The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Thankyou Mr Smith For Finally Doing The Right Thing

Posted by Leah on March 21, 2009

In 1996 the Government created Family Planning Guidelines for the Australian aid program, which has meant that ever since no Australian aid funding could go to organisations involved with the provision of abortions. We can thank Brian Harradine for the Guidelines.

Following in President Obama’s steps, the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, changed the guidelines on March 10.

It’s a strange situation – great news but it’s truly a tragedy it didn’t happen sooner. Around 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year. Obviously Australian aid is not going to save that many women, but this is still certainly a step in the right direction.

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5 Responses to “Thankyou Mr Smith For Finally Doing The Right Thing”

  1. caitlinate said

    What terrified me about this was the fact that Rudd stood up in the caucus room and said that he ‘held conservative views’ on ‘this issue’. Does that mean he is anti-abortion?

  2. lauredhel said

    Caitlinate: Rudd has never hidden the fact that he’s a socially conservative Christian. His mother was old-school CWA Catholic. He was chairman of the ALP’s Caucus Committee on Faith, Values and Politics. Rudd has addressed the Catholic Youth Day, Hillsong congregations, and so on. It’s my understanding that he and his family now attend an Anglican church. He is involved in the Parliamentary prayer group – not exactly a bastion of the separation of religion and politics.

    We had a choice of nothing but more of the same at the last election. The only thing that Rudd did to differentiate himself in this area was to claim that it would influence his policy decisions in a broader way than it did for Howard, Abbott, Costello and co: that for him, it would go beyond sexual morality and also into the social/charity areas. Abbott and Rudd got into quite a bingle about this issue in campaign season.

    When Rudd tries to deal with Fielding, he isn’t exactly making deals with the enemy – but it does offer him a nice bit of plausible deniability in all directions. Convenient.

  3. Leah said

    Yes, he is. Depressing and worrying hey? He opposed the amendment to the Guidelines. As far as I know he hasn’t made explicit statements about abortion in the domestic context but all signs would seem to point to his opposition tempered with a realisation that most in his party, and the majority of his constituents, don’t agree.

    In terms of why he ‘couldn’t’ override Smith’s decision, the Guidelines were not an act of Parliament, they were some little Minister-instigated thing, put in by Downer when he was Foreign Minister. So Smith only had the power to change them. Still, in reality, I don’t think we should read this as a big ‘stand up’ statement from Smith, it’s hard to believe he would have really gone in the face of the PM like this. Presumably the PM realised how backward the Guidelines made us look, and agreed on a political level and then tried to placate his religious supporters by saying he didn’t personally agree.

  4. caitlinate said

    I knew he was a Christian and very socially conservative but I was astonished by such a vocal admission. I think your reasoning for it is probably correct, Leah, but it is still rather revolting. It also puts such a… paternal spin on the whole thing. “Oh I suppose I’ll let them go off and have their rights if they must, though I do rather disapprove.”

    Oh, ick, my skin is crawling.

  5. Joan said

    I have just discovered your blog. Keep up the good work.

    Isn’t it just incredible that all these years, courtesy Harradine, Australia has denied aid to women wanting abortions in poor countries, while women in Oz can get them, at least in certain circumstances. And women in poor countries often have no legal right to say ‘no’ to sex with partners or boyfriends, no money for effective contraception etc etc.

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