NEWSFLASH: Victoria's controversial euthanasia bill passes Lower House

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Victorian Premier and 'prime mover' Daniel Andrews speaking outside Parliament today (20/10/17) after the euthanasia bill passed the Lower House (Image screenshot ABC)

After a marathon all-night sitting of Parliament, Victoria's contentious right-to-die legislation is one step closer to becoming law today. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reports.

THE Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill was passed in Victoria's Lower House this morning at about 11.20am, after a marathon 26 hour slog in Parliament.

In often impassioned and rigorous debate between aye and nay sayer alike, the controversial legislation was finally voted in by ten votes – 47 to 37 – to a chorus of cheers, tears and a hugfest.

Like the marriage equality issue, the VAD Bill has ignited division within same party factions.

During the long day's journey into night and another day, opponents put up repeated amendments, including some that were clearly attempts at filibustering and some also held vain hope that the debate would be adjourned.

Guided by their conscience and fuelled with barrels of caffeine, brewed by diligent parliamentary staff working through the night to keep yawning pollies awake beyond their usual bedtime.

Some I'm told fortified themselves with other forms of liquid.

Among the keen observers in the public gallery was voluntary euthanasia campaigner and advocate, Andrew Denton.

This now leaves what some opponents call the "kill Bill" on political life support until it goes before the Upper House in a fortnight, and whose 40 members will no doubt replicate, at least in part, further fierce debate and political surgery.


Health Minister Jill Hennessy, chief author of the Bill, has been motivated by her mother's predicament. Debilitated by multiple sclerosis, Joan Hennessy died only weeks ago, weighing a mere 36 kgs.

Premier Daniel Andrews has also been a prime mover behind this Bill, much contested by segments of the wider community, including former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who wrote a last-ditch effort in today's Fairfax media, his pen firmly leaning against the Bill:

'This claim exposes the bald utopianism of the project - the advocates support a bill to authorise termination of life in the name of compassion, while at the same time claiming they can guarantee protection of the vulnerable, the depressed and the poor,' Mr Keating said.

'No law and no process can achieve that objective. This is the point. If there are doctors prepared to bend the rules now, there will be doctors prepared to bend the rules under the new system.

'Beyond that, once termination of life is authorised the threshold is crossed. From that point it is much easier to liberalise the conditions governing the law. And liberalised they will be.'


In a strange, short and somewhat inept article, that lacks depth or reference to more contemporary politicians, he wrote for the Sunday Telegraph four years ago this month about religion and politics, Cardinal George Pell noted:

...Keating declines to talk about his personal beliefs but he is more than a tribal Catholic, more than someone educated by the Josephite sisters and De La Salle Brothers.

He was a social conservative and a champion of the family and opponent of abortion...

But then Pell makes this obvious clanger:

'No senior politician will try to foist particular denominational doctrines on the public, but politicians' policies are shaped by their beliefs.'

Tell that to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his vociferous denominational political dogma — especially voiced on the subject of marriage equality.


Andrews was originally against euthanasia, but changed his mind about euthanasia after the "good death" of his terminally ill father last year, as well as studying the contrasting and distressing coronial reports of terminally ill people who had chosen to kill themselves in sometimes painful and violent ways.

Behind all legislation is the story of humanity – and in some cases inhumanity.

Daily we are confronted with government incompetence and allegations of rorts and corruption and the never ending out-sourcing of our services, utilities, responsibilities and political conscience.

If government legislation cannot save our environment, our systems of health, education, transport, water, electricity, gas, produce,insurance, legal jurisdictions and all such things, it is a big ask to expect its people to entrust government legislation with our lives, let alone our death.

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