Everyone should have the right to choose

Two hands holding the hand of an elderly person. There is a pink blanket in the background.

*Speech delivered 1 December 2022

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this amendment, even though I won't be supporting it.

I find it really strange that we are standing here debating whether or not the territories should have the option or not to decide something for themselves. The people in the territories should have the same rights to choose as the states do. It's as simple as that. It shouldn't matter what the topic or issue is. 

I find it sad that I am being asked to stand here and vote about this, that I as a Tasmanian have the responsibility to decide whether or not territories get to decide issues for themselves. If you hadn't guessed, I am 100 per cent in favour of this bill and I think we should pass it without delay.

People are focusing on the end result of this bill, that the ACT and Northern Territory will legislate voluntary assisted dying. They're opposing the bill based on that, but that's not all this bill is about. It's about the territories' rights to make these decisions for themselves. It's not a surprise that this has become a debate about morals and voluntary assisted dying. I've always said that if I stay true to my moral compass in this place I'll be okay. My moral compass is that there's nothing wrong with making sure people can make their own choice, the one that is best for themselves and their families. They are the only ones who should be able to do this.

I stand here tonight, and I am so proud of Tassie and what we have in place. Voluntary assisted dying has been legal for one month in our state now. I know it is early days and there are still a few challenges to overcome. However, Tasmanians have the right to overcome this as Tasmanians see fit—without interference. I would like to give a shout-out to Mike Gaffney MLC for the amazing work he did on our bill. He spent years working on this legislation, and it was a very long campaign. So many brave people stood up and told their stories, stories about family members who went through so much, and in a perfect world they wouldn't need to. 

Jacqui and Natalie Gray led the campaign in memory of their beautiful mama. Their tireless efforts did not go unnoticed by the Tassie community. Jacqui and Natalie, from one Tasmanian to another, thank you.

My fellow senators in this chamber have told similar stories. Senator Hume stood up and told her story only a few months ago. It was powerful to hear from someone, who once voted against this issue, who has now gone through that experience and now will vote for this bill. It was an incredibly meaningful contribution to this debate. I thank Senator Hume for her courage and for sharing her story with us.

I can't imagine ever being in a position where I or someone that I love is told that our time on this earth is coming to an end. If I was I would want the option to decide how I go. Spending months or years in pain with no quality of life is not something anyone should be forced to go through.

I understand there are people in this chamber who aren't supportive of this bill or voluntary assisted dying. I respect your right to have that opinion. It's not for me to stand here and tell you what to think or feel. But, my thoughts are this: why does it matter to the rest of us if someone chooses to end their own suffering?

This sky isn't going to fall in because John from across the road had the option and chose peace. Voluntary assisted dying should be an individual choice. It doesn't matter what I think, what the Senate thinks, what this parliament thinks, all that matters is that people are allowed to make the choice that best suits them, their family and their circumstances.

This week there have been lobbyists running around the hallways of parliament—no surprise there. They've been lurking in people's doorways demanding them to make changes to the bill. They've been doing the rounds once, twice—maybe even three times for some offices. I don't think these people are even from the territories. I don't think what they've been doing is okay. 

Who are they to say that people in the ACT and the Northern Territory can't make this decision for themselves? Who are they to try and take away the choice for the ACT and the Northern Territory to decide from themselves when they themselves have that right?

For everyone in the ACT and the Northern Territory, I am sorry that you are being treated as second-class citizens, as if you shouldn't have the same rights as the states to decide for yourselves what is best for you. You have my full support. It has never been a question for me that this is the right thing to do.