November 16, 2016
Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 19:43 ):
It is the duty of us all in this parliament put here by the grand architect of the universe to make laws for the betterment of the community. When I consider a bill, I consider the impact of the bill on every single citizen—from the strongest to the most vulnerable.
This is a bill I have taken very seriously. In speaking on it, I have certainly consulted my electorate again since the last bill on this topic, and I have still come to the conclusion that voluntary euthanasia laws are a dangerous step and we have one shot at rejecting this. There is nothing in the bill that prevents public policy dilemmas, dilemmas like what happens if vulnerable people, such as the weak, the frail and the sick, who do not have the family support mechanisms around them, do not have anyone to protect them?
I cannot support a bill that would potentially allow suicide to become a business. From my reading, that is what has happened in countries like Switzerland, and that is not right. Those in favour of the bill want to pontificate that they represent the most vulnerable in our society. Allowing this bill to get through will certainly be a slippery slope. More often than not, when the activists out there have a cause, when they raise a view, there is an opposing view. Some of them are the first to say that those who are against them, with logic, are misinformed, that we use fear. It is not right.
Every member of this place is free to express a view. Their view should be respected. I am voting the way I am to especially protect those who are too vulnerable themselves to speak. Everyone has a right to engage with their electorate on this issue, engage in debate and analyse the issues in their own conscience. It is disappointing to see parts of the Labor Party, as we have seen this week, being dragged to the left every day. It is unfortunate that bills like this are clogging up the agenda, when we should be using the resources of this very parliament for much more constructive purposes for the good people of South Australia.
I want to address some of the claims that have been made in regard to the bill. It has been said, as early as this morning on radio by a member of the pro euthanasia lobby, that 'every opinion poll shows that somewhere between 70 to 80 per cent of Australians support a law for voluntary euthanasia, even amongst Catholics and Anglicans'. I have gone back to my electorate and sought feedback. Let me say that between 70 and 80 per cent of the Catholics and Anglicans in my electorate do not support this bill. It is just not the case, especially in my electorate. My data does not come from grabs on the radio. My data comes from the electorate, not from any activists who may, in fact, sometimes even have a vested interest in making sure that this bill gets up.
The Death with Dignity Bill 2016 is the second attempt to allow euthanasia law in South Australia. Whilst I acknowledge some of the public support for the idea of euthanasia, I am concerned and, unfortunately, can still see significant dangers and risks in this new bill before us today. It is imperative that we consider what this bill will allow, rather than focus purely on those it is designed for. Too often, I see advocates for this bill play on the public perception that euthanasia would only ever be for a few hard cases. From the evidence I have seen, this is simply not the case.
By the way, sometimes the polls get it wrong, but who will stand up for the silent majority? There is definitely a silent majority on this issue. It is imperative that we consider what this bill will allow. I refer to countries, such as Canada, where euthanasia laws now exist. I note the significant underestimation of the number of people expected to utilise the new euthanasia measures. I reference Dutch journalist van Loenen, who once observed about euthanasia in his homeland:
“Making euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide legal started a development we did not foresee. The old limit 'thou shalt not kill' was abandoned and a new limit is yet to be found.”
If you look at a country like Holland, you will notice that once you allow euthanasia you open the door to much, much more. Once the equal protection of the law for every citizen from acts of homicide to assisting in suicide is gone, it will be that much harder to draw the line next time similar issues regarding assisted suicide arise, hence the slippery slope.
As I mentioned earlier, in a recently released report on the operation in Canada of Quebec's euthanasia and assisted suicide law, three times the expected number of deaths were reported for the first seven months, with 8 per cent of cases not compliant with the law. In that instance, 18 of the 21 cases that failed to meet the legal regulations were situations where the independence of the second confirming doctor was in question. The response of the minister at the time to this was to consider making some adjustments to ease the obligation of seeking a second opinion from an independent doctor.
This, I believe, is the next debate that will open the door if we are to pass this bill before the house. This is dangerous thinking. My main concern therefore with this bill is the slippery slope and the move from euthanasia for a few hard cases to more and more cases, involving those who cannot competently ask for it and children without the capacity to give consent. I do believe there are advocates of euthanasia who want a limited rule, but unfortunately I do not believe that will change the reality of what would follow. Putting moral beliefs aside, and putting what the electorate wants aside, I believe it is plainly obvious that the practicalities also have to be considered. I do not believe we should pass this bill, which impairs the inalienable right to life.
I ask that activists consider that this is a bill we have all taken very seriously, that this is a bill where we have all had to listen to hours and hours of consultation in our electorates. However, I cannot stand here in good conscience and allow this bill for the legislated killing of our citizens in South Australia to go through. I will be opposing it.