Voting in good conscience

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Politicians should be allowed a conscience vote on voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage, says former Victorian MP Denise Allen — and they should vote according to the consciences of their electors.

When it comes to a conscience vote in today’s Parliament, it is taken as a given and never questioned that the individual MP will vote according to his or her own personal conscience. That is, his or her own personal opinion on the issue. But, with the most recent polls saying between 75 and 85 per cent of the population support voluntary euthanasia, as well as with approximately 62 per cent supporting gay marriage, it is clear that a large percentage of MP’s electorates support both.

Politicians are forever saying voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage are contentious issues. With whom? With gay marriage … Church leaders and some of their followers? Or in the case of voluntary euthanasia … church leaders and certain sections of the medical profession? It certainly isn’t amongst ordinary everyday people, if a large majority of the population of Australia support both.

Therefore, why is it that in a conscience vote, the MP is voting according to his or her own personal conscience (opinion), based on whatever reason they choose to suit their personal vote — when in fact he or she is elected to represent the conscience (opinion) of the majority of his or her electorate?

After all, it is about the 30,000 to 50,000 people whom the MP represents; it is not and should not be about the opinion of just one person. The way a conscience vote functions today – and has always done – denies the people of an electorate the right to express and then vote for their collective conscience.

I believe, therefore, it is imperative that each MP, when anticipating voting according to a “conscience vote”, poll his or her electorate and then subsequently vote according to the majority of the wishes of his constituency. The MP’s vote itself would be included in the poll.

For example, Malcolm Turnbull has polled his electorate to substantiate their collective majority opinion on gay marriage. It came out overwhelming in favour. (Turnbull himself has always supported a conscience vote on gay marriage.)

It is either this way or hold a State plebiscite or a National referendum — and truly give the people their own personal vote on the issue.

By MP’s of all political persuasions not polling their electorates to establish majority support – and also a leader denying his MP’s a conscience vote on gay marriage or voluntary euthanasia – is, in effect, denying each and every eligible voter the right to express their opinion on the issue.

If I support voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage – and the majority of “I’s” in the electorate support voluntary euthanasia and/or gay marriage – then it is not up to the MP to vote against these majority wishes according to his/her personal opinion. The same applies if the majority vote is in the negative.

There is power in the people — and it is up the people to tell their MP’s that the majority’s wants and needs of his or her electorate is what they should be voting for, or against, when an issue goes to a conscience vote.

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