These amendments opposed the main purpose of this bill, which is to remove ministerial responsibility for approval of RU486 and related medicines. Instead, the amendments would have made some changes to the current process but fundamentally kept it in place. In other words, ultimate responsibility for approving RU486 would remain with the Minister. Senator Laming explained that his amendment ensures that Parliament will continue to have oversight over this controversial issue.(Read Mr Laming's full explanation and the associated debate here. )
This division was a conscience vote, meaning that members were not required to vote along party lines.
Background to the bill
The bill was introduced to amend the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 in order to transfer the responsibility for regulatory approval of RU486 from the Minister for Health and Ageing to the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This will make it possible to evaluate, register, list or import abortifacients such as RU486 (i.e. medicines intended to induce an abortion) for use in Australia without the approval of the Minister.(Read more about the bill in its bills digest (342 KB). More information, including its explanatory memorandum, is available here.)