Voluntary Euthanasia Bill | SPEECH


Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 9 June 2016.)

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:00 :04 ): This is a very serious issue, an extremely serious issue that we come here to debate. It is far more serious than many that we deal with here, and I can actually see both sides of the issue very well. I grew up in a family that was very open to voluntary euthanasia. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was about 10 years old and it was something that we discussed around our kitchen table. She wanted the opportunity for voluntary euthanasia, if it was necessary. Thankfully, she has never needed to, or wanted to take that up. She is in her senior years now. She is not particularly healthy at all, but I know that, consistently through her life, that is the view that she has had and it is something that we have discussed as a family, as I said, from my being a boy onwards.

But I also understand the other side of the issue too. In a briefing yesterday one of our parliamentary colleagues said that, generally, this is about the principle and not about the detail. I have a very different view from that. I really can deal with the principles and I grapple with which principle is more important: sanctity of life versus opportunity to choose. Both of those things I believe in very strongly. So, the detail is incredibly important because we as a group of legislators, regardless of our political affiliation, have a great responsibility to the detail on this issue.

In that spirit, I have engaged very openly. I have not been able to meet with every single person who has wanted to meet with me, but I have met with as many people as possible, I have attended as many briefings as possible, and I found that, overwhelmingly, the people who have engaged directly in writing, or directly in person, or directly on the phone, have done so in a really positive spirit, regardless of their perspective on this issue.

I would say that the overwhelming flood of emails from people you have never heard of, sending you exactly the same script hundreds and hundreds of times, have no impact on me, to be quite blunt, but the people I have actually sat down with, engaged with, spoken to on the phone etc., I have found have all come in a very good spirit. A few people have said, ‘If you vote for this, I will never vote for you again.’ A few people have said, ‘If you vote against this, I’ll never vote for you again.’ So, to be quite blunt, those people count each other out.

This is not an issue that I, and I hope any of my colleagues, would choose based on how people are likely to vote for them at the next election. Hopefully, regardless of our position on these issues, they will find other issues to decide on. As I said, there will be some people who will hold that view, and fair enough for them, but there are more than enough of them on both sides of the argument for me to think seriously about the issue rather than that particular style of lobbying.

I have gone through the bill put forward by the member for Ashford in great detail, and I do not support it. I would be very willing to consider amendments to that bill. I understand the issues that are going on behind the scenes, and I say, quite squarely, that I have absolutely nothing to do with the business in the background about pushing for adjournments, pushing for it to be voted on, pushing to have a different bill proposed instead, and questions about whether we should discuss the amendments or should we prevent people from discussing the amendments. I say quite openly, too, not one member of parliament has come to me to ask me to become involved in those discussions either, which I greatly appreciate, and greatly respect.

So let me say that I find this a very difficult issue. I do not support the bill as the member for Ashford has put it forward. I have gone through it in great detail, and did so several months ago and have revisited my thoughts and my notes on it. Interestingly, when you do that and you go through the consultation and the lobbying with lots of people, there are a lot of people who say you must support it for this reason, and then you find out the bill is actually not quite what they are telling you is critical. Then there are people who say you must not support it for this reason—well, the bill is not actually exactly the way they think it is either.

I will not support the bill that we are debating at the moment. I would be open to considering ways of improving it. I understand the member for Morphett has put his bill forward in a way to try to progress that. I leave myself as open to the next bill as I was to the current one when it was put forward to consider and make up my mind. If there is a vote on an adjournment today, I will sit in the gallery for that vote because I think that is actually part of the whole game playing. I think that is part of the game playing on both sides.

If there is a vote and a division on whether or not we should adjourn this bill, I will sit right there and I will watch. If it comes to a vote on the bill, I will sit in the chamber and I will vote on the bill as I see fit. I will not back away from making a decision on behalf of the people I represent in parliament on this extremely difficult issue, but I will not participate in the game playing either. With those words, hopefully my position is very clear.