Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 November 2017) . . Page.. 4784 ..
I know that there are mixed views in our community on this issue. I personally have real concerns. The Canberra Liberals have concerns with the process that is underway in this motion. On one hand, we are hearing that it is about self-determination but, on the other hand, it is actually about euthanasia. It is clear that what is being proposed through this proxy debate of self-determination is meant to be a step in the direction towards euthanasia. That is clear in what Ms Cheyne has said.
For me, whilst federal legislation and self-determination are relevant, the underlying question is whether our community wants us to bring euthanasia closer to being a reality. That is what changing the federal legislation would do. It would make it closer to becoming a reality. To talk about self-determination and the federal legislation is therefore really a proxy debate for the core issue of euthanasia. I imagine that the vast majority of people who sign the petitions doing the rounds will be doing so because they support euthanasia, not because of this overwhelming sentiment for greater autonomy here in the ACT. People will be signing those petitions because it will be a step in the direction of euthanasia.
I believe that the move towards euthanasia, and potentially even a discussion about euthanasia—but there is still a place for that—can undermine the suicide prevention message. I am by no means making an allegation that that is what is happening here, but we have to be very careful that we do nothing that will undermine the great work done in our community to try to avoid suicide. For years we have fought hard against suicide. Regardless of whether we are talking about mental illnesses or physical illnesses, our society must be geared towards life.
Of course, there can be improvements to the health system and there can be improvements to palliative care. However, personally I do not believe that euthanasia is the answer to these issues nor is it the only option for a more comfortable, a more tolerable, death.
I know it is a tough issue. I am the first to admit to that. But we have to make sure that we are talking about the real issues here and not having a proxy debate. Whilst there are mixed views in the Canberra community, the Canberra Liberals have real concerns with the course of action being proposed in this motion today.
MS FITZHARRIS (Yerrabi—Minister for Health, Minister for Transport and City Services and Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research) (11.29): I too would like to thank Ms Cheyne very much for moving this motion today. I know that this is an issue close to her heart and I would like to take the opportunity to thank her for her work in the community in raising awareness on this topic and, of course, the work done prior to Ms Cheyne’s election by Mary Porter as well.
This motion follows on from the historic passage of an assisted dying bill through the Victorian lower house late last month, which I understand will be debated in the Victorian upper house later this week. The Victorian bill follows many other examples across Australia where parliaments have introduced legislation to advance this issue. It is important to point out the debates that other parliaments are having in