Resumed from 3 December. The Chair of Committees (Hon Simon O’Brien) in the chair; Hon Stephen Dawson (Minister for Environment) in charge of the bill.

Clause 99: Inducing another person to request or access voluntary assisted dying —

Progress was reported after the clause had been partly considered.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon NICK GOIRAN: I move —

Page 66, after line 24 — To insert —

(3) A person commits a crime if —

(a) the person, by dishonesty, undue influence or coercion, induces another person —

(i) to make a request for access to voluntary assisted dying; or

(ii) to access voluntary assisted dying; and

(b) as a consequence, the other person accesses voluntary assisted dying and dies. Penalty for this subsection: imprisonment for life.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to indicate that I have some sympathy for this amendment, but I am still listening to the debate as it unfolds. We need to remember that we are attempting with this legislation to enshrine the principle of individual choice, which we should cherish, and ensure that people are genuinely consenting to voluntary assisted dying. We have gone to a great amount of pain to do this and reinforce how important it is for people to have that personal choice. In the course of my second reading contribution I expressed my concerns about the way that coercion could occur, partly around elder abuse, but also for people with disability, who had expressed deep concern to me about the way coercive factors can work in their lives, and how important it is for them that we ensure that we have appropriate safeguards. We have incorporated a number of processes in this bill to ensure some oversight by practitioners to make sure that coercion does not occur, and we have debated those at length. But it strikes me that we need to look at the penalties that will apply when those safeguards are bypassed and problems emerge. It is important that, as much as possible, this legislation provides disincentives for anyone attempting to abuse its provisions. I remind people who have been lobbying for a very long time for these provisions that it will take only one person to effectively be murdered through these provisions to potentially bring this entire regime tumbling down. I would think that anyone who is advocating for voluntary assisted dying would want to make sure that these provisions are being protected and that every measure is taken to avoid abuse.

We have strong penalties for what we call the “murder offences”, and it is very important that we do not differentiate too much between the penalties that various murder offences attract. It is problematic to talk about murder as defined in the Criminal Code when attracting a life sentence, but then murder in another circumstance, such as the one potentially foreseen here, being of somehow lesser status. I have stood in this place on multiple occasions and talked about industrial manslaughter and said that, as far as I am concerned, manslaughter, in this instance, whether it occurs at work or in other settings, should not be differentiated. Ultimately, if someone dies and someone could have or should have prevented that, there needs to be commensurate penalties. The same applies here. I have always argued that the same penalty should apply to industrial manslaughter as that which applies to regular manslaughter; therefore, I say that murder as it is effectively articulated here, needs to be replicated with our regular murder provision. Indeed, I see this as an important safeguard to maintain the entire regime of voluntary assisted dying, because it is a very, very strong deterrent. The sorts of situations I can foresee in which this might occur are when someone who might potentially be the recipient of a large amount of money puts undue pressure on someone to avail themselves of this. They may be very careful and scrupulous about keeping themselves out of the formal process of voluntary assisted dying so that they never come to the attention of the people who in good faith administer this process; nevertheless, evidence may come to light later that the person who died did not really wish to die but felt that they had no choice. I think in that situation, it is murder and we need commensurate penalties. I am very sympathetic to the principle behind this. I see it as an important protective factor of the regime as a whole, but it is also critical that we do everything possible to make sure that people do not access voluntary assisted dying if they really do not want to.

Comments and speeches from various members


Amendment, as amended, put and a division taken, the Deputy Chair (Hon Martin Aldridge) casting his vote with the ayes, with the following result —

Ayes (16)

Noes (18)

Amendment, as amended, thus negatived.

Clause put and passed.

Comments and speeches from various members

Clause 158: CEO may approve training —

Hon NICK GOIRAN: We had a discussion on clause 100 about training being provided to doctors to identify undue influence and coercion. The minister might remember that I flagged that I had this amendment standing in my name. I now move —

Page 93, lines 10 and 11 — To delete “abuse or coercion;” and substitute —

abuse, coercion, duress or undue influence;

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to indicate some concern about this amendment. I want to be very clear that when we had the debate previously about incorporating the words “duress or undue influence” after the words “abuse” and “coercion”, I was quite happy to have that additional explanation in the clause. I am concerned that incorporating those words in this clause may have the unintended consequence of minimising previous provisions in the bill that refer only to abuse and coercion. When we had the debate on this issue previously, as I heard it, we were assured that abuse and coercion in the broadest possible sense was intended to incorporate elements of duress and undue influence. On that basis, I hope that the bill will be read as incorporating all four elements automatically within the use of those two terms. I am concerned that by somehow introducing the two terms at this point in the bill, it may serve to undermine the assertion that abuse and coercion as previously described are intended to incorporate all four elements. Can the minister please confirm that the way the words “abuse” and “coercion” are used previously in the bill is automatically intended to include duress or undue influence? Of course, if they do not include duress or undue influence, we should look at incorporating those terms. Otherwise, I do not want to inadvertently undermine the full effect of the clause in which these words appear previously in the bill.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon NICK GOIRAN: I seek leave to alter the amendment standing in my name to delete “, duress”.

Amendment, by leave, altered.


Amendment, as altered, put and a division taken, the Deputy Chair (Hon Martin Aldridge) casting his vote with the ayes, with the following result —

Ayes (17)

Noes (18)

Amendment, as altered, thus negatived.

Clause put and passed.

Comments and speeches from various members

Title put and passed.


Bill reported, with amendments, and, by leave, the report adopted.

As to Third Reading

HON STEPHEN DAWSON (Mining and Pastoral — Minister for Environment) [12.57 am]: I move — That the third reading of the bill be made an order of the day for the next sitting of the house.

Question put and passed.


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