Conscience
votes can be fascinating for what they show us about our politicians.

Some of
the contributions to the parliamentary debate on RU486 have been politicking of
the crassest kind. Others – Lyn Allison’sand Nick Minchin’s
let us see politicians as the products of an enormous range of life experiences
that have shaped them, not just as cogs in party machines.

But what
about the rest of us? A Newspoll survey jointly commissioned by the NSW Humanists,
the newly formed Secular Party of Australia and the Australian National Secular
Association has found that a majority of Australians would support government
legislating to separate church and state in Australia.

ANSA Director, Max Wallace, says the Newspoll
results demonstrate the electorate’s concern at the incremental influence of
religious organisations over government in the Howard era – that the results go
to the question of the conscience vote over RU486.

“This is a medical issue not a religious one,” he
says.

Perhaps, like the Senators, ordinary citizens are
drawing on their own experiences.

Peter Fray

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