November 16, 2016
The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS ( West Torrens—Treasurer, Minister for Finance, Minister for State Development, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy) (21:33):
I rise on this bill, as I have many times over my 18 years in the parliament and this, I understand is, how many attempts to legalise?
The Hon. S.W. Key: Fifteen.
The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: There have been 15 bills to legalise euthanasia and I have been in parliament since 1997 and every time we have had, I think, very thoughtful debates. The debates always centre around a number of issues and, predominately, those issues include whether people should suffer at the end of their lives. It is like asking 'Do you love your mother?' Of course, I do not want anyone to suffer at the end of their life.
I know that the member for Morphett—who I think is a very good and decent man and someone I have a lot of time for in this parliament—is doing what he thinks is right on behalf of people who are terminally ill. I know that he is a man of goodwill and I know that there are people who are supporting him today, such as the member for Ashford. The work the member for Ashford has done over 15 years has been done because she does not want to see anyone suffer either.
The question that I ask myself is: can we do this safely? I think, fundamentally, given the things that the member for Kaurna has said, we probably could. We probably could institute a system of euthanasia where we could probably limit it to people who are terminally ill, suffering, and not receiving the palliative care they need. The question is: can palliative care deal with all those issues? I tend to agree with the health minister that we have let ourselves down terribly when it comes to palliative care.
The second question I ask myself every time this debate comes before us is: will people lose their lives against their will? Will people feel a burden, will they opt for this issue, and can we in any way minimise that type of error? Maybe we could. Maybe we could do that. Fundamentally, we probably could design a system where you could do all that, and you could have people pass through all sorts of assessments by their treating doctors, by people who have known them their whole lives, about this issue. It gets back to my first point: should people suffer?
Then the fundamental question that is being raised here today, I think it was in the member for Lee's contribution, is: should we allow one citizen to take the life of another? This is the fundamental question here. The argument of the member for Lee and, I think, people who will be supporting this legislation is, 'In almost every situation, no, other than this one situation.' I fundamentally disagree with that assessment because I believe all human life is precious.
Despite all the safeguards we can put in place to make sure that the people who want to be euthanased are the only ones who are euthanased, that the people who will have access to this are only the ones who are terminally ill and palliative care cannot serve them and that the people who are suffering at the end of their lives receive this recourse, which is basically an end of life, either through some form of medication or whatever the procedure might be, the fundamental and overarching principle here is: as a state, should we allow that to occur, and what happens if we do?
It has been my experience over 20 years that once we liberalise a law it is not the end. If this bill passes this house tonight for the second reading, as I suspect it will, then the member for Kaurna's amendments, which I think are very reasonable for people who support this legislation, are exactly the types of amendments that you would want to have in place. Good on the member for Kaurna for coming up with them—excellent.
However, this will not be the last time that we debate this bill because, as night follows day, future parliaments will come in here and attempt to liberalise it even further. This is because the arguments that we are dealing with today to bring forward this debate, to legalise euthanasia—there will be just as many arguments about the cohort of people who are not eligible, and we will have debates about them. Then that will pass and it will grow. As I have seen over my time in parliament—and it is only a short time, I would like to think, 18 years—
An honourable member interjecting
The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: I apologise, 19 years. I can only imagine, in the parliament in 2040, what future generations will be doing about treatment. Fundamentally, it gets down to this: are we spending enough government resources, in a country as wealthy as ours, on the treatment of people who are terminally ill? Are we doing everything we possibly can to alleviate their pain and suffering? If we are not, then we should. Only then, after we have exhausted every single opportunity to make sure that they are fully funded and fully informed, to make sure that no one does suffer at the end of life, should we ever consider something like this.
Again, after 19 years, my vote will be no. I know that within my electorate this is overwhelmingly popular. Everywhere I go, when people talk to me about this issue, the same thing is said to me by my constituents, 'We want you to support legalised euthanasia.' I understand why. I understand why they think about this issue because, again, we will all go through it. We are all going to see someone who we know and love come to the end of their life, and not all will have good deaths, but there are good deaths. Some will have very terrible deaths and, of course, we all want to alleviate that suffering.
In every election, I have made my views on these issues of life and death very, very clear, and I am returned. I say to my community and the people of this state: you do not want politicians voting for what is popular; you want politicians voting for what is right and within their conscience, and that is the difficult part about being lawmakers. I have to say that this debate gets very emotional. It does get caught up in the day-to-day political atmosphere and, of course, there is a lot of pressure brought to bear on members of parliament.
My cautionary tone for those who are considering voting for the second reading speech is that this is not the end of the debate; this is the beginning. Once this bill passes, this will not be the last time we hear debate on this bill. It will happen again and again and again. We will get to a point when we cannot turn it back. We will have created a society that we did not intend to when we started at this moment, so every vote is important. This vote is crucial. If it passes this house and if it passes the third reading, it will pass the upper house and it will become law, and in the next parliament there will be more amendments to this bill, and it will not end there.
So, if you want to stop this, stop it now. Do not think that this will be just enough for people to go away and stop talking about it. This is just the beginning. This is not the end. Again, I do understand the work the member for Kaurna has done. I understand the goodwill of the people who want to do the right thing here, but I say to them and I say to all of you: look at past experiences about what occurs when we do liberalise laws and ask yourself do you really believe this as far as it will go?