Western Australia: New battle ground on euthanasia

by Paul Russell:

The recent Western Australian State election created a new Labor Government, replacing the longstanding Liberal Government.

In what must be said to be an unfortunate growing trend amongst the leaders of the two main state-based political parties across the country, the new Premier, Mark McGowan has made no secret of his support for euthanasia over a number of years and over two successive elections.

He joins Lara Giddings (Tas), Jay Weatherill (SA) and Daniel Andrews (Vic) as Premiers who have supported such an agenda in recent years.

Unlike both Daniel Andrews and Lara Giddings, who pushed the agenda themselves, McGowan says that he prefers a bill to arise as a private member's initiative. He was supported in that view by his new Health Minister, Roger Cook. Cook told Perth Now that 'while the Labor Government would not introduce law reform as part of a policy, it supported individual members to table a private member's Bill.'

There would appear to be no shortage of MPs willing to take up the challenge. Long time supporter, returned last week to the Upper House, Robin Chapple (who moved the last bill in 2010) and Labor stalwart, Alannah MacTiernan are leading the charge. Both were mentioned in an article in The West as being likely to jointly table a new bill. They are looking for a Liberal Party co-sponsor, according to the report.

Gleaning from various news reports, it would seem likely that a new bill will be developed shortly and introduced as soon as possible so that enough debating time is available during the four year term of the government; including allowing time for an Inquiry.

Clearly Chapple, MacTiernan and their supporters will see the support from the Premier and the Health Minister as a booster for their cause. It most certainly is that. And they can be excused somewhat for engaging in the kind of rhetoric that suggests that a change in the law is inevitable. That, as they say, is politics.

But it ain't necessarily so, as the Gershwin song reminds us. Last time a bill was debated through to a resolution in 2010 in the Upper House it was defeated by 24 votes to 11. The complexion of that chamber has changed, certainly; but it is a long ways yet until the division bells ring.