November 2020 Newsletter
WE CAN'T GO BACK TO SQUARE 1
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED - BEFORE TUESDAY 10 NOVEMBER
Please Read On!
FROM THE PRESIDENT - HILDE NILSSON
As the second reading debate on Mike Gaffney’s Bill in the Upper House did not conclude on Tuesday 27th October, an extra sitting day was arranged for Friday 30th. After completion of the debate on that day it was then expected to be voted on. The vote, however, did not happen and the Bill was moved to the ‘Third Reading’ stage, to take place on November 10, the same day as it is scheduled to be tabled in the Lower House. This delay is unfortunate and disappointing, as it gives opponents of the Bill more time to create mischief. It is therefore important to contact MLCs, as a matter of urgency, asking them to please not delay the passage of this important Bill any further and to ensure its prompt progress to the Lower House.
If you would like to find out more about Canada’s excellent VAD law (MAID) then search https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca
Beyond our shores there is significant progress in regard to VAD: Following their recent election, New Zealand will now legislate for VAD; the re-elected Premier of Queensland has given an undertaking to table a VAD Bill in February in that state’s parliament; South Australia is moving towards legislating, and DwDNSW launched their campaign a couple of weeks ago. Scotland is also considering a VAD bill for its next parliament and in Canada, where MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) became legal in June 2016 they have just enacted significant reforms. This law has recently been updated (by Court order) and DWD Canada’s CEO, Helen Long, has recently stated that “While this bill is not perfect, it includes two significant improvements – removal of the provision that death is reasonably foreseeable and the addition of the ability to waive final consent – or as we like to refer to it, “Audrey’s Amendment.” Waive of final consent is to ensure those who have commenced MAID process can still proceed, even if they lose the ability to consent at the final requirement. This amendment was passed by a huge majority (246-78).
VAD: indeed an idea that's time has come.
MIKE GAFFNEY NEEDS YOUR HELP FOR THIS BILL - ROBYN MAGGS
Upper House We approached this End-of-Life (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 with some apprehension as to the result. There was the real possibility that it would fail. Yet now it is very likely that it will succeed. If the vote had been held last Friday, there was a good possibility that only one of the Upper House MPs would have voted “No”. Eight out of the fifteen votes are needed for it to pass. The delay in the voting, put off until November the 10th, will not change any of the amendments that have been voted on. They can’t be changed before the final Upper House vote. The thoughtful consideration, openness to learning, and compassionate intelligence of most Upper House MPs, has ensured a Bill that remains true to the intent and goals of Mike Gaffney’s tabled Bill.
The only risk with the voting delay is that it presents opponents with the opportunity to apply pressure to some Upper House MPs to change to a “No” vote. And the stronger the “Yes” vote, the stronger the message that will be sent to the Lower House. So:
- Please get to work with letters, emails, articles, and phone calls to Upper House MPs.
- Thank Upper House MPs for all that they have achieved so far.
- Plead with them to give a strong “Yes” vote that will be heard by the thousands of Tasmanians who are watching them with such hope.
Lower House The delayed vote in the Upper House will not delay the tabling of the Bill in the Lower Houses. Its passage there looks promising. The Bill requires a positive vote from thirteen out of their twenty-five MPs to pass. With Labor’s decision to vote as a block in favour of the Bill, this gives nine positive votes. The support of the two Green MPs and Liberal Sue Hickey’s support adds three more. So only one more Liberal MP’s positive vote is needed for the Bill to pass. And we can count on the wonderful Nic Street to support the Bill. Nic was the only Liberal with the courage to support voluntary assisted dying when the previous Bill was voted on in Parliament. So, the critical element in the Lower House when the Bill gets there, is not the issue of it passing. The issue will be the amendments. They may re-introduce amendments that were defeated in the Upper House. They may add amendments of their own. Our challenge in the Lower House will be to persuade them to not just pass the Bill, but to make it the best model of VAD legislation in Australia.
We need the Lower House to maintain the integrity of Mike Gaffney’s Bill as it stands. We need them to recognise that the Bill and its amendments have been thoroughly analysed and debated in the Upper House. We need to convince them of the special opportunity they have to achieve a Bill that has corrected the problems being experienced with the Victorian legislation. So:
- Get moving now with letters, emails, articles and phone calls to Lower House MPs.
- Remind them that their fellow MPs in the Upper House have presented them with what they felt was the best possible Bill in terms of both safeguards and compassion.
- Plead with them to not change it to be a pale reflection of the Victorian Bill, but something fit-for-purpose for Tasmanians.
