Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is facing fresh dissent in ALP ranks over abortion law, after a forum to “keep up the pressure our pollies” was spruiked by Queensland assistant state secretary and Bligh loyalist Jackie Trad in an official party newsletter.
The forum, titled “Did you know abortion is still a criminal offence in Queensland?” was held on Tuesday night at the Trades and Labor Council in Brisbane’s Peel Street, which also houses the ALP’s Queensland headquarters. It was organised by the Kelvin-Grove Newmarket branch of the party, which dubs itself the KGB, and urges ALP members to “keep up the momentum” on the issue, despite Bligh recently declaring the abortion debate over.
The email promoting the event was sent out as part of the party’s Left faction eNews letter. Trad and Bligh are senior Left faction figures.
About 40 party members and pro-choice activists attended the meeting, with guest speakers including former Parliamentary secretary and member for Aspley Bonnie Barry and high-profile pro-choice activist Kate Marsh from Children by Choice. Marsh has previously described Bligh’s stance on the issue as “outrageous” and “pathetic”.
Barry is a prominent member of the group Pro Choice Queensland, which has called for immediate reform of the state’s century-old abortion law. In August, she revealed the existence of draft legislation to decriminalise abortion and during her time in parliament she was regular thorn in the side of Bligh and former Premier Peter Beattie over the issue.
Trad, who assumed the operational reins at ALP headquarters after leading the party’s failed campaign for the state seat of Indooroopilly at the last election, did not attend.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
The issue of abortion continues to divide the state Labor Party, despite at least 60% of the Queensland public supporting a woman’s right to an abortion. Bligh has faced intense pressure to change the law after a Cairns couple were charged with abortion offences in April. Despite a recent change to the Queensland Criminal Code that allowed doctors to avoid a statutory ban on medical abortions, the practice remains a crime.
Bligh is believed to privately support decriminalisation, but remains cautious over the prospect of rebel backbenchers abandoning the government in the event of a conscience vote.
The Queensland Premier told the Q&A program in July she had “very liberal” views on abortion. “I believe it is a private matter between a woman and her partner and her doctor.”
But Trad, who served as Ms Bligh’s campaign director when she was first elected to state parliament in 1995, told Crikey that despite apparent widespread support for further law reform, the issue didn’t have the potential to shift votes at the ballot box.
She also said issue was a private matter and that “Labor party members, like the rest of the population, have strongly held views on the topic”.
Carol Corless, from the Labor Women’s Forum that helped organise Tuesday’s event, told Crikey that she remained hopeful that the Premier would relent on the issue.
“There’s a massive lack of education and we simply want it taken out of the criminal code,” she said.
The forum includes Bligh in its ranks through her membership of the party’s feminist wing Emily’s List.