Victoria forges ahead
Voluntary assisted dying laws won’t please the religious right
Voluntary assisted dying laws come into effect in Victoria today, underlining the state’s claim to be the most progressive in Australia – and not without coincidence, the state branch of the Liberal Party is in factional turmoil. Under Labor premier Daniel Andrews, Victoria is showing that it is possible to have difficult debates on topics such as euthanasia or an Indigenous treaty and find a way forward, rather than sweeping things under the carpet. The Victorian Liberals’ religious right can’t stand it, but they’re on the back foot as the moderates try to bring their party back to the sensible centre.
After Andrews’ landslide victory last November, former PM John Howard was rightly lampooned for his ahistorical observation that Victoria was “the Massachusetts of Australia”. But Howard’s backhander did unintentionally highlight that Victoria is moving ahead, while his own New South Wales turns into a police state, where strip searches have almost doubled, and which is run by the likes of Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, educated by Opus Dei, whose third budget handed down yesterday had plenty of money for private schools, no money for emissions reduction, and proposed to sack 2000 to 3000 public servants.
An overwhelming majority of Australians have long supported voluntary euthanasia. Andrew Denton’s gut-wrenching Better Off Deadpodcast was a milestone that helped create momentum for legislative reform in Victoria, championed by the Greens and Fiona Patten’s former Sex Party (now Reason). As The Age explained yesterday, the resulting assisted dying laws contain 68 safeguards and have been described as the most conservative of their kind. Andrews toldRN Breakfast this morning that he was “very proud to have tackled this issue. It is a difficult issue, but the difficulty that politicians experience in making laws like this, really, that’s nothing compared to the suffering and the pain that so many patients have endured for so long.” Hear, hear.
Similar schemes might be in place around the country if it weren’t for conservatives, like Howard, who in 1997 passed an act which overturned the Northern Territory’s own groundbreaking euthanasia laws, and banned the ACT and NT from legalising assisted suicide. How much unnecessary pain has that caused?
The religious right is on the march after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s surprise win, and they have been given a platform in the religious discrimination act proposed following Phillip Ruddock’s religious freedoms review, as The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray wrote recently and discussed on the 7am podcast today.
The battle is being fought out in the Liberal Party’s Victorian branch, where today there is a row over the replacement of outgoing senator Mitch Fifield. The moderate Sarah Henderson, who narrowly lost her Corangamite seat, was thought to be a front-runner for the Senate position, but now faces a challenge. Earlier this week The Age reported on a string of racist and homophobic messages, including some by religious right Liberal powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan and others. The Victorian Liberals’ own internal culture war is raging, with a group of moderates recently pushing for the state to trial pill-testing, which even Premier Andrews has resisted.
Victorian Liberals are a diminished presence inside the Morrison Coalition government, notwithstanding that the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, is deputy leader. In the lower house, for example, Queensland is the strongest state with 23 MPs, while NSW has 22 and Victoria just 15. This is an uncomfortable situation for the party of Menzies, our longest-serving prime minister. Any progress that the religious right makes on religious freedom in this term of parliament could make it harder for the Liberals to ever regain power in the country’s most progressive states.
“Governments need to realise that they cannot solve the problems of our people without our full involvement and without resourcing our organisations to deliver the services that are so badly needed. Governments have tried for far too long to do this and they are not good at it.”
Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, comments on the Australian National Audit Office’s critical review of former prime minister Tony Abbott’s multibillion-dollar Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
“The leftist media are keen to brainwash Australians to accept destructive ideologies that undermine the values that our country was founded upon, and … some of us cannot freely speak about without being labelled an incorrect term.”
Professor Adrian Cheok, a candidate for former senator Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party and an expert on robot sex, defends his recent award of an Order of Australia, which is now being questioned.
“The appellant provided his semen to facilitate the artificial conception of his daughter on the express or implied understanding that he would be the child’s parent; that he would be registered on her birth certificate as her parent, as he is; and that he would, as her parent, support and care for her, as since her birth he has done. Accordingly, to characterise the appellant as a ‘sperm donor’ is in effect to ignore all but one of the facts and circumstances which, in this case, have been held to be determinative.”
“James Balcombe looked nothing like your classic crime don. He may have been wearing a black suit in court, but his dishevelled mien, like that of a man leaving work drinks at 3am, lent the garment the gravitas of a tracksuit. Nor did Balcombe – whose business, Awesome Party Hire, supplied inflatable jumping castles for fetes and children’s parties – look overly concerned as people accused him of undercutting competitors, of threatening ‘to come after’ a witness if he worked for his competitors, and of orchestrating the firebombings of a string of rival bouncy-castle businesses.”
“Cyclone Yasi was tough for everyone, but for Kylie Hibberd – who is deaf and blind – the Category 5 monster brought greater challenges when it crossed the Queensland coast in February 2011. Fortunately, Hibberd was well prepared ... While Hibberd suffered no major ill effects, many people with disability don’t fare well in natural disasters.”
“Few at last week’s concert by the glam and ethereal Costume at Hobart’s Odeon Theatre would have believed that this was his first live gig. With aggressively coiffed hair that added substantial height to his already towering, lithe figure, and makeup that recalled a mix of Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner, Klaus Nomi and Marilyn Manson, the artist performed a consistently haunting, sometimes rollicking and altogether beguiling set.”
The election result – and the impact of the religious vote – has put faith back on the national agenda. Martin McKenzie-Murray on the recommendations of the Ruddock review and the state of religious freedom.
Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?
Voluntary assisted dying laws come into effect in Victoria today, underlining the state’s claim to be the most progressive in Australia – and not without coincidence, the state branch of the Liberal Party is in factional turmoil. Under Labor premier Daniel Andrews, Victoria is showing that it is possible to have difficult debates on topics such as euthanasia or an Indigenous treaty and find a way forward, rather than sweeping things under the carpet. The Victorian Liberals’ religious right can’t stand it, but they’re on the back foot as the moderates try to bring their party back to the sensible...