An article in the Sydney Morning Herald today says that Greens Senator Richard Di Natale will move to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act (known also as the Andrews' Bill).
Di Natale said that his party was drafting new legislation. This is kind of strange because now-retired Senator Bob Brown's 2010 bill to the same effect is still on the Senate Bills List and, presumably, this could be taken up at any time.
The effect of such a bill would be to remove the Commonwealth's determination in the Euthanasia Laws Act that removed the right of the territories to legislate for euthanasia or assisted suicide. It would not re-instate the defunct Rights of the Terminally Ill Act that was in force for a brief 9 months in 1995 & 1996. It will, however, open the way for debate in each territory parliament.
Bob Brown styled his argument for repeal of the Andrews' Bill in terms of restoring rights. This is false. This is especially so since the repeal of the veto power of the Executive of the Commonwealth (by way of another Brown Bill) only last year. The Commonwealth has every right to maintain the limitations on the powers of the territories - including that of euthanasia. Statehood is territorians other option.
In an interview this afternoon on ABC Victoria's drive program, Di Natale seemed to be prescribing a form of euthanasia legislation for the Northern and/or Australian Capital Territory. This seems strange given that the Commonwealth power in respect to the territories is essentially a veto power and not an amending or proposing power.
The timing is interesting to say the least as today in the NSW Parliamentary Annexe at a Dignity with Dying function, a new opinion poll from the Australia Institute was released. The media 'storm' has been building for some weeks now, primarily in the SMH but also on radio and the internet.
We also have NSW Greens MLC Cate Faerhmann saying that she will introduce a new bill into the NSW parliament next year.
|Sen. Di Natale|
It fascinates me that there should be so much interest in the Australian Territories over euthanasia - particularly the NT and the ACT. The pro-euthanasia lobby - in which I include the Greens given that they are the only federally represented party with a formal euthanasia policy - will always look to legislate in the jurisdiction where a bill is most likely to succeed. For some time they saw 'progressive' South Australia as their main hope.
Has anything changed? Yes, it has. The recent ACT election returned an effective hung parliament with 8 Labor, 8 Liberal and one Greens member. Sole Greens member, Shane Rattenbury, who has a formal compact with Labor which gave them government, could wield significant power and influence in the ACT on a euthanasia vote.
Di Natale also said that the legislation in the Netherlands and Belgium worked well. I believe I successfully rebutted this assertion in that interview; especially given the level of non-reporting and euthanasia without request or consent in both jurisdictions.
Di Natale also repeated the assertion that having the option for euthanasia actually makes people feel far more at ease (given that they know they have a way out, I assume). There is evidence to support this assertion from studies in Oregon. However, we do not know the surveyed people's other circumstances. Is it not just as likely that assurance that the infirmed person is not a burden, or pastoral conversations about a good care plan including even making decisions about certain treatments etc. might not also have made these people feel at ease?
We will most likely need to wait until next year to see what the Greens come up with by way of a bill. Whatever form it takes, the numbers in the Senate will be far closer than they were in 1996/97!
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