Protesters, bush crossbenchers fight introduction of assisted dying laws

MPs returning to State Parliament have faced protesters opposed to a particularly contentious bill on the day’s agenda.

May 25, 2021, updated May 25, 2021
The Palaszczuk Government is introducing voluntary assisted dying laws. (Photo: AAP Image/John Pryke)

The Palaszczuk Government is introducing voluntary assisted dying laws. (Photo: AAP Image/John Pryke)

Labor is introducing a bill to allow voluntary assisted dying through a model proposed by the Queensland Law Reform Commission. The issue has been the subject of consultation, debate, and protests for years, but is still months away from resolution, with a vote not expected until September.

Ahead of the introduction of the bill, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said an assisted dying regime would allow terminally ill people to avoid “needlessly suffering”.

“At its heart, this reform is about love and dignity we all share, and owe to each other,” Palaszczuk told parliament this morning.

“Speaking personally, the heartbreak of losing a loved one is only made worse by watching them needlessly suffering. I’m proud to bring this reform to this house today.” 

Palaszczuk has today written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking his government to “urgently amend”Commonwealth laws to allow doctors to discuss VAD with patients over the phone, or online, and not face prosecution.

While Palaszczuk will vote in favour of the bill, Labor MPs will be afforded a conscience vote, as will members of the Liberal National Party. Opposition leader David Crisafulli is yet to publicly take a position, and has spent recent weeks leading the attack on struggling health services.

Katter’s Australian Party will oppose the bill, with leader Robbie Katter today reflecting on the “dark day in parliament” when abortion laws were amended in 2018.

“I am of the belief that creating and preserving life is, and should remain, the most primary endeavour of our society and our governments should reflect this,” Katter said.

The Greens and independent MP Sandy Bolton are expected to vote in favour of the bill, with One Nation MP Stephen Andrew still consulting on the issue today.

With Labor holding 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the bill could potentially pass without the need for support from non-government MPs. It will first be considered by a committee, and no MPs objected to the referral today.

Having petitioned parliament on the need for further consultation, Cherish Life Queensland executive director Teeshan Johnson questioned whether MPs would be allowed a conscience vote or come under pressure from Labor colleagues.

Coincidentally, the bill comes during Palliative Care Week. Palaszczuk today defended the government’s record on palliative care – which she pointed out had received a recent funding boost – and said the assisted dying laws were designed to give people options.

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