Assisted dying bill passes first lower house vote in NSW Parliament

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Assisted dying bill passes first lower house vote in NSW Parliament

By Alexandra Smith and Tom Rabe

Voluntary assisted dying is one step closer in NSW after Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s bill to legalise euthanasia passed the first vote in the lower house on Thursday.

The bill passed 53 votes to 36 after dozens of MPs spoke on the bill, including Health Minister and the longest-serving lower house MP Brad Hazzard.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying has passed its first hurdle.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying has passed its first hurdle.Credit:James Brickwood

Mr Hazzard said for 29 of his 30 years in Parliament he would not have supported voluntary assisted dying, but it was now time to give people choice in how they die.

Mr Hazzard said all other states had passed a voluntary assisted dying law and NSW could not be left behind. He urged MPs proposing amendments to only do so with the aim of improving the bill.

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Attorney-General Mark Speakman said his opposition was based on “protecting the vulnerable”.

“As Paul Keating wrote, once termination of life is authorised, the threshold is crossed,” Mr Speakman said.

Premier Dominic Perrottet, who also opposed the bill, told Parliament he had failed in his role as Treasurer to adequately fund palliative care, promising to fix the system.

Mr Perrottet began the debate for the government, revealing he had witnessed his terminally ill grandmother battle intense pain. His grandmother died last week.

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“So this is not abstract for me, it is very real and very personal,” Mr Perrottet told Parliament.

MPs will now consider the 167 amendments to the bill before it goes to the upper house, with Mr Greenwich negotiating about 40 with Liberal, Labor and independent MPs.

Transport and Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who is supporting the bill, said his amendments to the legislation were designed to address concerns over elder abuse or potential undue influence.

“These amendments ensure that particular area of undue influence or duress is specifically called out and defined in the dictionary to the bill and also ensures that practitioners are trained specifically identifying elder abuse, which I think is an important area to ensure that those criticisms of the bill that this provides inoculation against those concerns,” he said.

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“I think the most loving thing to do is to provide that choice to people.”

However, dozens of other amendments are also expected, including several formulated by Community Services Minister Alister Henskens and independent Wagga Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr.

A senior government MP said they were concerned about the motives behind the amendments not negotiated with Mr Greenwich, fearing they were being used as a delaying tactic.

“Henskens is deliberately trying to undermine this issue. As a minister he should be focused on other things,” the government MP said.

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