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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 2293 ..

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Training) (3.36): Madam Deputy Speaker, I will be voting against the Bill for a number of reasons. A number of members, especially Mr Osborne and Mr Kaine, went into the Netherlands experience at some length. It is very important to learn from the mistakes of other people. It is obvious from the Netherlands experience that euthanasia is something that can be abused. I do not think euthanasia laws in the Netherlands deliver a better society than we have; probably to the contrary. Mr Kaine referred to a number of problems in the Netherlands to demonstrate how something like this can be abused. No matter how you try to put in safeguards - to Mr Moore's credit, he has certainly attempted to put in many safeguards - it still can be abused. Laws are abused daily, as a number of other persons here have said. It is, therefore, still possible to "bump off granny", which is a concern a number of people have expressed in relation to euthanasia.

Medicine improves every day and technology improves every day. That is perhaps something that proponents of this Bill are not really appreciative of. There are standards and morals in our community about care for the sick and care for the frail. Mr Osborne and a number of other speakers have talked about the sanctity of life and the fact that if this Bill is enacted government can invade the sanctity of life. The role of government is to protect life. As Mr Osborne said, the taking of life is justified only when an individual or a collective national unit is acting in self-defence.

I detect a strong element of social experimentation in this legislation. That is something I think the Canberra community is very aware of. Too many times has Canberra been used for social experimentation. What Mr Moore proposes also tends to go against the Hippocratic oath. Doctors are there to save lives, yet this Bill enables them to terminate life. For those reasons, and for my own moral convictions, Madam Deputy Speaker, I cannot support Mr Moore's Bill.

MR CORNWELL (3.39): Members may realise that it is somewhat unusual, but by no means unique, for a Speaker to participate in a debate. However, I feel that on matters of conscience, which indeed this particular debate is about, it is right and proper that all members, including the Speaker, should participate. Let me say, firstly, that I believe that this is really a national issue. I do not believe that it is a matter that should be debated at State or Territory level. In fact, I would prefer the whole matter to be referred to the Federal Parliament and subjected to a referendum at some time in the future so that the views of the entire country on this matter can be taken account of. However, it is before the ACT Legislative Assembly and therefore we must address it.

I believe that there are two elements that need to be considered, the moral and the legal. Much of the moral issue has already been discussed by previous speakers. I do not wish to canvass those views, except to say that, whilst we may speak about freedom of choice in both life and death, it seems to me that there is a considerable difference between taking one's own life and asking somebody else to help one take it. Mercy killing is a fact of war. For example, a soldier may be too badly wounded to be carried and you do not wish him to fall into the hands of the enemy, for very obvious reasons. There is a difference, however, between that type of behaviour in war and a similar type of behaviour, be it mercy killing or euthanasia, in peace. As far as I am concerned, these are unresolved moral issues.

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