Labor Senator and former Catholic priest Pat Dodson will no longer oppose the introduction of euthanasia to the Territories, telling the Senate that he sees euthanasia legislation “as whitefella law, to be used by the non-Indigenous population”.
Senator Dodson opposed similar legislation in 2018, but told the Senate on 8 September that he will abstain from voting on the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022.
“I have pondered deeply how to approach the legislation before us now and, in spite of my fundamental spiritual opposition to euthanasia, I have never held to the slippery slope argument,” Senator Dodson said.
“I accept that adequate safeguards have been written into the laws that now prevail in the six states. They may not be adequate, but they’re better than what was proposed.
“For that reason, and in recognition of the widespread non-Indigenous support for voluntary euthanasia, I intend this time to abstain from voting.
“I would not want to be the one person whose ‘no’ vote sank this legislation.”
“I’ve been distressed by these scornful, hateful diatribes from so-called Christians, who are prepared to recruit First Nations peoples to support a campaign against euthanasia yet won’t allow them a seat at the table.”
Senator Dodson also said “offensive propaganda which scoffs at the Aboriginal spiritual beliefs” produced by the Australian Christian Lobby was a factor in his decision to abstain.
He criticised ACL managing director Martyn Iles for publishing YouTube videos opposing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Welcome to Country ceremonies, while also invoking Indigenous people’s opposition to euthanasia.
“I’ve been distressed by these scornful, hateful diatribes from so-called Christians, who are prepared to recruit First Nations peoples to support a campaign against euthanasia yet won’t allow them a seat at the table,” Senator Dodson said.
Opponents of the bill from the major parties have referenced widespread Indigenous opposition to euthanasia and the lack of palliative care services in the NT as causes for concern.
Queensland LNP Senator Susan McDonald said the lack of palliative care services in the Northern Territory was a “much more serious discussion” that needed to be had.
“Just this year, famed Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil was forced to undergo palliative care in South Australia, far from his Arnhem Land home, due to a lack of services,” Senator McDonald said.
“His family has described how distraught he was at not being able to die on country. It has been reported that this is a wide-ranging problem throughout the Northern Territory.”