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senate vote 2018-08-15#8

Edited by mackay

on 2018-09-14 12:10:09

Title

Description

  • The majority voted to disagree with the main idea of the bill, meaning that it won't be considered any further. In parliamentary jargon, they voted against reading the bill for [a second time](https://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html).
  • ### Main idea of the bill
  • This bill was first introduced by Senator [David Leyonhjelm](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/nsw/david_leyonhjelm) back in 2015 to ensure that the legislative assemblies of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are able to make laws relating to euthanasia. Currently, the relevant self-government Acts prevent this.
  • This bill was first introduced by Senator [David Leyonhjelm](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/nsw/david_leyonhjelm) back in 2015 to ensure that the legislative assemblies of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are [able to make laws relating to euthanasia](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-27/nt-may-regain-control-of-its-euthanasia-law-act/9915478). Currently, the relevant self-government Acts prevent this.
  • Read more in the [bills digest](https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1819a/19bd010).
senate vote 2018-08-15#8

Edited by mackay

on 2018-09-14 12:06:14

Title

  • Bills — Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015; Second Reading
  • Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 - Second Reading - Agree with the bill's main idea

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Deborah O&#39;Neill</p>
  • <p>Just as we headed into senators' statements, I was making a point about the contribution to the debate by Senator Steele-John with regard to people with disability. I acknowledged the importance of his contribution to the debate. I also wanted to put on the record the words of the much loved Stella Young, Australian comedian, writer and disability advocate, who wrote on the implications of legalising assisted suicide for people living with disabilities. I acknowledge that many of us felt we lost an amazing Australian with her passing. This is what she said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">People make all sorts of assumptions about the quality of my life and my levels of independence. They're almost always wrong.</p>
  • The majority voted to disagree with the main idea of the bill, meaning that it won't be considered any further. In parliamentary jargon, they voted against reading the bill for [a second time](https://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html).
  • ### Main idea of the bill
  • This bill was first introduced by Senator [David Leyonhjelm](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/nsw/david_leyonhjelm) back in 2015 to ensure that the legislative assemblies of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are able to make laws relating to euthanasia. Currently, the relevant self-government Acts prevent this.
  • Read more in the [bills digest](https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1819a/19bd010).
  • <p class="italic">I've lost count of the number of times I've been told, "I just don't think I could live like you," or "I wouldn't have the courage in your situation," or, my favourite one to overhear (and I've overheard it more than once), "You'd just bloody top yourself, wouldn't you?".</p>
  • <p class="italic">&#8230;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#8230;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#8230;</p>
  • <p class="italic">Also, social attitudes towards disabled people come from a medical profession that takes a deficit view of disability. This is my major concern with legalising assisted death; that it will give doctors more control over our lives.</p>
  • <p>Senator Steele-John's confidence in legislators to create legislation that adequately protects people is a confidence I don't share. In my view, legislation, no matter how well crafted, considered and critiqued, cannot cover all the areas of concern that have been articulated in this place by many&#8212;and, hopefully, with some clarity in my contribution to the debate this morning. I'm also sure that there are many more concerns that haven't been raised in the course of this debate that are yet to be elicited and will deserve careful consideration. In my view, we're all right to fear assisted suicide as an extension of an increasingly alarming statistic of self-harm and suicide that reveals the despair of so many in our nation at this time.</p>
  • <p>Senators, data consistently demonstrates lower support for euthanasia and assisted suicide amongst physicians than the public. There's a reason for that. They know a lot more than most of us about the way in which people move on from this life. They see it all the time. They fight against death's victory every day. But to ask them to take a different position in relation to death, to demand by law that they offer services to the end of life, is fraught with extreme practical and moral risk for the medical profession and, indeed, for all of us and our families. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Canada and five US states as well as in Switzerland. Research that reviews the practices of those jurisdictions indicates that between 0.3 per cent and up to 4.6 per cent of deaths are reported as euthanasia. If we were to apply that 4.6 per cent of deaths to the Australian death statistics of 2016, which were 158,504 Australians, that would mean 7,291 Australians could be removed from this world by assisted euthanasia if we were to follow these international trends. In jurisdictions where assisted suicide has been legislated for some time, the legislative containment that accompanied those first laws has slackened. Research shows that safeguards are being violated, with studies in Belgium now indicating that up to 32 per cent of physicians assisting suicide had gone outside the regulations.</p>
