“We congratulate members of the SA Legislative Council, who last night defeated the Greens bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia,” said FamilyVoice Australia research officer Roslyn Phillips.
The bill failed on the voices at the second reading, because Greens MP Mark Parnell did not want to call for a division. But as speech followed speech, it became clear the result would have been a 12:9 defeat – more than the 11:9 defeat of a similar bill last year.
Independent MP Ann Bressington, who had supported the second reading of the bill last year, opposed the bill this time. She said she had seen the “slippery slope” which followed the passing of SA’s abortion laws and believed the same thing would happen if voluntary euthanasia were made legal. The public gallery then spontaneously erupted in loud, long applause.
“Such behaviour is, of course, prohibited – people in the public gallery must remain silent at all times,” Mrs Phillips said. “Council President Bob Sneath said if they did it again he would throw them out on the street. It was nevertheless a wonderful sight for some, although Dr Philip Nitschke, who was also in the public gallery, seemed rather depressed.
“Jing Lee, a new Chinese Liberal MP, was heard with great interest. Many people had thought she would vote for the bill, but she said she had been particularly impressed by all the emails, hand-written letters and phone calls she had received – over 600 yesterday, of which 70% asked her to vote against the bill. She was also touched by the letter she received from Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini who is himself dying after suffering severe disability over many years. He explained why legal euthanasia is the worst thing you can offer people with a disability – because it implies that they are a burden on the community which would be better off without them.
“Dignity 4 Disabled MP Kelly Vincent, speaking from her wheel chair, seemed to recognise this truth. She said her support for the bill would disappoint many of her constituents. She burst into tears during her speech, but in the end opted for what she called ‘choice’.
“However Family First MP Robert Brokenshire told the parliament about Aboriginal leaders who said their people would shun hospitals if euthanasia were legalised, fearing that this would be the ‘choice’ offered to them.
“Overall, as Mark Parnell acknowledged, the standard of speeches throughout the debate was very high – so much so that we did not notice the uncomfortable seats in the public gallery.
“What a pity parliament is not like this more often!” Roslyn Phillips said.
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