Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 Council’s Amendments

28 Nov 2017

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I rise to speak in support of the amendments and hope that they do pass this house. We have had a very passionate and very extended debate on the legislation, and hopefully this house can now finalise these amendments and pass this bill. It is absolutely critical that this bill pass. It is far too important for the amendments to fail. I imagine that the bill would be sent back to the other house and that it would ping between the two houses for more extended debate, if that were to occur. So it is absolutely important that these amendments are accepted and this bill passes. It has the overwhelming support of the Victorian community. They are relying on us to get this done.

Over the last few weeks, even further from when the debate occurred, I have received much correspondence from many of my constituents who are very pleased that we supported this bill. It was very heartening to see the outpouring of emotion in the other place when the bill passed in that place. Certainly it is the community’s will that this legislation is passed.

I note that a number of amendments have come from the other place. I am confident that they do not undermine the integrity of what is being proposed. They are not necessarily amendments that I would have been supportive of, but I understand that in the spirit of compromise and the need to get this bill passed they have been put up. There is only one amendment that I raise concern about. It is changing the death certificates of people who are accessing voluntary assisted dying so that assisted dying will be recorded as the manner of death. I see that as, I guess, a compromise. The cause of death will still remain the underlying condition, but I see that acting as a barrier, really, to people accessing voluntary assisted dying, which we would not want to do. In the spirit of compromise and the fact that it does not undermine the integrity of the bill, we are happy to support these amendments in the hope that this legislation passes.

I would certainly implore all members to be supportive of these amendments and to get this bill passed for the reasons I put in my original speech — that we know that there are people who have a terminal illness and who are suffering at the end of their lives and their suffering cannot be addressed by even the best of palliative care, and that people are already taking matters into their own hands to hasten their death, whether that is to refuse treatment, which of course is perfectly legal, or to take some other steps which could lead to a terrifying and frightening death.

I am confident in the safeguards that are in this bill, with the oversight that will be provided by the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board. We have had a very long debate. I was disappointed because I think there was some filibustering, some attempts to delay, to defer and to defeat this bill. I am certainly happy to allow extensive debate again in terms of these amendments coming from the other place. I would take a dim view if there were any sort of procedures or filibustering or any tricks to again further prolong this debate. Certainly I will be urging members to be supporting these amendments.

Just in response to the member for Ripon, in terms of the Greens vote on this, yes, it is Greens party policy that we have voluntary assisted dying. I am very proud that we are the only party to have ever had voluntary assisted dying as a party policy. We took it to the last election. It has been our policy for many years. Colleen Hartland, our health spokesperson, 10 years ago introduced a private members bill for voluntary assisted dying. That bill was defeated, and it is incredibly satisfying I think for her now 10 years later to see this bill having passed both houses and now on the cusp of being finally put into law.

So, yes, it is party policy, but I can certainly tell you all that my colleagues are personally in favour of that voluntary assisted dying legislation. I can tell you because all Greens, at every vote, are entitled to have a free vote or a conscience vote. If they are going to vote against party policy, they merely have to advise the party room and they are free to do so. There is a process for that to occur. There are certainly no restrictions on it, but no Greens member has made that call. There are eight of us now; I have spoken to them all. They are all personally in favour of it. I just clarify that fact in regard to the Greens party policy on voluntary assisted dying and the ability of members to have a free vote. I will not go on any further than to say it is absolutely incumbent on us — and I would certainly encourage all members — to support these amendments to get this bill passed. The community is expecting this. The community supports this legislation, and so I would support these amendments.

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