11 Mar 2020

Sorry, what did we just vote for?

From The House , 6:55 pm on 11 March 2020

Two options remain for MPs wishing to do-over a vote on an amendment to the Abortion Legislation Bill says Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard. 

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

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The bill is currently being considered by the Committee of the Whole House which is when MPs examine the details of a bill but it is also the last chance to make changes before its third and final reading. 

This week, during the committee stage an amendment in the name of David Seymour (which removes the detail on how safe zones around abortion clinics would be set up) was passed on a voice vote

There are three ways MPs vote on a bill. A voice vote is when MPs shout ‘aye’ or ‘noe’ and whoever is in the chair decides whether they ‘ayes’ or the ‘noes’ sound like they have more people shouting. 

If anyone disagrees with that decision then they can ask for a more detailed count of the votes which in this instance, is a personal vote. 

There’s a slim window to call for a personal vote and the MPs who wanted to do so on Mr Seymour’s amendment missed their chance. 

The Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard said there are two things that can be done if an MP wants to try again. 

"Next time the bill comes up for committee stages there can be an instruction to the committee [of the Whole House] to reconsider the question. It can be gone back to and any Member can move that.”

This request to ask for a do-over of that particular vote would be debatable and require support from a majority of the MPs. 

“The alternative is at the beginning of the third reading Members can move a non-debatable motion to recommit the bill for a specific purpose,” said Mr Mallard. 

This would send the bill back to the Committee of the Whole House specifically to reconsider Mr Seymour’s amendment. 

Again, a majority of the House would need to agree for this to happen and as the Abortion Legislation Bill is a conscience issue, there’s no guarantee the support to do so exists.