SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Damian WyldNews Weekly
Will SA be the first state to legalise euthanasia?
, November 14, 2009
There is nothing unusual in the South Australian Parliament debating a euthanasia bill. Indeed, it seems to happen with predictable regularity, year in, year out. This difference this time, however, is the chance of such legislation passing.
There are currently two euthanasia bills in SA: one in the House of Assembly (the lower house), courtesy of Independent MP, and former Liberal Government minister, Bob Such; and another in the Legislative Council (the upper house), courtesy of Greens MLC, Mark Parnell.
This latter bill is being debated in the final days of the parliamentary session, with parliament effectively prorogued in a few weeks' time until the SA state election, set for March 20, 2010.
Previous upper house votes on the issue have seen defeats in the order of 13-8. With some changing of the guard - and minds - those results were turned around to a recent 11-10 vote in favour of the second reading of Mr Parnell's bill (the penultimate stage).
Previous euthanasia bills have also passed this hurdle, but only for reasons of allowing debate before finally being defeated at the third reading.
This bill, however, seems to have a firm 10 in favour, 10 opposed and one still considering. That undecided MLC is independent Ann Bressington, who spoke firmly against the bill. She did so, not so much on moral or ethical grounds, but to argue that the state government could hardly supervise a regime of legalised euthanasia when, in her opinion, it can scarcely manage the departments it already has.
Ms Bressington was not the only speaker to express misgivings about euthanasia solely on grounds of impracticality. Some other MLCs who spoke against the bill hinted that, should better safeguards be incorporated in the legislation, they too might be persuaded to vote "yes" down the track.
The coming state election will see the retirement of two anti-euthanasia MLCs, and the likelihood of a second Green joining Mr Parnell in the upper house. So 2010 does not look like a bright year for pro-life forces. In fact, it could mean that the lower house will become the unlikely battleground for euthanasia. The numbers of lower house MPs for and against euthanasia are hard to determine at present, let alone after the 2010 state election.
The final upper house debate is set for November 18. Even if the bill passes, it will proceed no further due to parliament rising and the approach of the election. However, it would be a huge shot in the arm (if you'll excuse the pun) for the euthanasia lobby, which has already built up considerable momentum in recent months.
The South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia Society (with its most inappropriate acronym, SAVES) has been quite ingenious in its recent actions, forming an almost symbiotic relationship with a curious body called "Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia".
This latter group, which conveniently materialised just in time for serious debate, maintains an online presence on SAVES' website and welcomes membership from "non-Christians and ex-Christians" - which scarcely seems representative of actual Christians. In any event, their numbers seem few. Yet MLCs, both for and against the bill, have been falling over each other to pay respect to these self-styled "Christians" who support euthanasia.
The group has moreover gained this credibility with parliamentarians, despite the various Christian leaders in SA roundly condemning euthanasia.
The current impasse should lead to some serious soul-searching by the wider pro-life movement. Questions should be asked regarding the effectiveness of its campaign and lobbying strategies. As with Victoria's extremist abortion legislation of 2008, a situation seems to be fast approaching where lobbying proves less and less effective. Most MPs are already entrenched in their positions, so any subsequent lobbying may at best influence only a very few votes.
In such an environment, the short-term goal of preventing harmful legislation must be coupled with a renewed, long-term effort to see a greater number of pro-life, pro-family members elected to our parliaments.
This is the only feasible way forward. Such a goal is not only reasonable, but quite realisable, considering the widespread political apathy in the community, to say nothing of the massively shrinking membership of the major parties.
Movements such as the National Civic Council have long proposed "taking back the institutions", that is, allowing the maligned, marginalised and silent majority of Australians a greater say in academia, the media and public life.Slide to the secular left
Playing a more prominent role in choosing who gets elected to parliament would seem a good place to start. Otherwise, if parliament continues its current slide to the secular left, no amount of frantic campaigning and lobbying by pro-life forces is likely to influence the final outcome.
Rome wasn't built in a day. However, over time, it was built - not by apathy, nor by despair, but through sheer, stubborn effort and unshakeable faith.Damian Wyld is South Australian president of the National Civic Council.