November 16, 2016
Mr WILLIAMS ( MacKillop ) ( 20:06 ):
This is, indeed, a vexed question. If it were not a vexed question, it would have been resolved a long time ago. When I look at this, I look at it with the same view that I look at every matter and every question that comes before me as a legislator in this state. I ask myself, firstly: what is the ill that needs curing and is the proposed solution a reasonable and sustainable solution to that ill? When I look at what the ill is, I tell myself that nothing has changed in recent times from what we have had since time immemorial.
Unfortunately, every one of us is mortal. We all face death and we all fear it—not all, as I have known some people who have strong religious beliefs that have enabled them to face death with comfort and ease. Personally, I do not understand how they do that. I do not understand where they get that strength from because it is not something I have, but I do, to some significant amount, fear death and my own mortality. I have lived long enough to see a lot of people suffer and a lot of people die. Notwithstanding that, when I ask myself: what is the ill we need to cure? I am not convinced that we need to bring in specific legislation at this point in the history of our species to cure something which we have lived and died with forever.
The second part of my analysis is: is the proposed solution something that will work? I think the proponents of this measure are saying that there are some very vulnerable people and that we need to help and support them. Indeed, there are some very vulnerable people and, as I said, they face their final demise with fear and often in great pain. accept that. But does the solution proposed solve that problem or does it create other problems? The way I have looked at this is that I think the proposed solution creates more problems than it proposes to solve.
We had a bill brought to the parliament a little while ago, and obviously there is a lot of discussion that happens around the corridors in this place. Some people say, 'I might support it but for this,' and that conversation goes on and on. I believe that the bill we are now looking at is that original bill with 41 amendments—no fewer than 41 amendments—designed to appease those who had some reservations about the original bill. That says to me that the people who are proposing this are not quite sure whether their proposal does indeed cure the ill they perceive.
I happen to have been around this place and observed the way we make law and the way that law is utilised in our society as we go forward, and one of the things I have observed is that quite often the best intentions of those of us in here are thwarted. Notwithstanding what we believe we are putting into the statutes of this state, the interpretation, once it leaves this place, is quite often somewhat different. Indeed, as an example from a very different part of our statutes, I have on the Notice Paper a matter to try to resolve an issue with the Stamp Duties Act.
In 1993, this house was assured that a particular clause had never been and would never in the future be used for a particular purpose, yet in 2000—seven years later—the crown law office of this state advised the then minister, or the department of revenue, that they believed they could defend what the parliament was told would not happen, and the law was basically changed outside of this house. That matter has not been debated by the government since March this year. All I am trying to do is put back what this house was guaranteed would be the situation in 1993.
That is but one example. In spite of our best intent, I have no confidence that the supposed safeguards in the bill before us will stand up. Indeed, I have even less confidence, if we open this gate, that the safeguards we put in place now will remain into the future. The reality is that, if we look at the few other jurisdictions around the world where they have opened the gate, we can see quite clearly that the safeguards which were put into the original legislation are slowly being watered down.
Somebody might put an example to ask about three years later or five years later—I am concerned about what might happen in 20 or 30 years if we open this gate. If we apply our minds to the worst outcome of state-sanctioned killing it is certainly not beyond my imagination to see great evil emanate from this measure—great evil. I cannot even support this going to committee because no matter what safeguards and no matter how strong we believe we make the legislation at this point, that will not be the way it is interpreted in the future. It will have opened the gate and our attitude to this matter as a community will have changed, and changed forever.
Once we open this gate, there is no going back. There is no U-turn. There is no going back and closing the gate. If we make a mistake now, we have made it forever. That is the problem. The most vulnerable people in our society, in my opinion, are not those whose protection or ease is sought through this measure. I believe that the most vulnerable people in our society would be put under greater threat by this measure, so I cannot support this even at the second reading stage.
The other thing that really concerns me is the message we would send to our medical profession, from top to bottom. We have a fantastic medical profession dedicated to supporting our health and wellbeing. What sort of message would we be sending to the medical fraternity if we suggested to them that there is a quick and easy way out of every problem that walks through their door? Unfortunately, there are not a lot of easy shortcuts. Life is to be endured, unfortunately.