Premier Defends Ministers Who Controversially Voted Against Safe Access Zone Bill

Gladys Berejiklian has described her Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence as "outstanding".

What you need to know
  • NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has defended her ministers who controversially voted against the bill that established safe access zones around abortion clinics
  • Both the Minister for Women and the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence voted against the bill
  • It passed 61-18

The New South Wales premier is resisting calls to sack her two of her ministers who voted against the bill to establish safe access zones around abortion centers last week.

Both Tanya Davies and Pru Goward -- who are the Minister for Women and the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence -- came under heavy scrutiny when they voted against the bill aimed at protecting women at their most vulnerable.

The bill passed in the early hours of Friday morning, 61 votes to 81, following hours of debate in the NSW Legislative Assembly.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defended Goward and Davies against calls they should be sacked, describing both of them as "outstanding" ministers.

"That was a complex issue and that's why members of my party were given a conscience vote," she told reporters in Sydney.

"Some people interpreted the bill as a law and order issue, others treated it as a health issue. It was really up to members and their personal conscience and I respect that."

Davies argued against the bill on the provision that so-called 'sidewalk counselors' -- who harass, intimidate and invade the privacy of both people seeking an abortion and those who work at clinics -- were acting in the best interests of women.

Goward argued on free speech grounds, saying she couldn't support the bill when it didn't distinguish between abuse and communication within the 150-meter safe access zones.

NSW Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who introduced the bill, called it a "terrific day for women" when the bill finally passed.

The bill makes it a criminal offence to make "a communication that relates to abortions [in a way] that is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety to any such person.

Opponents of the 'free speech' argument declared that there were plenty of places to argue against abortion, but that people seeking one should be free to do so without, for example, being 'politely' told that there is another option.

With AAP