form of birth control and it is essential that we do not restrict womens oppertunity in life because of an outdated and mis-placed moral conviction" - You intentionally mis-interpreted this statement of mine as if I was saying murder is an outdated moral conviction - this is dishonest and manipulative, clearly I was saying that equating Abortion or morning after pill with murder is outdated and misplaced

      report
    7. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Catriona Nicholls

      I'm all for the full emancipation of women and collective funding of family planning, but i won't just accept abortion & crime rates as especially linked. Parenting support from the State and from employers, strength of family & other networks, cultural attitudes to absent and sole parents, education opportunities, social mobility, these and more are also significant factors. Sure, the incidence of abortion is in there under availability of family planning, but before i'll believe it is a pre-eminent factor, i want to see some data.

      report
    8. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Marie Bosworth

      Your first assumption is only half correct; yes, I consider all methods of birth control that deliberately destroy a fertilised ovum (or seconds later a fetus/baby) as murder and thus wrong. Science has developed other methods of birth control that prevent fertilisation and as such is acceptable to prevent pregnancy.

      Also true, apart from abstinence, abortion (murder) is the only other 100% fail safe method of preventing full term pregnancy. That still does not make abortion right though.

      report
    9. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Michael Shand

      It is neither dishonest nor manipulative, it is merely a logical conclusion. If you define murder as the deliberate killing of a human being, then the argument reduces to; at what stage is the fetus a human being. Phrased differently, after how many cell divisions is the fetus defined as a human being. There is only two logical defend-able choices for this definition, anything else would be arbitrary; conception and birth and the latter is easy to show to be flawed. The only thing that could be outdated here is the acceptable justification for murder.

      report
  5. Edward Cannella

    Zoologist

    I was going to comment but then realised that the current trend of blind zealous anti-government fervour is not going to change the end result at the elections. We always, and I mean ALWAYS, get the governments we deserve and never the governments we want (we dig our own holes). And the sad result is that we always get these freaky extremists tagging along. This is not to say that there are also a number in the LNP that are of the same ilk (i.e., religious extremists).

    report
  6. Peter Kington

    Raconteur, ideas man and food whore at Self Employed

    "Safe, legal and rare".

    This four word mantra is reflective, so we're told, of the new Tony Abbott. He's a different Abbott to the one who fought hammer and nail to retain ministerial control over the distribution of RU486 all those years ago.

    For me, it is of little consequence that Barack Obama has the same approach; just because the American President approves doesn't mean we should also approve and in any case, the abortion issue is very different different issue in the US than here…

    Read more
  7. Clive Bond

    Retired

    The thought of abortion fills me with horror. However I don't think I have the right to dictate to women what they should do in that regard. I go back to the bad old days when abortion was performed in every suburb and every town by 'backyard abortionists' and the results were horrific. Abortions were performed on kitchen tables and in the back of cars. Infections were rife and women were mutilated. There was no choice to go to a clean properly run clinic. Actually that's not true....In Sydney at…

    Read more
    1. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Clive Bond

      Yes, abortion should fill everyone with horror. Regardless of the circumstances and way of implementation at least one human gets butchered. The other valid point you make is that in the current sick western societies, wealthy people can get away with murder, whether it is a baby in the womb or ones partner clubbed to death, it does not matter. It is only the size of the mess and the legal cost to clean it up that differs.

      report
    2. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Paul Fourie

      Simplistic. I fully support a womans right to self determination which includes not being forced to go through an unwanted pregnancy.

      report
    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Paul Fourie

      Hi Paul

      even tho the article isnt about abortion per se............................

      I guess we can have our own views on abortion living safely in Australia. Given the economic and education standards, and the relatively good health of the population, I can see why people would choose to see abortion as wrong (or murder if you will).

      But Africa on the other hand is another kettle of fish. Poverty, over-population, aids and other health issues make abortion another issue entirely.

      I don't think we have the right to postulate or pontificate on the rightness or wrongness of abortion in that continent. I dont think its a "one size fits all" proposition.

