Written by Kathy Clubb


In 1996, FLI’s Gail Instance wrote a comprehensive article called ALP Conscience Vote is the pro-abortion Trojan Horse. The article spans almost 30 years of Australian political history and investigated the significance of the ALP’s conscience vote on abortion, concluding that membership in the ALP is incompatible with Catholicism. It seems timely to revisit that exposé and to provide more weight for the argument in light of the ALP’s recent policy developments.

Gail’s article begins by reminding readers that, though it was a Liberal government which first legalised abortion in South Australia in 1969, the Bill, put forward under Premier Millhouse, making abortion legal to 28 weeks, was supported by all but five ALP members, and by more than half of the Liberal MPs. It would not have passed except for the majority of Labor members.

Then in 1971, the ALP National Conference voted to allow members to use their conscience when it came to abortion-related legislation. This satisfied both pro-life and pro-abortion delegates, but as Gail pointed out, ‘legitimised the pro-abortion position.’


It all started with contraception

The pro-abortion Gough Whitlam was elected as Prime Minister the next year, but the ALP’s Catholics weren’t concerned due to their conscience protection. Gail points to the misinformation surrounding the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and the attendant, distorted view of conscience, so prevalent during the 70’s, as the main reason why Catholics failed to oppose the idea of a conscience vote on abortion. Failing to discern that contraception is intrinsically evil – not only a sin for Catholics – led ALP delegates to also accept their party’s stance on contraception. Labor’s pro-contraception policy was adopted in 1977, despite the majority of the ALPs members being pro-life.

At the 1982 National Conference, the pro-abortion members, who were by this time in the majority, became more militant in their push for abortion and tried to remove the conscience clause. They were unsuccessful because the three pro-life delegates threatened to leave the party if they were made to support abortion.

Abortion advocates decided they needed a way to keep their prolife members while making abortion more accessible. Finally one senator put forward an amendment, citing South Australia’s success in legalising abortion while retaining the conscience clause, and this appealed to both sides. The amendment was passed and became the ALP’s official policy, which is still found in their handbook today.

By 1984, pro-abortion forces had become even more emboldened, and Senator Susan Ryan proposed adding the words, ‘and abortion’ to the ALPs 1983 election policy: ‘Labor supports the particular right of women to choice of fertility control.’ Her amendment carried: the conscience vote’s impotence should have become apparent.

But as Gail wrote in her article,

“It really is a case of “the power of the keys” of the Labor Party, regarding all its members on the single issue of abortion. The Conference binds and looses at the same time. Those who are bound, are loosed to take over the direction of the Party, and those who are loosed are bound to sit impotently on the side of the Party while still remaining in its bounds.”

That Conscience Clause

The ALP’s Catholic members have long argued that the party can be changed from within and this may have been true before 1984, when the party officially adopted their pro-abortion position. But since then, the conscience clause has been used as a means to silence dissent from pro-life members, and who have had little opportunity to exercise this ‘right’, anyway.

Bob McMullen, a senior member of the ALP stated as much during the 1984 conference.[1] McMullen stated that “The Labour Party’s policy supports the introduction of legislation in support of the woman’s right to choose, but …  it will be developed …  in the continuing context of the conscience vote”.[2]

McMullen changed from his position of removing the conscience clause to supporting it, when he and others realised that its retention guaranteed that pro-life politicians would remain within the ALP’s ranks and that prolife voters would still support the party. He had come to believe that retention of the conscience vote was vital in order to maintain the numbers needed by the party to eventually legalise abortion around the country.

Thus, the ALPs pro-life members missed a golden opportunity to force the party to show its hand regarding abortion. If they had deserted the party in 1984, voters would have been left in no doubt about the Labor’s radical abortion agenda.

Gail wrote in 1996 that, although unpopular in some quarters, FLI’s decision to advise Catholics not to vote for Labor contributed to the ALP’s great losses during that year’s Federal election.


The Rainbow Flag comes out

Public denunciations of Labor have become even more imperative since the ALP voted to remove any conscience vote on same-sex ‘marriage’, starting in July of this year[3], and since it was announced, during the last federal election[4], that Labor intends to make abortion freely available at every public hospital in the country. Additionally, Labor has a worrying track record when it comes to the protection of religious freedoms. Penny Wong’s bill of 2018[5] showed a callous disregard for the deeply-held beliefs of Christians and others of faith who wished to maintain the identity of their institutions by refusing employment to personnel known to be involved in same-sex relationships.

It must not be forgotten that it was Labor who, in 2008, removed discrimination against same-sex couples from more than 80 pieces of Commonwealth legislation. These changes should have weakened the case for legalising same-sex ‘marriage’, but instead, ten years later, it was the ALP who spearheaded the redefinition of marriage in this country. The ALP now states in its policy that it ‘recognises the hurt and damage that the Coalition Government’s postal survey caused to LGBTIQ Australians, their family and friends.’[6]

The stated goals of the ALP, according to its National Platform[7] include: decriminalising abortion in all states and territories; making abortion available through the public hospital system, making ‘backyard’ telemed abortions more accessible, introducing exclusion-zones in every state and territory, and promoting contraception, dangerous Gardasil vaccinations and IVF. Of particular concern is Labor’s commitment to mandatory sex-education for children, which includes LGBTI ideology. The ALP has also reaffirmed its commitment to using Australian taxpayers’ money for providing abortion and contraception overseas and for implementing Sustainable Development Goals; these, of course, include population control. The National Platform’s reference to ‘… the particular needs, customs and practices of diverse cultures’[8] being respected in Australia’s Family Court system, provides tacit approval for Sharia law.

