November 2020 Newsletter
PASS THE BILL - NO CHANGES
FROM THE PRESIDENT - HILDE NILSSON
By now, I guess, everyone would be aware that the End of Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 passed our Upper House unanimously. What a fantastic result! As far as I am aware, this is a world first. It was an overwhelmingly emotional moment in time in the Upper House and immediately afterwards in the foyer outside the chamber, with many reaching for their tissues and COVID rules flying out the window as there were warm and joyous hugs all round. The superhuman effort of Mike Gaffney and his team, the dedication and hard work of the Gray sisters, members of DwD and all the others who contributed behind the scenes by writing letters etc. could not have achieved a result better than this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who contributed to this phenomenal result.
The Bill will now go to the Lower House and it is of vital importance that the MPs there leave the Bill intact, don’t move any detrimental amendments and pass it as quickly as possible. The Premier has commissioned UTAS to do a review of VAD legislations in other jurisdictions. We hope that this will not cause any delay to the Bill being passed.
I ask everyone to please contact the Lower House MPs and urge them to pass this Bill, which has been debated so very thoroughly in the Upper House, promptly and without any further amendments. Every delay means that more people will suffer needlessly.
We are sorry to lose the cheerful and capable services of our secretary, Stefany Stockwin-Wunsch, who is relocating to Queensland. No doubt Stefany will make a very valuable contribution to the campaign there. Our thanks and very best wishes go with her.
MOVING QUICKLY - ROBYN MAGGS
I seriously expected someone in the Upper House to jump up and yell “Nay!” But no-one did. So, Tassie made a world first with a unanimous vote. What a credit to the Members of the Legislative Council, who worked through their concerns to a place where they believed they could give the compassionate gift of this legislation their unanimous support.
Mike Gaffney gave Hilde, Margaret, and I the privilege of being in the House when the vote was passed. It was a surreal experience being within reach of Members we normally only see on television. And my favourite of all the rules we were told we must follow, was: “And you must make sure you come out by the same entrance that you go in. If you don’t, all the Members will throw down their papers onto the floor of the chamber, and you’ll be wondering what on earth is going on!”
The next legislative steps have been changed from what we thought would occur, by an unexpected announcement from the Premier, Peter Gutwein, just before the vote. We had to take a deep breath and decide not to let it spoil our precious day. He is sending the Bill off to unnamed academics at the University of Tasmania for a “review” of national and international legislative models. He has also delayed a Lower House final vote until well into next year. So now the steps will be:
- Members of the House of Assembly will speak to the Bill on the 3rd and 4th of December. Which you can watch on their webcast. They will then vote on whether or not to send it to Committee.
- The Bill will become the first order of business for the Lower House when Parliament resumes in late February or early March 2021.
- The University review that the Premier has decided on is expected to be finalised by late February.
- It is concerning that this review panel, apart from analysing how this legislation compares to other legislation around the world, is also being asked to provide their view on vastly complex end-of-life issues such as Advanced Care Directives and palliative care. They are not part of this Bill. These are not issues for this legislation to solve. Those of us involved in this battle will be keen to shine a light on these areas once the urgent need for this legislation has been met.
- The good news, after some discussion, is that the Premier agreed in his speech that there will be no delay to the implementation date once the Bill has passed the Lower House. “It is not the Government’s intention to delay implementation of the legislation by postponing it to the committee stage to early next year. As members would be aware, the Upper House amended this Bill to extend the time for implementation of the legislation from 12 months to 18 months. It is my intention that, should the Bill pass its second reading in this place early next month, an amendment to the Bill be moved that the effective start date for the 18 month period be the passing of the Bill through the second reading, should that occur.”
- When Parliament resumes in 2021, the Committee debate will begin with a clause by clause consideration, at which point they can make amendments. Any amendments the Lower House makes will need the Bill to then be returned to the Upper House, as legislation as amended must be passed in both Houses.
- It will depend on the time this process takes, as to when the final vote will take place.
What can we do?
At our recent committee meeting, we decided that our slogan for the next stage of our battle for a good Bill should be: PASS THE BILL - NO CHANGES
The Bill that has come out of the Upper House may not be perfect, but it fulfils the goals of stringent safeguards combined with appropriate accessibility. We don’t want the Lower House to make amendments that work against these goals. They will be under pressure from lobby groups who oppose VAD to make changes that weaken the Bill.
Mike Gaffney – who has brought us so far, has suggested that we:
- Thank the Upper House Members for their achievement.
- Challenge the Lower House to keep the integrity of the Bill and not make changes that would affect this.
- Keep educating Lower House Members about critical clauses that need to be kept, and why.
- That we focus on entities, nurses and Telehealth.
Vice President DwDTas
LONG TERM VAD HERO MARSHALL PERRON HAS WISE WORDS FOR THE TASMANIAN PARLIAMENT
Marshall Perron, former Chief Minister of Northern Territory, ushered in the very first VAD Law in Australia in 1996 (subsequently overturned by the Federal Liberal Government that enacted a law to forbid Australian Territories to create VAD laws. That law still stands and forbids NT and ACT etc from deciding for themselves.)
