Monica Doumit: Why the scramble to push a law that will kill?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich speaks during Question Time at New South Wales Parliament House on 12 October 2021. Referral of Mr Greenwich’s bill to legalise euthanasia to a parliamentary committee is not a delay. Photo: AAP image pool/Dominic Lorrimer

Inquiry into death bill ‘politicking’? Give me a break

On Tuesday of last week, the NSW Legislative Council voted to send Alex Greenwich’s deadly bill to an inquiry, due to report back on the first sitting day of Parliament next year, ie in February 2022.

This means that – despite its proponents using every attempt to jam this radical legislation through both houses of Parliament in the next four weeks without sufficient public or parliamentary scrutiny – the bill will only be debated in the Legislative Assembly this year.

Greg Piper MP, the Independent member for Lake Macquarie who is a co-author and co-sponsor of the pro-suicide bill accused upper house MPs of playing politics with the issue.
According to the ABC, Mr Piper said: “I have to ask whether or not this is a genuine process to try and improve the process, I suspect it’s not, I suspect there’s politics that’s being played out in the worst form.”

He went on to say that it would be good to know “what happened behind the scenes for this to occur.”

 It would be comical if it wasn’t a matter of life and death.

I’m sorry? Who is playing politics? And who has been doing things behind the scenes?
Back in 2019, former Premier Gladys Berejiklian promised that there would be no conscience votes before the end of this parliamentary term (ie, before March 2023) and Coalition members agreed that they would not participate in cross-party working groups on contentious social issues such as euthanasia.

Despite these promises and before Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation, Mr Greenwich and Mr Piper pushed ahead with the drafting and promotion of their Bill, seemingly confident that the matter would be brought to a debate and vote during this term of Parliament.

They have also managed to garner 28 co-sponsors to their Bill, including members of the Government, despite the undertaking that Coalition MPs wouldn’t participate.
In the words of Mr Piper, it would be good to know “what happened behind the scenes for this to occur.”

In an extraordinary move last week, Mr Greenwich sought to reorder parliamentary business so that, instead of his euthanasia and assisted suicide bill being debated in the order in which it was presented to Parliament, ie fourth in line for debate, it would be given priority over the other three bills that were tabled before his and debated immediately.

In the words of Mr Piper, “I have to ask whether or not this is a genuine process to try and improve the process. I suspect it’s not, I suspect there’s politics that’s being played out in the worst form.”

Mr Piper does not appear to appreciate the irony of the accusations of politicking and back room deals made against his parliamentary colleagues. It would be comical if it wasn’t a matter of life and death.

Mr Piper’s lamentation of delay is unwarranted. Despite misleading media reports, the debate has not been delayed until next year. If anything, it has been truncated.

We expect debate will begin on Friday, 12 November and continue until Parliament rises for the Christmas break. The Upper House Committee inquiry that was supposed to review the Bill only if it passed the Lower House will seek submissions concurrently with the Lower House debate and hold public hearings in December before reporting back in February.

Having less than four months and only four days of public hearings for an inquiry is much shorter than the 13-month timeline and 17 days of public hearings for the end-of-life choices inquiry in Victoria, the 12-month timeline and 15 days of public hearings for the inquiry in Western Australia, the 18-month timeline and 19 days of public hearings for the inquiry in Queensland and the 18-month timeline and 5 days of public hearings in South Australia.

Indeed, more time was afforded for submissions to be made to the Upper House inquiry into the use of exotic animals in circuses in NSW and twice as many public hearings allocated to the inquiry into koala populations and habitats than has been given to committee scrutiny of the euthanasia bill.

And still, its proponents whinge that any referral to an inquiry is “politicking”? Give me a break.

The only ones playing politics here are those who are trying to jam through a bill that will fundamentally alter our homicide laws, fundamentally hamper our suicide prevention efforts, and forever damage the doctor-patient relationship – all while the state and, in particular, the exhausted medical professionals who will be most affected by these laws, are trying to catch their breath.

Related: