Bob Brown's current euthanasia bill, the Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2010 will not pass in the Senate. The numbers are now clearly against the bill and Brown knows it. Instead of copping a defeat he has regrouped and developed a new approach that focuses on removing the ability of the Executive of the Federal Government to recommend to the Governor General an action to strike down any bill passed by the ACT legislature. The Australian today explains that Brown will revisit the stalled Territory Rights bill later in year when it is more likely to pass with the installation of new Green Senators at 1 July.
His amendment bill to change the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 is one line in length â€” repealing section 35; but the effect will be devastating. ACT Chief Minister, John Stanhope has acknowledged that the passage of this bill will precipitate new same sex and euthanasia bills. He added that he would expect both bills to pass.
Gillard's backing of Brown's bill done without discussion in cabinet or in caucus, according to The Australian's Dennis Shanahan, is reminiscent of the accusations thrown up against Kevin Rudd before he was deposed. Gillard has, by this one action, unilaterally reversed the ALP's policy on same sex unions and has also reversed her commitment to providing a conscience vote on euthanasia to all government MPs. While Brown's Cheshire grin will be widening, many of Gillard's colleagues will be privately fuming.
Fuming, indeed; and acting. In what could be seen in some quarters as open defiance, The Australian also reports that a group of Labor Senators is prepared to join forces with the coalition to refer this new bill off to the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Committee for an inquiry. No doubt Labor Senators would argue that they were not bound by the party line on a procedural motion. It remains to be seen whether backroom 'negotiations' will see Gillard soften her line here or indeed whether some of her colleagues will have the courage to cross the floor when the vote is taken.
If the party line remains and opposition from within the ALP crumbles, Brown's new bill is likely to pass the Senate after July 1. In a reversal of the norm, it may be that the best hope of defeating the bill might be in the House of Reps resting upon the shoulders of the three independents. A teetering prospect at best. Bob Katter would most likely fall in with the coalition, but Windsor and Oakeshott, who have both been running with the hares and hunting with the hounds since the last election, could fall either side of the divide.
As disappointing and tragic as it might be, politicians putting position before principle is really nothing new. When it is clear, however, that this is becoming a pattern to the exclusive benefit of the Greens and their dark agenda then we should all shudder at what other strings Brown might be pulling and what tune Gillard will dance to.
Oh! And just in case the image of the puppet and puppeteer doesn't work for you; thinking of a ventriloquist and his dummy will provide much more colourful imagery!