Euthanasia bills in the Senate, Northern Territory and soon Tasmania...

The assault on the most vulnerable members of our society continues with euthanasia proposals continuing to appear regularly in the Australian media. Arguably the most substantial of them is the private members bill, proposed by Senator David Leyonhjelm, to allow Territories to once again legislate euthanasia.

Up until 1995, ACT and Northern Territory had no restrictions on legalising assisted suicide. This all changed when the Northern Territory Parliament passed the "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995", heavily pushed by the then Chief Minister and Country Liberal Party leader Marshall Perron. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, he resigned on the morning of the initial debate on 22 February 1995 as he did not want his position to influence the debate. (Note: Wikipedia sources this from a book).

4 people committed suicide while the act was in place. The "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995" in fact inspired a stage play in 2003, which the recent film "Last Cab to Darwin" was based on. A concerted campaign was lead by Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and even Tony Burke, now on an opposing side of politics to Kevin Andrews, assisted the campaign. He was executive director of the Euthanasia No! campaign and gave a speech to the House of Representatives which ACT Right to Life have on their website. Eventually the "Euthanasia Laws Act 1997" was passed on the 25 March 1997, which meant the Northern Territory act "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995" had no legal effect.

Senator Leyonhjelm has introduced the "Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015", but, as Paul Russell notes on his excellent website "No Euthanasia", this bill is not the only private members bill with this purpose.  Greens Senator Di Natale (Vic) and Labor Senator Katy Gallagher (ACT) have introduced the "Restoring Territory Rights (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2016". Amazing euthanasia proponents can't seem to agree on the title when they're trying to achieve the same thing! Please contact your local Federal MP and your state/territory senators to urge them to not legalise euthanasia.Find out your electorate herePaul Russell has a great guide to letter writing here.

Funnily enough, even an article has been run in Western Australian media suggesting if Northern Territory introduce assisted suicide, WA residents may travel across the border to kill themselves. And we all know how unstable the Northern Territory political climate is, so if the "Euthanasia Laws Act 1997" is repealed, anything could happen!

Of course Australian states have no impediment to enact their own legislation for assisted suicide. South Australian ALP backbencher Steph Key MP has continued the legacy of the late The Hon Bob Such MP by introducing yet another euthanasia bill.There are believed to have been about a dozen euthanasia bills over the past decade, depending on how you count them. Her current bill is called the "Voluntary Euthanasia Bill 2016" and refers to "unbearable and hopeless suffering". What an abstract concept! If someone is having a bad day, depressed and can't get out of bed, is that defined as unbearable and hopeless? Will medical treatment alleviate the depression? It doesn't actually seem to say you have to try treatment, only say "it won't work". Apparently "unbearable and hopeless suffering" is not objective but subjective. Medical conditions, regardless of whether terminal or not, are considered. This is clear evidence of the slippery slope.

If you live in South Australia, please contact your State MP plus all the Upper House representatives (there are no Legislative Council regions in South Australia). Find your Legislative Assembly electorate here. Read Paul Russell's action alert here.

In Tasmania, there's no bill yet and one is unlikely to even be introduced until next year. The failure of the euthanasia bill in 2012, introduced by the then Premier Lara Giddings, was a significant setback. Right to Life Australia ran a significant campaign against the bill as did other organisations.Read more here.

Don't be surprised if assisted suicide bills appear in other states (and of course, ACT if they're allowed) as euthanasia is definitely a hot topic and not going away any time soon.


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