One state which appears to be high and dry as a movement for “dignity in dying” floods Australia is New South Wales. The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, bruised by a bitter debate over the decriminalisation of abortion in 2019, wants to avoid another potentially divisive issue. It’s probably not moral qualms which explain her reluctance, because she is a social progressive. Rather, her coalition only has a wafer-thin margin and survives with the support of three independents.
Problem is, two of the independents are strong supporters of euthanasia, Alex Greenwich and Greg Piper. Greenwich plans to introduce a voluntary assisted dying bill in September. The state political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Smith, says that the timing could not be better. “The NSW upper house debated a voluntary assisted dying bill in 2017,” she writes. “It was defeated 20 votes to 19. Greenwich is confident that second time around it will succeed.” He also plans to make it a key issue in an upcoming byelection to replace a Liberal MP who was ousted after a sordid scandal.
Smith writes: “Greenwich and Piper respect that an issue such as assisted dying is a matter of conscience. However, just as Berejiklian anticipated two years ago, the independents have emerged as kingmakers, with a policy on which they are resolute. When the government is hanging by a thread, the Coalition cannot tear itself apart on an issue voters support and much of the country has already adopted. Coalition MPs opposed to assisted dying may have to accept the world is moving on. Yes, this is a conscience issue, but it always has been – for people on both sides of the debate.”
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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