Tasmanian Liberal senator and arch-conservative Eric Abetz has issued a rallying cry to Christians, urging them to be "political activists" in the fight against proposed voluntary assisted dying laws.
In a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby's Tasmanian conference yesterday - held via Zoom - Senator Abetz spoke at length about his opposition to independent Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney's bill, expected to be introduced in Tasmania's upper house in late August.
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"There is a project in which I would encourage you to engage: fighting state-sanctioned suicide," Senator Abetz told the conference. "Because that is what euthanasia - or voluntary assisted dying or end-of-life choices - stripped of all its niceties, is."
"I think we can argue, in this age, that, in fact, every life matters - especially the disabled and the elderly."
The senator conceded that "the numbers are not in our favour" when it came to the looming vote on Mr Gaffney's bill in the upper house.
"In August, we will have two Legislative Council elections: one in Rosevears, another one in Huon," he said. "I would encourage you to get behind the most conservative of the candidates to ensure the vote in the upper house is as good as it might be."
"We will need many men and women to make representations to their local members of parliament. I would encourage you to become political activists."
The numbers are not in our favour.Eric Abetz, Liberal senator
When Mr Gaffney's bill is introduced, it will be the fourth time voluntary assisted dying has been debated in the State Parliament.
The final bill will contain eligibility criteria, including residential and age requirements. Those wishing to avail themselves of the proposed laws would need to prove they have a relevant medical condition that is serious, incurable and causes intolerable suffering. They would also need to have decision-making capacity.
Mr Gaffney said the legislation was "about the right to choose".
"That goes from the individual trying to think about voluntary assisted dying to the doctors," he said. "They have a right to volunteer for this - they don't have to do it."
"I think Tasmania is ready for this legislation from all the feedback I've been getting."
Labor has indicated that all its 13 members, in both houses, support voluntary assisted dying in principle, but will consider the legislation before deciding on how to vote.
In 2017, the last time the issue went to a vote in the parliament, Ms O'Connor and then Franklin Labor MHA Lara Giddings' legislation was defeated 8-16.
Currently, the majority of Legislative Council members are progressives. If the bill was to pass the upper house and then proceed to the lower house, and if Labor was to vote in a bloc, two Liberals, along with the Greens - who are expected to support the bill - would need to vote in favour of the legislation in order for it to pass.
As was the case three years ago, party politicians will be allowed a conscience vote.
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