VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING BILL

 I rise to indicate my support for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020, and I will make a few comments. This is obviously a very emotive issue and an issue that is taken very seriously by every member of parliament in both chambers. 

It is also of great concern and interest to the people we represent. One of the things I always hold in my mind is that when I am in this chamber I am the member for Adelaide. In fact, it is an offence to use my personal name in this chamber, which is a reminder that when I speak here I speak on behalf of those who elected me and those I represent. So, for me, a conscience vote is determined by the conscience of the people I represent. 

I have gone to great lengths over the 11 and a bit years I have been a member of this chamber to research and investigate, to speak with people. I have put out multiple paper surveys over those 11 years and most recently an online survey. Statistically, in my electorate about 1,500 people have made contact. There have actually been thousands more, but there is a very high turnover of residents in my electorate, being Adelaide. There would have been thousands who have been in contact but many of those move in and out of the electorate. 

On the statistics, currently 82.7 per cent of those who contacted my office are in favour of voluntary assisted dying. As their representative I feel that it is therefore my obligation to vote in favour of this bill. I am not opposed to considering amendments if they will strengthen the bill before us. I have spoken in favour of the bills that were presented in 2013 and 2016. I experienced great pressure even as a candidate to make a decision; however, I held firm that I would not be making a decision until I was in possession of the facts and until I was a member of parliament and had consulted my constituents whom I represent when I am here. 

There were a few things in the original bills historically that were of concern to many people. In my research I went to both the 'for euthanasia' and the 'against euthanasia' debates and the forums—there have been many over the years. The main concerns that were held 11 years ago, when I first started researching, were things such as life insurance being invalid due to suicide. That is covered in clause 6 of the current bill, that the use of voluntary assisted euthanasia would not be considered suicide. 

Others were worried that it would be swept under the carpet and not recorded. In this bill, there are annual reports that would be presented to parliament and there is a board, so that is also covered. There were also concerns regarding original bills that those with mental health issues or those who were aged might feel that they were not needed or not wanted in the world. This bill does not cover those people. This is quite a narrow focus bill which I think strikes the right balance. 

People were also worried about coercion by greedy family members or people seeking advantage by somebody passing away. This bill also has significant protections against coercion, including a five-year gaol term. In fact, many who completed my survey felt that five years might not be strong enough—some were saying maybe up to 20 years—so at least it is in this bill and a very good safeguard. There is also a review and a reporting function between four and five years after the enacting of this bill, which I also think is a good safeguard, so that we can relook at this bill and see if any improvements can be made. 

Many people tonight have spoken of their personal stories and even the member for Giles spoke of my personal story in his speech. In 2013, literally only eight weeks after my mother had passed away, I spoke on the bill that was before the house at the time, so it was very clear in my mind. In fact, this whole discussion brings that back very clearly in my mind, as I can see it has for many others. It is a very emotive and difficult topic when you think of the people you have witnessed suffering through terminal illness. 

This bill is quite narrow. I think it is safe. It is six months at the most prior to a cancer death, which my mother went through, and up to a maximum of 12 months for a motor neurone-type disease, so I think it does strike the right balance of the safety yet accessibility for those who need it. I think in my mother's case it might have saved a month or two when she was in pain. Being the strong woman she is, she did not want painkillers; however, unable to move, eat, drink, go to the bathroom, do anything is not how she wanted to die. I do not think that is how anybody would want to die. 

It has been a long time coming. We have seen how this has worked in Victoria so we can feel safer that it is working successfully. I believe it has also now similarly passed in Western Australia, in Tasmania, obviously in Victoria, and it is being considered in Queensland. I think it is time and I commend the bill to the house.