Bill To Legalise Assisted Dying Across Australia

A private member’s bill that would clear the way for assisted dying to be legalised across Australia could be passed in the Senate this week, but may not be granted the lower house vote needed to pass into law.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull , who is under pressure from conservatives within the Coalition, has refused to say whether he will bring forward the bill for debate – and a conscience vote – in the House of Representatives.

Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm says he is confident his private member’s bill will pass the Senate, where it is due to be debated over three days starting today . Senator Leyonhjelm has accused Mr Turnbull of reneging on a promise to guarantee his bill will be subject to a free vote in both houses of Parliament, and has threatened to block government bills in the Senate in response.

His bill, if passed, will enable the ACT and Northern Territory to make their own laws on voluntary assisted dying, which became legal in Victoria last year.

At least 38 of the 76 senators are expected to vote in favour of the bill, which is subject to a conscience vote on both sides of the Senate, after Mr Turnbull struck a deal with Senator Leyonhjelm to secure the passage of legislation that re-established the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

‘‘ It’s quite an important piece of legislation because it will restore to the Northern Territory and the ACT the right to legislate on a very serious social issue on the same basis the states can legislate on the issue,’’ Senator Leyonhjelm said. ‘‘ If it passes the Senate – as I said, I expect it will be the case – I want it to go into the House where it will be debated on the same basis, a conscience-vote basis … I did have a deal with the Prime Minister to allow that to occur . It looks like he’s not enthusiastic about acknowledging that deal at the moment.’’

The Northern Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise voluntary euthanasia in 1996, but the federal government overrode the territory law in 1997 through a bill introduced by Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to federal MPs and senators calling on them to support the bill, deeming the current arrangement ‘‘ fundamentally antidemocratic’’ . The ACT government took out a full-page ad in The Australian newspaper yesterday, urging legislators to support the bill.

Former NT chief minister Marshall Perron, who championed the territory’s 1996 law, said the 160,000 Australians who happened to live in the territories should have the right for their elected representatives to make laws on their behalf.

Mr Turnbull did not respond to a request for comment.

‘I want it to go into the House.

David Leyonhjelm


The Age Digital Edition: Leyonhjelm confident over assisted dying bill

Dana McCauley | 15 August 2018  |

Assisted dying bill defeated in the Senate

A private member’s bill that would have cleared the way for assisted dying to be legalised across Australia has been defeated.

The bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm , was defeated by 36 to 34 votes after two days of impassioned debate in the Senate.

It was knocked down after Liberal senator Anne Ruston and Nationals senator Steve Martin were persuaded to vote against it, having initially leaned in favour of it.

“I cannot in good conscience offer my support to this bill, which will provide the territories the ability to legislate in the area of voluntary euthanasia , certainly without ensuring that appropriate safeguards were in place,” Senator Martin said yesterday .

Senator Leyonhjelm said he was disappointed by the bill’s defeat, vowing to continue fighting for ‘‘ the rights of all Australians to decide how and when to end their lives’’ .

“It was deeply frustrating to hear so many senators argue against my bill in the misguided belief it would somehow impact negatively on the provision of first-class palliative care for the terminally ill,’’ he said last night.

‘‘ All Australians, no matter where they live, have the right to decide for themselves when it comes to end-oflife treatment.’’

Politicians from both sides of politics rose to share divergent views, with many in support of the bill emphasising the rights of Australians in the territories to make their own laws.

The bill proposed overturning a federal law that removed the rights of the ACT and Northern Territory to legislate on euthanasia, enacted in 1997 after the NT government briefly legalised assisted dying.

Labor senator Pat Dodson, opposing the bill, argued that ‘‘ paving the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide’ ’ would leave Indigenous Australians ‘‘ even more vulnerable, when our focus should be on working collectively to create laws that help prolong life and restore their right to enjoy a healthy life’’ .

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came under intense pressure from conservatives to ensure the bill would not get a vote in the lower house.

The issue remains a live one despite the bill’s defeat, with ACT Labor MPs Andrew Leigh and Luke Gosling , who have opposing views on voluntary euthanasia, drafting their own private members’ bill to allow the territories to make their own laws on the matter.

Television host Andrew Denton had pledged to lobby Mr Turnbull to secure a lower house vote if Senator Leyonhjelm’s bill passed in the Senate.

Former Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler, Denton’s co-director of advocacy group Go Gentle Australia, said support for the legalisation of assisted dying consistently polled at higher than 80 per cent.

‘‘ This is one of those issues where, unfortunately, a number of parliaments around the country seem to be out of step with community expectations ,’’ he said.

Pat Dodson (above) argued the bill would leave Indigenous Australians ‘‘ even more vulnerable’’ .


The Age Digital Edition: Assisted dying bill defeated in the Senate

Dana McCauley  | 15 August 2018 |

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