  • <p>Former Prime Minister Paul Keating published an article last year in the context of the Victorian debate. He said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">&#8230; the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor.</p>
  • <p class="italic">No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system.</p>
  • <p>The original containment of eligibility for assisted suicide has been extended in those jurisdictions in which assisted suicide is now legal. It's been extended from consenting adults to young children to the mentally ill to newborns with disabilities. I remind senators that right now in this country one in five Australians at any time are suffering from mental ill-health of some sort. In 2016, 2,866 Australians lost their lives to suicide. Research revealed around 65,000 people attempted suicide every year and that hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the impact of a suicide death. We're on a collision course between this national malaise and the potential of assisted suicide legislation, especially when depression and cancer collide. I want to note that the finding reported in <i>European Psychiatry</i> in 2012 indicates that family members in Switzerland who assisted the suicide of someone they loved reported after the fact a 20 per cent rate of post-traumatic stress disorder.</p>
  • <p>I will not be supporting this bill. I'm accused of being a person of faith and I freely admit to it. My faith does colour my view of the world and it enriches it. I've often wondered what people mean when they make a case for euthanasia by arguing that people should be allowed to die with dignity. In my world view, every person has dignity and value simply because they exist. It matters not their sex, gender, age, colour, race or, certainly, creed. I can never be persuaded that human beings need to have control over their bodies or their minds to have dignity. In my world view, each and every person, from conception to their last breath, is endowed with a dignity that is inherent in their very existence. Dignity is not something you lose on your journey to death.</p>
  • <p>How can legislating for the healers at the heart of our health system to actively bring on death not be a conflict of interest for doctors? How can legislating for the healers at the heart of our health system to actively assist in suicide not immerse them daily under the extreme burden of ongoing and profound moral dilemma? The profession itself is not united in asking for these powers. Indeed, there is a very lively debate amongst doctors on the public record.</p>
  • <p>Like everyone in this place and like Australians across the country, I've lost people I love, four of them in my close family: my sister, my brother, my niece and my father&#8212;all from cancer, all from the illness that evidence shows triggers up to 75 per cent of the requests for assisted suicide. I've been in hospitals with the people I love as they have passed. Today seems a very good day to thank all those health professionals who cared for them as they passed and who cared for me and my family as we faced the profound loss and the initial throes of grief that engulfed us. I never for one moment doubted their care or their determination to preserve the lives of the people I love.</p>
  • <p>Colleagues, in this place we know there has been the articulation of the awareness of the complexity around making law around end-of-life procedures. This complexity&#8212;if this bill passes here and we do allow the territories to discern their own particular legislation&#8212;cannot be overstated. I remind colleagues that the Northern Territory and the ACT are both unicameral parliaments&#8212;as, indeed, is the great state of Queensland. I fear that the march across this nation towards the establishment of assisted suicide continues and that we may see the emergence of differentiated legislation that will deal with life and death in different ways across all of the jurisdictions. We train doctors for all of the country, yet we're preparing, with this legislation, to create rights that will differentiate responsibilities across the borders.</p>
  • <p>In closing, colleagues, this debate asks us to consider and come to a point of discernment about conflicting principles. On one side, there is the right of the individual and their autonomy, a position so championed here today by this bill advanced by the libertarian Senator Leyonhjelm and supported by many in this chamber. I put it to you, senators, that there is a disproportionate response to the issues of both mental and physical distress that have been discussed in the Senate over the course of the last two days. This is an argument that drives us to wholesale change to law at the request of few, to the detriment of many. Assisted suicide cannot, in my view, be safely legislated. On the other side is the right of the public to safety and natural assumptions and instincts that drive us to make lawful the protection of life.</p>
