Green’s Senator Bob Brown is pushing for the federal government to pass a bill that would essentially legalize the practice of euthanasia on the island nation by allowing states to do so.
Brown received a debate on his measure which would overturn the federal 1997 Euthanasia Laws Act which effectively ceased the operation of Northern Territory’s own Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. The bill would allow Australian states to make their own laws pertaining to assisted suicide.
Media reports indicate MPs would be given a conscience vote on the issue.
“It ought to get to a vote before Christmas, but that really depends on the good offices of the Government and the Opposition,” Brown said, according to the ABC News. “And if they don’t want to allow it to be brought to a vote this side of Christmas it certainly will be in the first half of next year.”
The Senate has begun debate on the measure and Northern Territory senators from rival parties agreed with his argument that the bill is only about states rights while opponents said the measure would promote euthanasia.
NT Labor senator Trish Crossin and the Coalition senator Nigel Scullion appeared supportive while NSW Labor’s Ursula Stephens and the Queensland Liberal Sue Boyce strongly opposed the bill. West Australian Liberal Chris Back, a veterinarian, said euthanizing animals is difficult and he can’t imagine allowing the practice on people.
The Sydney Morning Herald indicates the government may likely stall the debate until next year and noted the parliamentary secretary for immigration and the ACT, Senator Kate Lundy, criticized Brown’s move for a quick vote.
Meanwhile, Brown has renewed his criticism of the Catholic Church over the issue.
In response to a statement by Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who had warned against legal acceptance of euthanasia, Brown said that his Green Party is “a 21st-century party trying to drag the other parties out of their last-century thinking on so many issues.”
”What they are wanting to do in terms of euthanasia is dictate to people who are suffering the indignity and pain of a terminal illness that they shall suffer and to deprive those persons of their ability to ask their doctors to, with their families, help them have a dignified end when there is no hope of recovery,” Senator Brown told ABC television.
Brown was responding to a Catholic election guide that asked, ”Will you oppose any attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, whatever it may be called? What is your attitude towards abortion?”
Archbishop Hart told The Age the church did not want to ”bucket” any political party, but said: ”Our society will be judged by how we treat our weakest and most vulnerable – those in the womb and those who are very, very old.”
He told the ABC euthanasia was an ”absolutely essential issue” for the church, saying: ”We disagree totally with the Greens’ view on this.”
In a document entitled ‘Your Vote, Your Value’, the Church suggests a series of questions that should be asked of any potential politician. [related]
A spokesperson for the Catholic League of Australia commented on the news: “This is a decisive move by the Church in Victoria and by Archbishop Hart. It shows that the Church is ready to take the fight to those politicians who try so desperately to erode the role religion plays in society, and replace it with a dystopic totally secular future. We strongly urge Victorian members to read this document and to use their vote to ensure that issues on life, welfare, heath, education and the environment are not ignored.”