Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 30 November 2017) . . Page.. 5402 ..
Since then, of course, the Victorian parliament has just passed their legislation to allow voluntary assisted dying but very frustratingly this will not come into operation for 18 months. As members are well aware, and as both the previous speakers have pointed out, the ACT cannot legislate to allow voluntary assisted dying due to the Andrews bill.
Of course, I think this is wrong and that here in Canberra we deserve the right to make legislation about our end of life choices in the same say that other jurisdictions can. It is a matter of conscience as to what we believe about end of life choices but it should not be a matter of conscience as to the rights of the citizens of the ACT or the citizens of the Northern Territory.
I think that at this point in time the first two calls of Ms Cheyne’s motion are most important. I was pleased to hear Mr Barr say that he intended to pursue this issue with his federal colleagues. On Tuesday I was very pleased to stand with the federal leader of the Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale, when he said that he intended to reintroduce the bill from the previous term of the federal parliament to wind back the Andrews bill. This bill, of course, was co-sponsored by Senator Gallagher. So I am hopeful that, with Mr Barr’s efforts, and no doubt the rest of the ALP’s efforts behind it, the Andrews motion will be overturned.
I guess one of the other things we can say about this select committee is that it is also one way to keep the last call of Ms Cheyne’s motion alive. I think it is important that we do keep this issue alive in the ACT. I am afraid that my biggest concern about this motion is that I do not want the committee to offer false hope to people in the ACT who may feel they have an urgent need for changes in the law around voluntary euthanasia. We need to be abundantly clear to the people of Canberra that we actually cannot legislate on this at this point of time, regardless of what any of us may feel about it and regardless of any committee report.
The most important job to do right now is to persuade our federal colleagues that they should treat us the same as the rest of Australia. I also think that, given we have a considerable amount of time before we are in a position to legislate on this, we could look at other things. Members might remember that I said I thought some people might find a citizens jury on CTP boring. On this one, I am sure it would not be boring. It might be confronting.
I think it is also possible that this committee may look at some other things if it is looking at improving our end of life choices. As I said many times before, my mother was 11 years in a nursing home and it was horrible. My understanding is that most people are in nursing homes only for six months. Nursing homes are, for most people, an end of life choice and for most people a very unsatisfactory end of life choice.
If the committee’s work improves options for Canberra’s older citizens then it will be worth while. I am also concerned about the workload for the committee office. If there is yet another committee, assuming this motion is passed, I trust that this will be well looked at.