Queensland has decriminalised abortion, with parliament voting to remove references to the procedure from the state’s 1899 criminal code. The bill, which makes abortion available on request at up to 22 weeks’ gestation and establishes 150-metre “safe access zones” around termination clinics, passed 50 votes to 41. It had the support of all but one government MP, three opposition MPs, the Greens’ Michael Berkman and independent Sandy Bolton. An abortion sought after 22 weeks will require approval from two doctors, while doctors who conscientiously object to abortion will be required to refer a patient seeking a termination to a doctor that can provide one. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called the result “historic”, saying “women will no longer have the fear of committing a crime when making the deeply personal decisions over their own bodies”. The reform leaves New South Wales as the only jurisdiction in Australia where abortion is still a crime.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has hinted he may attempt to retake the Nationals leadership, raising questions about the tenure of current leader Michael McCormack. 2GB Radio shock jock Ray Hadley accused McCormack on Wednesday of “being the source of many of the leaks undermining Barnaby Joyce” when Joyce was leader, claiming Nationals MPs had “just about had enough” of McCormack’s leadership. Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Joyce said “if anything was offered to me, I’d take it. It is faux modesty to say if you’re offered a job, you’ll turn it down”. McCormack rebuked Nationals MPs in a speech to parliament on Tuesday, saying “I think there is a cancer in Canberra at the moment, it is people who background journalists”.
The Nauruan government has arrested and deported Australia’s chief medical officer in charge of refugee welfare. Dr Nicole Montana, the senior medical officer at health contractor International Health and Medical Services, was arrested on Tuesday and flown out of the country on Wednesday. In a statement, IHMS said Montana was deported “for a breach of Regional Processing Centre rules”, and that an unnamed “replacement senior medical officer is already in Nauru”. It is the second time in six weeks that IHMS’ senior medical officer has been removed from the island, after the Nauruan government revoked the visa of Dr Christopher Jones, Montana’s predecessor.
And environment minister Melissa Price has been accused of insulting Pacific Island nations after allegedly making comments to former Kiribati president Anote Tong. In a letter to Price, Labor senator Pat Dodson claimed Price reacted to being introduced to Tong in a Canberra restaurant by telling him “I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?” While Price said she disagreed “with what he has said was the conversation”, Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning, who was also at the dinner, said Dodson’s letter was “100 per cent accurate”. Tong led Kiribati for 13 years between 2003 and 2016, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his advocacy for a strong global response to climate change.