The End-of-Life Choices Bill currently being debated in the Tasmanian Parliament will legalise voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania. Introduced by Mike Gaffney in the Upper House; opinion polls show Tasmanians are overwhelmingly in support.
Having tracked every bill that has been introduced in Australia over the past 23 years and been active in a number of the campaigns, I have to say Mr Gaffney’s proposals are excellent. It would be a shame if the ultra-conservative regimes in Victoria and Western Australia become the default model for the rest of Australia.
Mr Gaffney has clearly thought deeply about how to improve on what has been accepted so far, sought to expand eligibility, and conducted an unprecedented personal consultation program that will hopefully pay off during the parliamentary debate.
The pressure being applied by the church hierarchies to have Tasmanian politicians vote against it is not unexpected. However, the message from other states is that acceding to the demands of the church when these conflict with the wishes of the people is not good politics.
Two weeks ago, Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk set voluntary assisted dying at the centre of her re-election campaign. She announced that Labor would legalise voluntary assisted dying if it won the election. As expected, it triggered a campaign against her by the Catholic and other churches. But what could they do against a savvy politician representing the clear will of the people?
In Queensland, as in Tasmania and virtually every developed country in the world, an overwhelming majority support voluntary assisted dying. Australian opinion polls have shown this for 40 years and support has kept getting stronger.
In the past it was not easy for elected representatives to sleep well if major church organisations threatened to campaign from the pulpit against them. However, times have changed.
The moral authority of the Catholic and other churches has been torpedoed as their mendacity and complicity has been revealed in the many children’s sexual abuse inquiries. Congregations are shrinking and the faithful who are left, largely ignore the church’s dictates on VAD as they do on birth control, same sex marriage and divorce.
Most of us want to have the VAD option available should the end-of-life go badly for us – even 68 per cent of Catholics and 79 percent of Anglicans.
Law reform has taken until now to happen because parliamentarians believed this issue to be politically toxic and shied away from it.
The Queensland election has been a test. A test of the waning power of the religious hierarchies. They no longer enjoy the power to force the law not to change. The evidence comes from other states as well.
In Western Australia, Mark McGowan as opposition leader declared his intention, if elected, to put VAD to the parliament for a conscience vote and like Palaszczuk, he won the election in a solid victory. VAD law was duly passed in WA and McGowan’s poll numbers continue to rise.
It has also been recently announced that a group of South Australian MPs has committed to introduce a voluntary assisted dying bill “within weeks”. It will be the seventeenth attempt to legalise VAD in South Australia.
In Victoria too, Premier Daniel Andrews defied his own church to successfully legislate VAD in 2017. The churches refused to accept the result.
The Australian Christian Lobby, ignoring the will of the people, publicly vowed to fight the scheme and unseat those who had supported it. At the following (2018) Victorian state election, however, it was not the candidates who had supported VAD that came under attack by voters. To the contrary, it was the two staunchest opponents of the VAD bill who lost their seats.
Following the conscience vote where most Labor members had supported VAD, the Labor party went on to win a second term picking up and eight-seat swing to it.
While the Liberal party, whose members had mostly opposed the VAD legislation, saw a 6.04 per cent swing against it.
Following the lead of McGowan in WA and Andrews in Victoria, Palaszczuk, in this latest test, stood up for the will of the people and those who would try to dictate to the will of the people are on the mat and going down for the count.
The message emerging is that intimidation from religious political groups in order to override the will of the people no longer works, and threatening politicians with retaliation is increasingly likely to boomerang.
Tasmanian’s deserve to have this legislation and the right to choose. I trust that the House of Assembly will pass this most important Bill.
Published in The Advocate 12/11/2020
MINUTES SECRETARY URGENTLY NEEDED!
Thanks again to Stefany, our departing Secretary. Would YOU be interested in becoming our new Acting Secretary at this important and exciting time? Meetings are usually held at Kingston on the second Friday of each month at 2.00pm. Plenty of support can be provided. For more information about the role, call DwdTas on 0450 545 167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
THANKS TO OUR GENEROUS SUPPORTERS
We have had some wonderful positive feedback on our current campaign activity, and on the newsletter updates. There have even been some generous donations. So, we sincerely thank all who support DwDTas in whatever way they can. (You may have noticed that there are no rallies this time round, thanks to the dreaded Covid).
The DwDTas 'family' was thrilled to learn of the arrival of Natalie Gray's Tillie Diane a few days before the unanimous passing of the VAD Bill by the Legislative Council. She has the distinction of being the youngest ever visitor to the Chamber and witness to such an historic vote. There has been no letup in the yourchoicetas campaign, with some innovative strategies on their drawing board.
Margaret Sing on Tasmania Talks - https://www.tasmaniatalks.com.au/listen
Jacqui and Natalie Gray on ABC mornings - https://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/mornings/we-are-the-voices-of-tasmanians-who-didnt-get-that-choice/12870816
The amended bill:
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.
HPAD CHOICE (HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS FOR ASSISTED DYING CHOICE)
You may like to add your voice or recommend it to healthcare professionals you know. hpadchoice.org.au