The closing months of 2012 saw a media barrage from various pro-euthanasia sources, particularly in the Eastern States. From personal testimonies to new polling results, the intensity and frequency across all traditional forms of media cannot have been accidental. These change agents are nothing if not well organised. But, in terms of their goals, one wonders at why such a major push leading up to the year's end when the holiday season creates a natural lull in the discussion of most things political.
The commencement of the 2013 parliamentary year, both federally and in the states, holds the key to understanding their activity. Two bills already introduced will come in for serious debate early this year with the promise also of a discussion paper and bill in Tasmania and another bill pending in New South Wales. Western Australia may also see yet another attempt once parliament resumes after the March election.
In the Senate, debate will resume on Senator Di Natale's Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2012; a bill identical to an earlier unresolved effort by then Senator Bob Brown. This bill seeks to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 which overturned the NT's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act and, into the bargain, removed the ability of the three Australian Territories with limited self-government to legislate further in such matters.
Changes in personnel in the Senate since the last Federal Election and the half Senate cut off would appear to have increased the likely support for this bill. Time will tell whether or not Senators and the major parties are comfortable with allowing a full debate on this issue in an election year.
In South Australia, the government's Advance Care Directives Bill passed through the Lower House with unseemly haste and virtually no scrutiny late in 2012. Described accurately as a 'euthanasia Trojan Horse', this bill ushers in the possibility of acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide in some circumstances under binding directives from a patient and/or his or her advocate. There are significant other problems with the bill that will radically affect the medical community.
It remains to be seen whether or not the expected scrutiny by the Upper House beginning in February will expose this hidden agenda. Being a government bill, ALP MPs need to vote on party lines. Private members supporting and promoting euthanasia bills is one thing - but governments taking up such a role is another matter entirely; and one that should make Premier Weatherill more than a little nervous about possible accusations of promoting a raw social reform agenda.
No such concerns exist in Tasmania where the Premier and Deputy Premier clearly see their social agenda as an electoral vote winner. Time will tell; but with the next election not due until early 2014, Giddings and McKim appear committed to act on their longstanding commitment to introduce euthanasia and/or assisted suicide legislation sometime in the first half of this year.
In recent days, MPs Steph Key and Bob Such have once again flagged their intentions to introduce further attempts at euthanasia type legislation. Such claimed last year that he would 're-jig' his last failed effort while Key has indicated her intention to attempt the introduction of euthanasia through some sort of Advance Care Directives legislation.
In New South Wales, Upper House MP, Cate Faerhmann has once again flagged her intention to proceed with a bill this year. She has listed a bill in the ballot. While the chances of success for any euthanasia type bill in the NSW Upper House appear slim, Faerhmann and her supporters will, no doubt, push as hard as possible.
With parliaments resuming in February it can hardly be seen as a coincidence that a so-called 'Round Table' on euthanasia & assisted suicide will report its resolutions at about the same time. The organisation Australia21 is sponsoring this event in Brisbane in late January. The authors of the background paper prepared for this 'Round Table' claim that they have attempted to 'canvass both sides of the argument in an even-handed manner'. It is not for yours truly to question their intention. However, intended or not, the paper does not measure up to this claim and is seriously deficient in a number of key areas.
Similar reports released earlier in 2012 in the UK and Canada that showed significant bias towards legislative reform are widely referenced uncritically in the Australia21 background paper. This factor alone justifies scepticism. Only time will tell whether or not the attendees at this round table produce an even-handed report.
One thing is certain: 2013 is shaping up as a very challenging year.
As a timely push-back against the euthanasia & assisted suicide agenda, we have created TheDeclaration of HOPE. Styled on the successful Manhattan and Canberra Declarations, the Declaration of HOPE provides a great opportunity for concerned Australians to register clear opposition.
Organisation is the key to effective opposition. Visit the HOPE website, go to the Get Involved NOW pages and make a plan to takle the Federal Bill and issues in your state.
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