      Yep argue that religion (your religion) is against abortion as murder, but in some cases not having an abortion is "murder" in another guise.

      report
    4. Paul Fourie

      logged in via email @yahoo.com

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Like you say; Africa is another kettle of fish. However the availability of abortion would not solve its problems. In fact it has been freely available practiced by sangomas for ages. Obviously cases where both mother and baby got killed is not hard to find either. Life in Africa is cheap, murder is not much of an issue. Africa's problems are culture and attitude related. As an example; one of South Africa's ex ministers of health advocated that AIDS could be cured by consuming beetroot and garlic. This woman was trained and qualified as a medical doctor in Russia, yet she still chose tradition and culture above science. (She is not stupid like some people would like to contend.)

      report
    5. susan walton

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Clive Bond

      The bad old days before the pill was invented? So many options out there NOT to fall pregnant in the first place, one has to wonder why abortion, other than medical reasons and rape, happens at all. I don't judge though, an unwanted baby is an unwanted baby. Shame so many spend thousands on IVF yet others have unwanted babies.

      I read an article where, in America..women have gone through hell when they've kept the baby conceived through rape..as the rapist fathers are allowed access, even thought the mothers have begged the courts not to allow this. I doubt too many women would bring a child to full term knowing that this could happen.

      I've seen pics of aborted babies..it's not pretty.

      report
  8. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Another weak article by michelle grattan, its funny how much she hates gillard but doesnt mind abbott so much, rediculous

    report
  9. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Thankyou Michelle for a relevant article ,and a welcome variation in focus. Another problem with Madigan is his determined opposition to windpower . He has been travelling around Victoria boosting the wholly alarmist and unscientific claims of the Waubra Foundation . This organisation not only has links to Landscape Guardians ( many of whom are climate change rubbishers ) but also family and friendship links to the Baillieu government whose totally unjustified planning restrictions on wind farm development have stymied most new projects . No doubt Madigan would also defend the catholic church against accusations of covering up child abuse.

    report
  10. Dave McRae

    logged in via Twitter

    I'm sure Madigan and Abbott will have no worries working together.

    Ms Grattan may have forgotten this, but DLP king Bob Sanatamaria was Abbott's mentor.

    Abbot is not a Liberal - he's always been DLP. The Liberal Party's move to the right allows fringe to rise, such as Tea Party policies, ALEC's Bernardi and DLP's Abbott. Ask any Liberal such as Fraser, Hewson, Howard and others that had dealt with him. Grattan can and why she does not I've no idea - it'll be a great story, informative background and something really special given the rarity of such things nowadays.

    report
    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Dave McRae

      The good thing about living in a democracy is we get to vote for whom we think will make good candidates and a party we think will govern us well. Granted we really only have two options ultimately in terms of the government of the day. But as the present situation shows, there is a bit of tinkering in the margins that can often make a big difference.

      Sen Madigan views seem to be the antithesis of mine, and yet enough people in his electorate saw fit to elect him. So there he sits in the senate…

      Read more
    2. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Dave McRae

      I was waiting for someone to pick up on this, and all lead to Cardinal Pell, where in turn to Bishop Anthony Fisher, who when chaplain to the Victorian Parliament, warned politicians not to "expect and favours if going against church teaching.
      So much for separation of church and state.
      In addition, it was Cardinal Pell who told pilgrims at a WYD gathering, that abortion was worse than abuse.
      He also dealt inhouse with a woman who as a fifteen year old "miscarried", a child whose father was a clergyman, on the provisio she never spoke of the circumstances.
      Please......

      report
    3. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      You're joking. Madigan got just over 2% of frist pref votes. It's the weird preference system for the Senate that can have results like Madigan and Field. Major parties must allocate their Senate prefs very carefully but the outcome is notoriously unpredictable.

      report
    4. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to wilma western

      Hi wilma

      wow...........2%. That sounds almost unbelievable.

      The world is going to hell in a hand basket, where will it end.

      report
    5. Dave McRae

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Wilma is correct Stephen.

      DLP got 2.3% of vote, 0.16 of a quota, less than Family First even, but preferences washed out to give Madigan a spot. See ABC's Antony Green's page here http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/svic-results.htm

      It's an interesting phenomena, the 'Victorian Crazy Slot' - seems to come up every 2nd Victorian Federal Senate election, some fringe crazy with few votes/donkey votes gets up. 2004 gave up Family First's and Heartland Institute climatology student…

      Read more
  11. Marie Bosworth

    Administration

    As a woman who does not wish to ever have children, one of my greatest political fears is that my right to an abortion will be taken away from me.

    I use birth control, but it is never 100% reliable, and realistically I am not going to abstain from sex for my entire reproductive years to ensure I don't have children. Yet try to get your tubes tied with no children and under the age of 35, and see how difficult it is to find a doctor who will perform the procedure!

