Tasmania on verge of euthanasia laws

Premier Peter Gutwein is one of six Liberal MPs who have voted to legalise voluntary assisted dying.
Premier Peter Gutwein is one of six Liberal MPs who have voted to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

Tasmania appears set to become the third Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying with the legislation gaining broad support in the state's lower house.

Seventeen of the island's 25-strong House of Assembly have voted for the reform to move to the next stage, although a final vote won't be held until next year.

If the bill passes, Tasmania will join Victoria and Western Australia in allowing euthanasia.

Six Liberal government MPs voiced their support as did all nine members of Labor and both Greens.

Premier Peter Gutwein and deputy Jeremy Rockliff were among those who backed the reform, despite voting against similar legislation three years ago.

It is the fourth time Tasmania has tried to legalise voluntary assisted dying after failed attempts in 2009, 2013 and 2017.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney was another who spoke in support of the bill, which last month passed unanimously through the upper house.

She said she accepted there are a "range of views" in the community and the chamber but the contest of ideas would produce a robust law.

"We should not shy away from legislating voluntary assisted dying because it's tricky," Ms Courtney said.

Former health minister and devout Christian Michael Ferguson was one of seven members who voted against the bill.

He said there was no law that could completely end pain and the state had a duty to provide better palliative care.

"The foundation of law in western civilisation is the prohibition of intentional killing," he said.

"In the misdirected attempt to end all suffering, that foundation is being undermined and eroded."

The reform was backed by a petition containing 13,000 signatures which was earlier tabled in parliament.

Before an expected vote in March, MPs will receive a University of Tasmania review comparing the bill to laws in Victoria and WA, as well as other countries.

Under the laws, people over 18 with an advanced, incurable, irreversible condition expected to cause death within six months can end their lives.

They must have decision-making capacity and be acting voluntarily and can opt out of the procedure at any time.

If passed, it is expected the laws will become active from mid-2022.

Australian Associated Press