FLI now feels it has the obligation to remind Catholics of Labor’s stance on abortion and contraception, as well as its policy on the redefinition of marriage.


A crisis for voters

Unfortunately, the warnings now are broader than for only the Labor Party. Australians now face a real crisis at election time since it has become very difficult to find a decent party to support. All the major parties have embraced abortion, contraception and sodomy, at least to some extent, and as we will see, even the highest levels of government are not immune from ideological infiltration.

The recent passing of the abortion law in New South Wales illustrates very clearly how the death-culture has seeped into the so-called ‘conservative’ ranks. Premier Gladys Berejiklian had publicly stated in 2017[9] that there would “obviously be no change in policy,” and conservative voters overwhelmingly supported her in the state elections held earlier this year. However, the first red flags should have come when National MP Trevor Khan co-sponsored abortion exclusion-zones in 2018. Although Premier Berejiklian gave her party a conscience vote, she personally voted in favour of the bill.

The issue of abortion wasn’t even raised during the subsequent election campaign which returned Berejiklian to power on her conservative platform. But multi-party sponsorship of the abortion law reform bill – including Liberal Health Minister Brad Hazzard – indicates that it had been a long time in the planning and that the Premier could not have been unaware of its impending introduction. Gladys Berejiklian surprised and shocked many when she persisted in steamrolling the bill through parliament, despite pleas for wider and more thorough consultation.

Pro-lifers placed all their hopes in the few brave Liberal politicians who stood very firmly against the forces promoting killing of the unborn, and were buoyed when several threatened to leave the party unless their leader put a halt to the juggernaut. Ultimately, those MPs stayed and the bill was passed with the amendments they demanded as the price for their loyalty being approved. It is fair of us to ask whether the result could have been very different, had those MPs stuck to their principles and left the party over abortion. It is also reasonable to question the point of remaining in a party which is diametrically opposed to promoting the welfare of tiny children, women and families.

Ideology driving policy is common among politicians, though. What is even more concerning is the way ideology has now crept into all levels of the legislative process. New South Wales Governor, Margaret Beazely, a Catholic, was petitioned by 10 members of the legislative council to reject the abortion bill. The group of MLC’s, including Fred Nile, Greg Donnelly and Mark Latham asked Governor Beazely to oppose the new law on a range of legal and constitutional grounds.

As Governor, she has authority to give or not give, Royal Assent – the required approval to formally enact the law – and thus had the power to stop it from going ahead. The reasons documented were all legitimate reasons for rejecting this abhorrent Bill and her background as a lawyer and an Appeals Court Judge meant she was well aware of this.

Unfortunately, ideology prevailed and on October 2nd Governor Beazely wrote abortion out of the Criminal Code and a new law into the Health Act allowing abortion from conception to birth with very little in the way of restrictions and protection for mothers and their babies or the rights of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to the rights of conscience.

This didn’t seem to cause a problem for the Australian Catholic University, however, who just a couple of weeks later, awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Law citing her “influence on the wellbeing of the wider community, in particular through her promotion of human rights, diversity and the principle of legality.” Nor did it stop the Catholic Weekly from publishing the story positively on the front page of their edition for Sunday 20th October.

Gail Instance will have the last word on this sorry spectacle, and remind us of the need for a firm commitment to maintaining pressure on our elected officials:

“Rather we hope that by making support of abortion an electoral disadvantage, both Labor and Liberal will get on with the business of government and out of the business of social and genetic engineering.”

[1] Link to “The Conscience Vote Strategy”
[2] This policy is still in force, as evidenced in the 2018 Constitution and Rules, item #52:
Abortion (decision of the 1984 Conference)
52 Conference resolves that the matter of abortion can be freely debated at any state or federal forum of the Australian Labor Party, but any decision reached is not binding on any member of the Party. https://www.alp.org.au/media/1574/alp_national_constitution.pdf
[3] Labor’s Constitution and Rules: https://www.alp.org.au/media/1574/alp_national_constitution.pdf
56 Conference resolves that the matter of same sex marriage can be freely debated at any state or federal forum of the Australian Labor Party, but any decision reached is not binding on any member of the Party. This resolution is rescinded upon the commencement of the 46th parliament. (The 46th Parliament began on July 2nd, 2019)
[6] https://www.alp.org.au/media/1539/2018_alp_national_platform_constitution.pdf Item 227.
[7] Ibid, Items 102, 109, 112.
[8] Ibid. Item 262
[9] https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/the-women-of-nsw-deserve-better-than-a-minister-who-is-personally-prolife-20170131-gu1wyr.html
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