VAD wins vote – Perrottet vows to “improve palliative care”

A marathon conscience debate has ended in a convincing vote for voluntary assisted dying laws in the NSW parliament’s lower house.

The bill now goes to the upper house for an inquiry and debate in the new year. 

“We have sent a clear and unambiguous message to the (Legislative Council) to now get on and deal with this reform early next year,” said Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who’s spearheaded the bill.

“Our assembly that represents the people of NSW wants the upper house to make sure there are no further delays and that they progress with this in an efficient and respectful way just as our house has done.” 

Debate on the bill spanned four days, with more than 80 MPs making speeches that canvassed their own experiences of loved ones dying, tales from their constituents, polling and surveys in their electorates, and religious beliefs.

Both Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns opposed the reform.

Mr Perrottet said the debate was personal for him as his grandmother is dying of pancreatic cancer and he understood why some would want to end their lives quickly.

But he said the bill was a “threshold moment”, and vowed instead to improve palliative care. 

Prominent MPs to speak against the bill also included Attorney-General Mark Speakman, Police Minister David Elliott, and Labor frontbenchers Jihad Dib and Sophie Cotsis. 

The deputy leaders of the Liberal and Labor parties, Stuart Ayres and Prue Car, were in favour. 

Health Minister Brad Hazzard also supported the bill, despite saying he hadn’t favoured voluntary assisted dying for the first 29 years of this three decades in parliament.

Former deputy premier John Barilaro and former Transport Minister Andrew Constance, both outgoing MPs, returned to parliament to support the bill.  

Treasurer Matt Kean, and fellow ministers Rob Stokes, Victor Dominello and Adam Marshall also spoke in favour of it. 

Once the second reading vote passed by 53 to 36 votes on Thursday afternoon, MPs sat until close to midnight in a race to consider 167 amendments before parliament rose for the year on Friday.

By lunchtime on Friday, a largely unchanged bill passed a final vote, 52 to 32. 

Mr Greenwich said all “hostile” amendments had been voted down, with only small changes made during the amendment debate.

They included strengthening conscientious objection provisions and creating additional guidelines for doctors on the referral process.  

If the historic reform secures majority support in the upper house next year, it will make NSW the final state in Australia to embrace voluntary assisted dying.

The upper house is holding an inquiry to the bill throughout December and will report back before the first sitting day of 2022.

Dying with Dignity president Penny Hackett asked the inquiry to take close note of testimony from people who were dying or who had watched loves one die. 

Andrew Denton, the founder of Go Gentle, said the rest of Australia would be watching the upper house debate “very, very closely”.

“The people of NSW will have every reason to ask, if this law doesn’t pass, and doesn’t pass as it should, why did you do that? We’ll be watching.” 

The proposed legislation restricts euthanasia to terminally ill people who would die in no more than 12 months.

Two doctors would have to assess applicants, and the bill makes a criminal offence of attempting to induce a person to apply for voluntary assisted dying.

Credit: AAP