    People always throw up the…

    Read more
    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Marie Bosworth

      Kudos for your strong statements here, I too have made an active decision never to have children. The condesending and ignorant comments I receive regarding this are so frustrating, I've even been told its selfish not too have a child, which I think is ironic. thankfully Im a male, I can only imagine this would be magnified a hundred times if I was a female in this society.

      report
  12. Lynne Newington

    Researcher

    What right has Senator Madigan to presume politicians aren't already voting with their conscience..
    When you see how his "conservative Catholicism", has treated those who have made it safely into the world, into the loving arms of mother's only to have their lives extinquished by the very hands welcoming them into God's family.
    Not to mention the newborns who have father's clergymen and abandoned to preserve the priesthood and the church's image.

    report
  13. Lyndal Breen

    logged in via Facebook

    The problem with lone guns such as DLP Senator Maddigan is that they get their personal extreme issues through by bargaining their vote with the party in power. Thus we saw Senator Harridine trade his vote on the Telstra sale in return for his particular matters of conscience, ie family planning matters. The same thing has happened in NSW with the trading of support for economic decisions on electricity privatisation from the Shooters & Fishers Party for opening up National Parks for hunting of feral animals. There is nothing principled about this trade in votes

    report
  14. helen stream

    teacher

    It's amazing.

    Australia is probably the most law-abiding country on earth, and yet we're saddled with a Prime Minister who has done everything she can to shut down inquiry into her connection [ on the public record], to an alleged fraud and money-laundering operation by her former lover.

    The only conclusion a reasonable person could come to is that Julia Gillard wants that alleged crime to go uninvestigated and her former lover to go scot free with the huge amount of money never recovered from…

    Read more
    1. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to helen stream

      Helen in all fairness, the Liberal Party have their skeletons too.
      Coming to mind, a recent conviction for stealing peoples personal information and setting up credit cards, and I'll bet there's more hidden away in archives and peolpe have short memories.

      report
    2. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne....

      Do you really think that if there were 'skeletons' ...'hidden away in the archives', that could embarrass Tony Abbott, this almost 100% hostile MSM--- [ hostile to the Coalition and TA that is] ---would not be whacking him with it , and hounding him with it----- even while protecting Julia Gillard and Labor??

      The two situations you appear to think comparable are hardly analogous---in fact there are light years of separation.

      On the one hand, [ the situation you cite], an adviser…

      Read more
    3. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to helen stream

      So your saying they are all "squeaky" clean are you.
      Tony Abbott is the most ignorant and politically expedient man on the the public platform as far as I'm concerned using his Catholic mates to keep his head above water,and any make over won't hide his flaws.
      He won't be getting my vote, I'd prefer to pay the fine.

      report
    4. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne Newington...

      Are you unaware that we have freedom of religion in this country?

      So far, that is---since our most important freedom---freedom of speech---- is under attack right now from Labor and the rest of the Left---in the totalitarian tradition of that side of the political spectrum.

      In exactly what way is Tony Abbott 'ignorant' ---'politically expedient' ---or in need of support when swimming? Give examples.

      Your newsflash that he's not getting your vote is kind of superfluous---but if you're going to pay the fine, I guess you've seen the light on the threat to Australia posed by GreenLabor.

      report
  15. Dave McRae

    logged in via Twitter

    It is a beautiful political ideology

    1. Unfetted freedom for businesses to pollute and exploit and be subsidised from the public purse depending upon their size. Free Capital
    2. All vaginas and wombs are the collective ownership of the state, they must be regulated
    3. Other stuff - freedom of labour to organise, no no no no, that's not freedom at all, not to be tolerated

    report
    1. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to Dave McRae

      Dave McRae...

      That's some sort of panic statement, isn't it—-that rolls out when you find the treachery and corruption of your side exposed ?

      Your points are so desperately contrary to any sort of reason or reality.

      On point 1...

      The worst polluters on the face of the earth are the countries where there's no business freedom or any other sort to speak of for that matter---your side of the political spectrum—the Left.

      Right now, Communist China [ with a system your anti- business, anti-capital…

      Read more
    2. Dave McRae

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to helen stream

      "My side"? I'm a democrat.

      1. I consider your corporate totalitarianism is as terrible as state totalitarianism. And I agree with your picture of state totalitarianism, it's bad. They're both shocking. See Philippines, Nigeria etc for your neo-liberal utopia or this http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024761/Atlas-Shrugged-Silicon-Valley-billionaire-reveals-plan-launch-floating-start-country-coast-San-Francisco.html

      2. That's what it amounts too - state regulation of poor peoples' wombs…

      Read more