EUTHANASIA will be thrust on to the national agenda again with the Greens set to introduce laws that would overturn a ban on the territories legalising the controversial practice.
Greens senator Richard Di Natale, a doctor, will today announce that the party is drafting legislation that would wind back a 1997 Kevin Andrews bill that banned the Northern Territory, ACT and Norfolk Island from allowing euthanasia.
Mr Andrews, now shadow minister for families, introduced the legislation in 1996 after the Northern Territory’s approval of euthanasia. Then prime minister John Howard allowed a conscience vote.
Asked last year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Labor MPs should be granted a conscience vote on euthanasia.
Senator Di Natale said there was clear public support for euthanasia and that territories were a good place to test social reforms because they were more open-minded and had a wider range of voices. ”This is an issue that deserves a conscience vote,” Senator Di Natale said.
”It’s a hugely popular reform and it shows how out of touch the old parties are with many of the important social issues.”
Former Greens leader Bob Brown tried twice to repeal Mr Andrews’ law but his bills were never put to a vote.
The Victorian senator has raised the issue with the Greens’ sole ACT Assembly representative, Shane Rattenbury, who was positive about raising the issue in the ACT. Mr Rattenbury holds the balance of power in the ACT Parliament and in exchange for supporting the Labor government has been given the Ministries of Territory and Municipal Services, Corrections and Housing.
Senator Di Natale says there needs to be a focus on how to better manage end-of-life care.
”Most doctors at some point will have faced the prospect of providing medication to ease pain, knowing that it will hasten a person’s death,” he said.
”In many instances it’s a process that is welcomed by patients and families and it’s important to provide every possible choice to the individual.”
Senator Di Natale said that in countries where euthanasia was legal, including the Netherlands, Belgium and some American states, the law provided comfort to patients and doctors.
Last November Parliament passed laws removing the power of a federal minister to override laws made by the ACT and NT but Parliament can still do so.
That bill, introduced by Dr Brown, kicked off a caucus battle with some of Labor’s right wing opposed to the bill over fears it would lead to same-sex marriage and euthanasia.
Today in Sydney, the Dying with Dignity group is hosting a forum featuring commentator Phillip Adams, Professor Ken Hillman, Professor of Intensive Care at the University of New South Wales, economist Richard Denniss and writer Gillian Mears.