Vice President DwDTas
WHAT'S HAPPENING - MIKE GAFFNEY
I was hopeful that the vote and 3rd reading would have occurred last Friday as it would have allowed a number of Tas VAD supporters to relax a little more; unfortunately it wasn’t to be! However, it was of no surprise (to me) that it has been deferred to the 10th of November (the next possible sitting day). It does mean however that MLC's will more than likely receive extra pressure from certain groups and individuals about their vote. One only hopes that they steel their resolve and the Bill as it stands will be supported.
It should be noted that whilst there have been some amendments (which is to be expected) and that is democracy and the parliamentary process, however, other than a couple of influential amendments to the Bill (Prognosis time and Commission) the Bill as it stands is solid and much of the original content is the foundation of this legislation..- as per FORREST's comments on the Friday re "lots of amendments" - once you sit down and have a close look at the Bill and the amendments it has survived very much intact and in its intent, and is strengthened in some areas. Yes, the process appeared drawn out.
Main Amendments (at a glance) * I may have forgotten something - my apologies but this does give a skeleton overview of what's occurred.
Pleased that we were able to
- the FORREST 6 month and 12 month (neuro degenerative) scenario was not the preference in the original Bill. However, the FORREST amendment saying that the Commission may exempt a person from the 6 month and 12 month time restriction is an improvement to the Victorian Bill so that in itself does provide an avenue for those suffering intolerably.
- LOVELL - Commission instead of a Commissioner (no big deal really. It’s just a means of managing the process and making certain everything is being undertaken correctly and in a timely fashion) but this change meant 132 amendments!! lol
- there were also a few minor strengthening amendments to the communicator's role, independence, family connections, initiating conversations (re gag clause - WEBB's amendment of Friday was very good, and GAFFNEY's tweak on gag clause), definitions, administration of substances etc., but no BILL Passing game changers.
- deleted - Pain review
- deleted - review of those under 18 over VAD access, to research what was happening in other jurisdictions. (Personally, I knew this was always going to be an uphill battle - but I gave it a crack.)
- witnesses now can be 2 witnesses OR 1 person (Commissioner of Declarations). (HISCUTT wanted 2 witnesses and a Commissioner, GAFFNEY amendment OR a Commissioner - HISCUTT was happy - all good 😊)
- GAFFNEY- amendment - 18 months for implementation - whilst the original Bill was 12 months, FORREST wanted 2 years - my amendment secured it at 18 months from Royal Assent (was a new clause in response to Premier's 33 dot points from agencies) fortunately it stayed at 18 and not the FORREST 2 years.
- GAFFNEY - NEW CLAUSE - Objectives and Principles - (was a new clause in response to Premier's 33 dot points from agencies)
- retain registered nurses in the AHP role and VAD process.
- GAFFNEY's amendment to LOVELL's Commission new clause so that the Chairperson and Executive Commissioner does NOT have to have 7 years standing as a legal practitioner.
- Tele-health by the way of audio - visual is still able to be utilised in the Tas VAD Bill.
- defeated the move by SEIDEL for Registered Nurses to be not included, defeated the move by FORREST that a Nurse Practitioner's role would be different.
- defeated the NEW CLAUSE by SEIDEL, conscientious objection by entities providing health care (I would be surprised if this one didn’t resurface downstairs).
- defeated the proposed amendments by FORREST to the "Pharmacy and medication dispensing".
Whilst I am confident the BILL will proceed downstairs, I think that we still need to keep sending as much positive information as possible until it is passed upstairs (I am hoping for a strong majority, not just scraping in. Fingers crossed). There is still time (structurally and procedurally) for the Bill to be debated and passed downstairs in 2020. With the COVID year the Parliamentary Schedule has been changed a number of times and at this stage the Lower House is scheduled to finish on 3rd December (other than 2 days of GBE on the 8 & 9 December). The Upper House however is sitting with GBE responsibilities until the 14th and 15th and there is still the 16th and 17th and the following week where Parliament could re-sit.
Thanks everyone for your ongoing support and effort.
YOUR CHOICE TASMANIA
We don't have a report from Jacqui and Natalie Gray in this newsletter, but we nevertheless would like to acknowledge their dogged commitment to achieving VAD in Tasmania and their ongoing efforts which will only end with the Bill becoming law here, perhaps even before the end of 2020. Such an achievement will proudly and firmly place Tasmania in that group of socially progressive jurisdictions in Australia and around the world that recognise
OUR LIVES, OUR CHOICE.
Jacqui and Natalie have sat through more than 20 gruelling hours of speeches and debates in the Legislative Council, often enduring physical discomfort and confronting subject matter. DwDT is hoping that Nat’s new baby will arrive on 10 November to coincide with victory in the Legislative Council!
MPs contact details:
Legislative Council - https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/lc/LCLists.pdf
House of Assembly - https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ha/halists.pdf
Writing letters to newspaper editors:
All newspapers have user-friendly templates for letters to the editor. Just google your preferred newspaper.
End of newsletter.