MPs Call Off Leadership Spill After Government Offers Concessions on Abortion Bill

September 16, 2019 Updated: September 16, 2019

Three Liberal MPs have withdrawn a spill motion against NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Rebel Liberal MPs angry at NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian over her support for a bill to decriminalise abortion past 20 weeks have called off a leadership spill motion against her.

Tanya Davies, Lou Amato, and Matthew Mason-Cox on Monday night announced they would call an “empty chair” spill motion against the premier because amendments they wanted had been rejected in full “or in part with vague undertakings for further discussion.”

But in a statement released before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the MPs said they would withdraw the motion.

“Since releasing our statement last night, we have received confirmation that further concessions will be forthcoming in relation to the amendments to the abortion bill,” they said.

“On this basis, I have called the premier this morning and advised her that we will withdraw the spill motion to continue negotiations prior to the debate in the upper house commencing later today.”

Senior Liberal ministers had also come out in support of Berejiklian ahead of a Liberal party room meeting at 10 a.m.

“Gladys is the people’s choice as Premier and I support her as our leader,” Treasurer Dominic Perrottet tweeted on Monday night soon after the rebels’ announcement. Perrottet, a father of five, does not support the abortion bill.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman, Police minster David Elliot, Transport Minister Andrew Constance, and Families and Communities Minister Gareth Ward joined Perrottet in backing Berejiklian.

Ward characterised the three MPs as an “arrogant” fringe.

“The reality is that this is an attempt by people who want to hold the rest of parliament over a barrel because they’re not getting their way on a particular issue,” he told ABC radio.

Opponents of the bill have raised concerns about late-term abortions, gender-based terminations, and the way the bill was introduced.

The private member’s bill was moved by Independent lower house MP Alex Greenwich in August.

It’s caused division within the conservative rump of the Liberal party, with Davies and another Liberal MP Kevin Conolly repeatedly threatening to move the crossbench unless amendments to the abortion bill were made.

The Berejiklian governments holds a slim two-seat majority following the March state election.

In its current form, the legislation would allow terminations up to 22 weeks, as well as later abortions if two doctors agree the termination should occur.

The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 passed the NSW lower house 59-31 in August when Liberal MPs were allowed a conscience vote.

On Sunday, thousands of NSW residents gathered to voice their opposition to the bill.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce spoke at the pro-life rally.

NSW upper house MPs were due to start considering changes to the bill on Tuesday afternoon, after a weekend of demonstrations by supporters and opponents of the legislation.