Fairfax Press beats up on euthanasia

Anyone who has read the Melbourne Age or the Sydney Morning Herald over the past few months in particular cannot help but have noticed that they've run some pro-euthanasia stories that the other media have simply ignored. In the lead up to the November State Election in Victoria, The Age declared itself pro-euthanasia in an editorial. Most will have suspected that already. 

They have also given oxygen to the pro-euthanasia campaign by former Coles Executive Peter Short who is dying of oesophogal cancer. Mr Short gave evidence at the Senate hearings into Senator Di Natale's draft exposure bill on euthanasia recently and has been pushing hard to try and meet with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to talk to him about changing the law.

The Senate committee considering Di Natale's bill made no recommendation on the draft exposure bill except to say that there were significant constitutional issues regarding the separation of powers that needed to be addressed and, by the way, that every member of parliament should have access to a conscience vote on this issue. This last assertion is essentially meaningless as both major parties at least have always allowed a 'free vote' on such matters. Common knowledge one would have thought; but easily forgotten when it suits. Enter The Age journalist, Kate Hagan.

Her article in today's Age and Sydney Morning Herald is titled: Tony Abbott commits to free vote on euthanasia and reports on a phone conversation between Peter Short and Prime Minister Abbott. Well, at least it gives Short's side of the story because, as the article confirms, the Prime Minister's office does not comment on private conversations. Short and Hagan could have said that Abbott has a leprechaun at the bottom of his garden for all we really know.

But I do accept that Short and Hagan are reporting accurately that the Prime Minister said that his party MPs would have a conscience vote, precisely because that has always been the case. Even Philip Nitschke acknowledged this in a tweet today:

"Abbott's "free vote" on #euthanasia legislation is a meaningless token. Howard's free vote on Andrews led to loss of NT euthanasia ROTI law."

That Hagan has conveniently overlooked this while, at the same time, acknowledging that the ALP have granted a conscience vote is where the beat up becomes really obvious.

"Labor MPs automatically have a conscience vote on the issue, however the Liberal Party's position has previously been unclear."

So, there you have it, Peter Short has achieved this major concession from the Prime Minister which drives the issue of euthanasia one step closer to victory. Rubbish!

Short spoke about the conversation:

"I think he rang me because he truly wanted to hear what I have to say and I think he enjoyed the conversation as much as I did," Mr Short said.

"If I can have a considered, informed conversation with the Prime Minister in what has to have been one of his more difficult weeks, I can't believe the rest of the country can't help … in pushing this boat as we get it out from the dock."

Here we go with more beat up. You'd think that there was a raging debate on Senator Di Natale's bill in the Senate. There's not. There is no bill before the Senate, Di Natale's was a 'draft exposure bill' that has not been tabled, has more holes in it than a good Swiss cheese and the parliament has risen and doesn't reconvene until the 9th of February - the earliest day that a new bill could be tabled.

That Short and Hagan reported the conversation with the PM as "(He) wanted to hear what I have to say and I think he enjoyed the conversation as much as I did," is entirely unremarkable. I'm sure the same could have been said for a conversation with the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten. Nothing to see here, folks!

Craig Wallace from Lives Worth Living made the best comment on this beat up today:

LWL notes that Prime Minister Abbott has agreed to a conscience vote on euthanasia today. We call on Liberal MP's and Senators to reject Senator Di Natale's bill. It does not provide a definition of terminal illness & it does not exclude disability or reference the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. As was said so well yesterday, we should not be talking about dignity in death for people with disability until we get some dignity in life.

It was Wallace who had Senator Di Natale admit in the Senate hearings that there was no settled definition of 'terminal illness'. Whether Di Natale has decided to rework his draft bill into a form that he thinks he can table in the Senate is not known at this time.

Finally, what does this beat up achieve? For those who support Short and his cause a hurrah perhaps; but little else.

Should Di Natale table a 'new and improved bill', the Senate has been traditionally reluctant to debate such bills to a vote. Things may be different this time; but that's a story for another day. However, we shold be legitimately questioning, at that time, how 'in good conscience, any MP could support legislation that puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk as this bill most certainly would.

In the meantime, as the saying goes, keep calm and carry on! And, while you're at it, treat the beat ups with the contempt they deserve.