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NSW legalises voluntary assisted dying, advocacy campaign shifts to ACT and NT

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After decades of campaigning NSW has become the last state in Australia to pass laws allowing people with a terminal illness to voluntarily end their own life.

Thursday’s decision means within 18 months people with a fatal diagnosis in NSW will be able to access voluntary assisted dying.

Campaigners say they will now take their fight to the territories.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if re-elected on Saturday his Government would not remove a ban on voluntary assisted dying in the Northern Territory and the ACT.

Today, NSW passes a threshold of honesty and compassion. Honesty that not all people die well, and compassion that people in NSW with an advanced terminal illness can have the same end of life choices as people in every other state.

Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich

“There are differences between territories and states and … we’re not proposing any changes,” he said on Thursday after the bill passed.

Labor has pledged a parliamentary debate and conscience vote on a bill, but Anthony Albanese stopped short of saying it would be brought on in the first 100 days of government.

“What I haven’t done is do the hundred-day game. I have said my view is well known about territories and about territories’ right to determine their own legislation,” he said.

“I’ll set the priorities according to the priorities I’ve put out during the campaign, not according to a press conference two days beforehand.”

The former Howard coalition government overrode euthanasia laws passed by the NT assembly 25 years ago.

Since then state parliaments around Australia have approved laws allowing voluntary assisted dying.

ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher said the coalition was treating territorians like “second-class citizens”.

“The Morrison government is always more interested in putting their own conservative personal views before the rights and interests of the people they represent,” she said.

Former coalition senator Sam McMahon, who is running for the Liberal Democrats in the NT, said it was disappointing Mr Morrison was not showing any interest in territory rights.

NSW Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, pictured above left, introduced the private member’s bill to the state’s lower house last year with a record 28 co-sponsors from across the political spectrum.

Greenwich said it was not fair people in the ACT and the Northern Territory were being blocked from reform by a “stubborn person”.

“I’m standing here today with members of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, and we’ve got strong support within the National Party,” Greenwich told reporters.

“I would say to whoever forms government … this is legislation where you should respect people’s conscience.

“It is an untenable position for the prime minister to say he won’t move on this.”

Introducing the bill for its final vote, Greenwich thanked Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns — neither of whom supported the legislation — for allowing a conscience vote.

We haven’t just moved NSW into the 21st century, we have moved it from the 13th century. This is not just a revolution of medical care. It’s an evolution in our compassionate society.

Go Gentle Australia founder, Andrew Denton

“That has brought people together on both sides, to have a robust and difficult conversation,” he said.

“Today, NSW passes a threshold of honesty and compassion.

“Honesty that not all people die well, and compassion that people in NSW with an advanced terminal illness can have the same end of life choices as people in every other state.”

The bill passed the lower house just after midday to thunderous applause, after passing the upper house with amendments following a 12-hour debate.

It allows adults with a terminal diagnosis and up to six months to live to voluntarily end their life with assistance, with the approval of two independent doctors.

We will now be the last state in the country to achieve this well overdue law reform. This bill will give an immense sense of hope and relief to many people with a terminal illness who simply want to take back some control at the end of their life.

Dying with Dignity NSW president, Penny Hackett

Go Gentle Australia founder Andrew Denton, pictured above speaking to reporters yesterday, said it represented a revolution for end of life care in NSW.

“We haven’t just moved NSW into the 21st century, we have moved it from the 13th century,” Denton said.

“This is not just a revolution of medical care.

“It’s an evolution in our compassionate society.”

Dying with Dignity NSW president Penny Hackett said it was a historic moment for people who had campaigned for decades to stop terminally ill people enduring prolonged suffering.

“We will now be the last state in the country to achieve this well overdue law reform,” Ms Hackett said.

“This bill will give an immense sense of hope and relief to many people with a terminal illness who simply want to take back some control at the end of their life.”

Steve Offner from Go Gentle Australia said it had been a 50-year fight to get the laws passed.

“So for many people in the community, it will be an incredible relief,” he told AAP.

“It will be a moment of celebration.

“It will also be a bittersweet moment for many, given there are so many people for whom this law has just come too late.”

Independent MP for Murray Helen Dalton, who co-sponsored the bill, said it was important the safeguards did not disadvantage regional people.

“In small towns, it’s hard enough to find one doctor, let alone two.”

She urged the government to increase funding for rural GPs.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

AAP

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