Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Last night, Tasmania's parliament passed voluntary assisted dying laws, a bill introduced by Independent legislative councillor Mike Gaffney. The vote was not close. It passed the Legislative Council unanimously, and, in the lower house, 16 MPs voted in favour of it and six against. This follows Victoria and Western Australia passing voluntary assisted dying laws.
The Palaszczuk government promised before the last election that it would introduce voluntary assisted dying laws in Queensland, and the Queensland Law Reform Commission is currently exploring the issue. This stands in stark contrast to the situation in 1997 when the Andrews bill was passed by the Parliament of Australia, preventing the territories from legislating on euthanasia. We are now at a stage where three out of six states have passed voluntary assisted dying laws, and yet the territories are even forbidden from even debating the topic. This makes no sense whatsoever.
Voluntary assisted dying is supported by a vast majority of Australians. Most surveys find it is at least three in four, but a Vote Compass survey in 2019 found 87 per cent supported the statement 'terminally ill patients should be able to end their own lives, with medical assistance', up from 75 per cent in 2013. Support for voluntary assisted dying included 79 per cent of Liberal-National party voters, 84 per cent of One Nation voters, 77 per cent of Catholics, 78 per cent of Protestants and 71 per cent of people with another religion. We've seen other countries move to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws—Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands—and a handful of US states have enacted it.
In the ACT, important preparatory work has been done on the safeguards that would be necessary. Former MLA Mary Porter and current MLA Tara Cheyne have done critical work on ensuring that these safeguards and frameworks are in place.
This parliament must repeal the Andrews bill. In the last session, Luke Gosling, the member for Solomon, and I introduced a bill which would repeal the Andrews bill, but the government would not bring it on for debate. They are scared of Australian public opinion. They know that Australian public opinion is strongly favour of euthanasia and is strongly in favour of territories having the right to debate this issue in the manner in which states have done so already. It's time for the Andrews bill to go. It's time to restore democratic freedoms to the ACT.