Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says he is entitled to lobby NSW Nationals to vote against a bill to provide “safe zones” around the state’s abortion clinics.
Mr Joyce contacted MPs ahead of a vote in NSW parliament to provide a 150-metre exclusion zone around clinics.
He said it was within his rights to express his views to other elected officials.
“Members of parliament are there to have your views expressed to them,” Mr Joyce told Seven News on Thursday.
“That is precisely what I’m allowed to do … and I think in some instances you’re entitled to do.
“People know I’ve got a pro-life position, I’m surrounded by people who don’t and I respect their views and they respect mine.”
Mr Joyce’s calls come after his partner and former staffer Vikki Campion claimed in a paid TV interview that she was pressured by conservatives in federal parliament to have an abortion. The couple’s son, Sebastian, was born in April.
Mr Joyce has been on sick leave since late May.
The proposed laws, which were debated in the NSW lower house on Thursday, would also make it an offence to film staff and patients without their consent.
NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro was unfazed by Mr Joyce’s lobbying attempts.
Mr Barilaro, who said he would support the safe access bill when it was voted on in parliament’s lower house on Thursday, agreed the former Nationals leader was within his rights to express his views on the issue.
“Barnaby can do what Barnaby wants to do,” Mr Barilaro said.
“The safe access bill is something that I’ve been quite proud of as the leader of the NSW Nationals.
“People are entitled to express their views, be it Barnaby or anyone else.”
Nationals MP and co-sponsor of the safe access zone bill Trevor Khan would not be drawn on questions relating to Mr Joyce’s conduct.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion on matters such as this,” he said.
He earlier told The Border Mail the bill was not about abortion, which would have “fractured the party room”.
“This is simply an issue about respect and decency,” he said.
“It’s so women can go unharassed, and not be interfered with as they go to these clinics. Often they’re visiting these clinics for reasons other than a termination.”
One MP told Fairfax Media had Mr Joyce called to express his disapproval about the bill.
Another MP, who did not receive a call, said: “If he was to call, I’d tell him to get stuffed.”