We’re pleased to have Jann Stuckey, a recently retired member of the Queensland parliament, join us for a Q&A!
Jann was a ‘moderate’ member of the Liberal National Party (LNP) and the representative for the Gold Coast electorate of Currumbin from 2004-2020. She came under fire in recent years for supporting the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying (VAD).
Today, she shares with us her thoughts about religion in politics and the rightward shift of the LNP. Among other topics, she talks about the current status of the push for VAD in Queensland.
National Secular Lobby (NSL):
Welcome, Jann! Thanks for joining us. As you have retired recently, we’d like to wish you well for your future endeavours.
Regarding the issue of voluntary assisted dying in Queensland, you publicly called on the Labor Premier to introduce a bill to VAD before the Queensland state election. What are the chances of that happening?
Jann Stuckey (JS):
Given the fact the Premier delayed the committee report on this inquiry from November 2019 until the end of March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has literally turned our world upside down. The Queensland parliament won’t be sitting in its usual manner, so I am very doubtful that VAD will be debated before the October state election.
The report has now been completed. As predicted the LNP have opposed its recommendations on the grounds that more funding and resources should be given to palliative care. It’s a fair argument but flawed, as VAD and palliative care are compatible. The debate needs to be about offering choices for terminally ill patients, not one method or another.
If a conscience vote was held in the current parliament, do you think there would be sufficient support for VAD to pass?
It is difficult to say. Unfortunately, because a state election is about six months away, the focus will be all about winning votes and not necessarily about sensitive and topical issues like VAD.
In recent years, you have been among a handful of moderate Liberals who have been the target of abuse within the LNP for your advocacy of issues such as VAD and abortion rights. It appears there is a contest over ‘values’ within the party. What direction do you think the party is heading?
The LNP is definitely moving to the religious right and looking more and more like the National Party of old.
Threats have been made to moderate MPs concerning their chances of pre-selection due to their stance on VAD and other social issues. Is there a danger that moderate voices may be lost to the party?
The VAD legislation deserves a conscience vote. And, from my own recent experience, and veiled threats from the LNP hierarchy that those MPs not toeing the party line will be disendorsed or not pre-selected, sadly I cannot see anyone from the LNP straying from that position.
What does ‘secularism’ mean to you? Has it been part of your political philosophy in any way?
Secularism is a belief that religion should be separated from the state. Whilst I have not had that uppermost in my mind, I have always stood by the principal that politics should not be ruled by religion.
As an Anglican, I have always been able to separate my judgements and decisions by consulting a wide range of views, including those in the electorate I represented. I realise that my personal religious beliefs have some bearing, but it’s never been a determining factor in my decisions. I have crossed the floor on three conscience votes in 16 years after significant and lengthy deliberation and examination of the facts and sentiments.
From the outside, there appears to be a significant conservative block within the LNP whose members hold strong religious beliefs and act upon these in their policy making. What’s your view of this observation? Do you think there is, in general, any problem mixing religion with politics?
That’s a true assessment. And those with conservative religious views are very vocal and try to sway others to their beliefs and thinking. I have experienced this on more than one occasion, sometimes in a mild-mannered way and other times with considerable forcefulness. Once I was bailed up against the wall in parliament prior to a vote.
Do you have any specific concerns about the influence of pro-religious forces who lobby politicians, parties and parliaments for greater religious freedoms in Queensland and nationally?
Every group has a right to lobby those who have the power to legislate decisions and policy. However, what I have seen in recent years could be described as intimidating behaviour towards elected representatives, coupled with extensive advertising and campaigning. It has never fazed me, as I have always consulted widely with my electorate and relevant experts. But I am sure some MPs would have concerns they may lose their seats.
Do you have a message for people who share your values and who are thinking about getting involved in politics?
I can only speak for myself, and it’s pretty obvious what happened to me. If people have a desire to enter politics, they can choose to join a specific party based on values that are similar to their own or run as an Independent, which is technically and financially difficult.
My values are those of a moderate Liberal. But where I have differed from my party’s increasingly conservative views has been in relation to ‘conscience’ votes. Both major parties, the LNP and ALP, are making a mockery of this term, as MPs on both sides are coerced into voting along party lines, which is such a shame.
If you want to get ahead, you have to keep your head down and do as you are told. But that has never sat well with me. I have always put the needs and aspirations of the people who live in the electorate of Currumbin first.
At the National Secular Lobby, we're pleased to have joined forces with a number of pro-secular community organisations in the #DontDivideUs campaign against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Add your voice to the campaign.