By Paul Russell:
Last night the mover of the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016, Steph Key gave a rather cryptic comment to the South Australian media about the possible adoption of their 'plan b'.
It is not a stretch to observe that one only goes to a 'plan b' if 'plan a' - the existing bill, is not going to pass muster.
This was a clear admission from Steph Key that she and her team were not confident that her bill would pass at the Second Reading vote scheduled for this Thursday the 20th of October.
So what does 'plan b' look like?
Readers will recall that, after the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016 had been in the chamber for something like eight months, Steph Key recently tabled a set of her own amendments to her own bill that she had hoped would convince MPs who were rightly concerned about the Belgian style model in the current bill, to allow the bill to pass on Thursday so that these amendments could be discussed and the bill modified.
This 'eleventh hour' amendment schedule (less that a week from the scheduled debate) as the Australian Medical Association observed, ran to thirteen pages - only a few pages short of the length of the bill itself. Parliamentarians and the public will have had little time to scrutinise the changes, which can only have added to the cynicism amongst Key's parliamentary colleagues.
Key clearly expected her colleagues to pass a very dangerous bill on the possibility that the amendments she foreshadowed would be adopted during the debate on clauses that would have followed. That is never certain. This is reckless and MPs clearly agreed in the majority.
We now understand that a new bill will be introduced today that is essentially the old bill with the flagged amendments incorporated.
I can understand that with everything invested in what must be said was a comprehensive campaign in support of the bill, that to lose on Thursday was not something that Key and her allies wanted to face. Regardless, much of that impetus is now lost as the debate begins again. Key's colleague Duncan McFetridge MP announced the tabling of this new bill in his name. He said that he hoped to have the matter 'approved in about a month'. The Advertiser story repeated the false claim that, 'A request for voluntary euthanasia would not be granted if there was another medical treatment or palliative care option that would relieve the person's suffering.'
In normal circumstances, this 'new' bill would progress at a snails pace like all private member's bills. That would normally mean that the debate in earnest would probably not occur until the second half of 2017 - when MPs are beginning to focus on the March 2018 election. But these are not necessarily normal times and one can bet that Steph Key will be pressuring the Premier for special treatment. Originally the Premier had signalled that he wanted the issue out of the way by Christmas. It remains to be seen if that commitment extends to this new bill.
One hopes that MPs will remain cynical that Steph Key and her cohort have essentially used the parliament as something of a private play thing. Many MPs will have private members business of their own that they would also dearly love to progress.
While the old bill would have made the state the 'Belgium of the South', the new bill is closer to the Oregon model but with some curious additions. Like its predecessor, it will fail to protect people. Only a total ban on euthanasia & assisted suicide can achieve that.
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