Motions- Euthanasia


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:31): I enter this debate to indicate my support for the principle of the motion moved by Senator Hinch. This issue has already been before this parliament twice in the time I have been here, and I have made my position clear on both occasions. The first occasion, as I recall, was when the Commonwealth overrode a Northern Territory law in this regard. I voted against that on two grounds: first, I didn't think we should be overriding a territory law; and, second, I also thought that Australians should have the opportunity and the right for a medically assisted death where they make that decision themselves.

I appreciate there have been many religious and other grounds for opposition to this in the debates that I have been involved in. The matter is always raised about how greedy children will terminate the life of elderly parents so they can get their money more quickly. That, first of all, shows a very poor view of mankind but, secondly, they are extreme cases. On other occasions the pieces of legislation talked about—I haven't followed the Victorian one this time around—have had any number of protections. And it is not the greedy children of the person involved—or anyone else—that makes the decision; it is the person themselves who makes the decision.

In the other instance when this came before the parliament, it was a Senate inquiry into medically assisted death. I actually chaired that inquiry and I recommended that a bill in some form be adopted by the parliament. It was a private members' bill and, as I recall, it never actually came to a vote as such. But even that private members' legislation had inordinately complex and extensive hoops that had to be gone through before a person could decide that they wished to terminate their life, and it included a lot of psychiatric involvement.

So, provided that there are the right protections, I continue my support for medically assisted death. Like Senator Hinch, I've seen my mother in that situation, and more recently I've seen my sister in that situation. And Senator Hinch makes a very good point. This is not perhaps a good example, but we had a cat that we very much loved and we couldn't bear to see it in pain, so we got the vet to come around—paid a lot to get the vet to make a house call in those days—to put the cat out of its misery. But we don't do that with human beings. I still remember, from this inquiry, that I talked about a very courageous young man from Melbourne who came and gave evidence. He had terminal cancer, and he pleaded with the committee to support that. He knew he was going to die, but he wanted to do it at a time of his choosing. He wanted to do it when his family, his wife and his children were all there by his bedside. He didn't want to be by himself at three o'clock in the morning and suddenly leave this world. He gave wonderful evidence to the committee about his particular situation. Unfortunately we weren't able to accommodate his final wish: that he could actually decide the time and place of what he knew was going to be his death.

Again, I indicate that, with the right safeguards, people should be given the opportunity of bringing forward the time of their death so that they can indicate the time, the place and those they want to be with them when they leave this world. So I would support this motion as I have done on two previous occasions. One day, we will see this become the law of Australia—with, I want to add and emphasise, all the necessary and appropriate safeguards so that some of the concerns raised are properly dealt with.

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