  • <p>I believe in the fundamental right of a person to live in a society that values their life. This should not be put at risk. A community needs to ensure that institutions such as the law and the professions&#8212;especially our doctors&#8212;value lives, will save lives and will not take life. I close with Paul Keating's comments:</p>
  • <p class="italic">No matter what justifications are offered for the bill, it constitutes an unacceptable departure in our approach to human existence and the irrevocable sanctity that should govern our understanding of what it means to be human.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mathias Cormann</p>
  • <p>I rise to speak to this bill, the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015, which seeks to undo a decision of this parliament 21 years ago. The vote on this bill is, rightly, a conscience issue because good people across Australia have strongly held views on both sides of this argument. Personally, I will vote against this bill, and that is because, as a matter of deep personal conviction and faith, I am committed to upholding the dignity of human life.</p>
  • <p>There is no circumstance in which I could or would vote in support of any bill which would either directly or indirectly legalise or facilitate the state sanctioned taking of a human life. Of course, like all in this chamber, I want to see the right care and support available for our terminally ill. I want to see high-quality care for those that go through this very difficult process as they approach the end of their life&#8212;the appropriate pain relief and palliative care to help facilitate dying with dignity. But I cannot support the official, state sanctioned, deliberate taking of a human life. It goes against everything I believe to be right. I do not believe there is a safe way that it can be legislated. I do not believe it can be legislated in a way which provides the appropriate protections to the vulnerable, depressed or the poor.</p>
  • <p>Some have argued that this is not a bill to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia but rather a bill to uphold states' rights. I would submit to the Senate that this is objectively wrong. Firstly, by definition, the territories are not states; they are territories. Under section 122 of our Constitution, the power to make laws for the government of any territory rests with the Commonwealth parliament. Having the constitutional power gives us the constitutional responsibility. We can't abrogate that responsibility. If we, as the Commonwealth parliament, vote in favour of this legislation, we are effectively voting in favour of legalising assisted suicide, except that we're doing so without having any capacity to influence the circumstances and the framework within which that is then done. We would be delegating the power to legalise assisted suicide to the territories. We would be abrogating our responsibility to ensure it is done in an appropriate way. As I say, I'm opposed to state-sanctioned assisted suicide. But even those who are in favour should ask themselves the question whether they are comfortable with being responsible for whatever form that state-sanctioned assisted suicide takes on the other side of a process in the Australian Capital Territory assembly or the Northern Territory assembly, over which we then no longer have any influence.</p>
  • <p>It is also important to remember that, in the year after the Andrews bill&#8212;which this bill seeks to overturn&#8212;became law back in 1997, the Northern Territory had the opportunity to become a state. The people of the Northern Territory, by majority vote, chose not to do so. If a majority of the people in the Northern Territory back in 1998, the year after the Commonwealth took away the Northern Territory's power to keep euthanasia legal, were offended by that and wanted to preserve their right to make laws into the future to legalise assisted suicide, then surely they would have voted in favour of statehood, which would have removed the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to continue to maintain the prohibition that is currently legislated. I put it to the chamber that the fact that, on the back of the federal parliament's intervention, they did not do so shows that the people of the Northern Territory at the time supported the actions of the federal parliament at that time.</p>
  • <p>In conclusion, I will vote no both as a matter of deep personal conviction and faith as well as on the basis that I do not feel comfortable to abrogate the responsibility to get the framework and safeguards right, if assisted suicide were to be legislated, to either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. I don't believe that there is a safe way to legalise assisted suicide in a way that would not inappropriately expose the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor to inappropriate pressures. Finally, given that the Constitution gives the Australian parliament the power to enact this legislation, I believe we have a responsibility to maintain the legislation as it currently stands and not to undo the decision, which I believe was the right decision back in 1997, to prevent the territories from legislating state-sanctioned taking of human life.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>