On May 5, the Legislative Council (Upper House) of South Australia voted (14 pro, 7 against) in favour of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2020. Premier Steven Marshall will timetable a debate on the bill next week in the House of Assembly (Lower House).
Reflection on the debate in the Legislative Councill
The Shadow Attorney General who led the Bill debate last night did an excellent job. He was well briefed and had been cramming for days. He’s a lawyer so has some suitable skills, and is Opposition Leader and Shadow Attorney General in the Legislative Council. The debate was also helped by the Health Minister who is arguing for a national VAD model in Australia – meaning that all the states should stay as close as possible to the Victorian VAD Act so there is equity across Australia. That meant he argued against all the amendments from long term VAD opponents. It is even more significant because he also says that as a christian, he would not use VAD, but in a pluralist society, his beliefs should not control other people’s choices.
Eligibility criteria are exactly the same as the criteria in Victoria’s VAD Act (2017): diagnosis by two separate doctors, one a specialist in the medical condition or illness, and a prognosis of less than six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative disease.
Statement of the Premier
In a statement released this morning, the Premier said: ‘As the leader of this state, I take my responsibility to have such legislation promptly resolved by the Parliament – one way or the other. This is an important issue, and I do not want its consideration to be unduly delayed through Parliamentary processes. That is why I have decided to progress debate on this legislation immediately. The community expects Parliament to act swiftly and decisively on issues that impact them, and that is why I am allocating government business time to debate the legislation now that it has passed the Upper House… While I personally don’t believe I would use voluntary assisted dying laws for myself, I do not believe I should stop others from having that choice – which is why I will be supporting the bill.’
After the debate next week, there are about 3 sitting weeks to get it finished before the State Budget (June 17). It is likely debate will spill over into late May when the Lower House sits again. South Australia is having an election in March 2022.