By Hilary White

  CANBERRA, February 21, 2008 ( – Two jurisdictions in Australia are bringing forward legislation that would reinstate “medically-assisted voluntary euthanasia” in the island nation.

  Senator Robert Brown, leader of the Green party, is introducing a private members’ bill in the Federal Parliament that would reinstate the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in the Northern Territory. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which permitted euthanasia, was initially passed in the Northern Territory in 1995, but was later overruled by a 1996 law.

  At the same time, in the state of Victoria, Liberal MP Ken Smith has agreed to introduce a Bill to allow physician-assisted suicide. Green MP Colleen Hartland has announced she will co-sponsor the Medical Treatment (Physician Assisted Dying) Act 2008, some time in the next six months.

  Smith said the bill would decriminalize the act of assisting or supporting suicide. “I feel very strongly about this,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people die, a lot of people in agony, and a lot of people who shouldn’t have to put up with pain but they did. I just think that something like this would be a worthwhile contribution to my time in Parliament.”

  With the defeat of John Howard’s Liberal party in Australia late last year, some are anticipating an end to the protections for human life that had been an earmark of the previous government. Other issues facing MP’s in the next year give credence to these fears about an impending turn-around in Australia’s social establishment. Efforts at decriminalizing abortion, providing artificial procreation treatments such as IVF to single and lesbian women, and setting up a register for same-sex couples are amongst the list of issues coming up for vote.

  Right to Life Association’s Margaret Tighe called the euthanasia proposal “the most dangerous public policy for any government to be embracing, or to allow it to be embraced”. Tighe said the law simply “leads to legalised patient killing”.

  Speaking to Barney Porter on ABC Local Radio, Tighe said such legislation is only the beginning and that in countries where euthanasia is legal, it eventually expands. “One of the main reasons why euthanasia has not been legalised in very many places is because it is a very dangerous public policy, and because it can lead to some people losing their lives who shouldn’t be losing their lives. It’s the very same reason why people oppose capital punishment.”

  The Labour Party, led by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, took power in Australia in December 2007, and the party is now in power in every parliament in the country. Rudd has pledged not to intervene in state or territory legislation. In the short time the new government has been in power, life and family advocates have been given cause for concern.

  This month, the Gay Pride Parade in Melbourne was warmly endorsed by Rudd who said the demonstration, known around the world for public displays of nudity and simulated sex acts, would “continue to march towards tolerance, respect and diversity”. In endorsing the event, Rudd became the first-ever Australian prime minister to support an explicitly pro-homosexual event. 


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