Proponents fear bill will not pass Legislative Council without amendments – which would send it back to lower house
Supporters of Victoria’s voluntary euthanasia legislation say the vote in the upper house will be tight, with a number of MPs yet to declare their vote.
The Sex party founder and upper house MP Fiona Patten, who has pushed this version of the legislation since 2015, said she expected the vote would be “very close, but I feel that we will pass it”.
“It’s very close, and I know there’s been a lot of pressure on a lot of people,” she told Guardian Australia. “A lot of it has been political rather than anything to do with philosophy or the bill itself.”
Paul Price, political director of assisted dying advocacy organisation Go Gentle Australia, said the vote would be “tight”, increasing the pressure on MPs.
“Those same MPs should be reminded that for more than a decade and again in recent polling, more than three-quarters of Victorians support this law, and that the process and consultation preceding it has been rigorous and comprehensive.”
Patten said she was not concerned by reports on Monday that suggested previously undeclared MPs had switched their vote against the legislation, saying she had not considered those votes to be in the yes camp.
She also said she did not think a warning against the legislation by the former prime minister Paul Keating had swayed many votes.
A bigger concern was the possibility that the legislation would not pass without amendment, which would mean it would have to return to run the gauntlet of the lower house again.
More than 300 amendments were proposed during the lower house debate last week, all of which failed.
The Australian Conservatives MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins said she would not propose any amendments, saying: “I don’t think it’s salvageable.”
But she expected that others would, and said the government did not have the numbers in the upper house to sweep them aside.
There are 14 Labor MPs in the Victorian Legislative Council, as well as 14 Liberal MPs, five Greens, two members of the Shooters and Fishers party, and three, including Carling-Jenkins and Patten, representing micro-parties.
The third micro-party member, James Purcell, from the Vote 1 Local Jobs party, has said he will go back to his electorate now that it appears his could be the deciding vote.
“The way declared voting currently sits it seems likely that my vote will decide whether voluntary assisted dying becomes law,” he said in a statement on Monday. “This is a major decision – a life-changing decision – and while I support the bill personally, I think it’s important that I represent my community in this vote and take into consideration both sides of this incredibly sensitive issue before casting my vote.”
The upper house will begin debating the legislation on Thursday next week. Carling-Jenkins said it was unlikely to begin discussing amendments until Friday evening, which meant the final vote would not be held until the following week.
Unlike the lower house, the decision to extend the sitting house of the upper house requires the consent of all members. If they did vote to sit through until the committee process has been completed, Carling-Jenkins said, they could easily run from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t have a sense that the upper house is willing to do that,” she said. “They think 30 hours sitting in the lower house was a lot – we could do double that. Easily.”
– The Guardian, 24.10.17, Photo by Meredith O’Shea for the Guardian