Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 November 2017) . . Page.. 4783 ..
It has been raised with me that this is hard. It will be hard for us to get the federal parliament’s attention, especially in current times. But just because something is hard does not mean we should not do it. I am also calling on the Assembly to consider how the ACT community can begin to have input on the possibility of a model—and then the possible model—for a voluntary assisted dying scheme in the ACT when an Australian state passes legislation establishing a scheme.
While we remain restricted on debating the issue seriously here in this chamber, we can begin to consider whether a model would be sensible for the ACT and how it could work through other means. In our circumstances, it is eminently sensible to be considering a scheme when a workable model has been agreed elsewhere in Australia.
It has the further effect of underlining to the federal parliament just how serious we are about this—that we are treating our citizens seriously and taking their views seriously—so they should be too, by giving us back our ability to make our own laws.
The purpose of this motion is not to advocate for or against voluntary assisted dying. My personal views on the topic are well publicised, but irrelevant to today’s discussion. However, I have outlined why voluntary assisted dying is of genuine interest to the community and to Canberrans, and why we have the maturity to have a genuine debate in the community, especially in this chamber.
The paternalistic approach of the commonwealth is unwarranted and it is unnecessary. Times have changed. We are not second-class citizens. We should not stand for it. We deserve the same rights as the states. The commonwealth needs to give our rights back. And every member in this place needs to do what they can to ensure that it happens soon, and that indeed it happens.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (11.23): Euthanasia is complex and personal. The Canberra Liberals do not have an official party policy on euthanasia. Instead it is treated as an issue of conscience. To the best of my understanding, it is treated in that way across the other divisions of the Liberal Party as well.
For years our society has fought to defend life. The principle of “first do no harm” is central to our society, and euthanasia potentially rewrites this. There are concerns that the euthanasia criteria have the potential to be continually expanded. A number of high profile cases over recent years have highlighted how legislation has been extended to cover those who do not necessarily have terminal illnesses.
I know that there are many in the disability rights community, including here in Canberra, that strongly oppose euthanasia laws. Many believe that there is an inevitable risk of slippage and that perverse outcomes may occur if life is devalued. People with disabilities can be vulnerable to coercion and are at greater risk of acquiring secondary illnesses due to a lack of access to screening and preventative health. Therefore, many people with disabilities have shorter lifespans and there can be blurry lines between an illness and a disability. I also think that there is a lack of suicide prevention work amongst people with a disability.