LEADERS of Queensland’s largest Christian churches are shocked and disappointed after the Queensland Premier revealed a Labor plan to fast-track voluntary assisted dying (VAD) legislation if it wins the state election on October 31.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk used Labor’s election launch on October 18, a day before early voting started, to promise she would introduce legislation into Parliament in February 2021 if the party is re-elected.
The Premier had previously committed to draft VAD legislation being prepared by the independent Queensland Law Reform Commission and to provide its report to parliament on March 1 next year.
Brisbane Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said the Premier’s latest announcement completely contradicted her earlier commitment to await the independent commission’s advice.
“This development is deeply disappointing,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“As I have said in other statements, while the Catholic Church is opposed to voluntary assisted dying it strongly supports a ‘care first’ approach of high-quality palliative care for all Queenslanders, respect for patient autonomy, preservation of personal dignity and a peaceful end to life.
“Nobody is morally compelled to suffer unbearable pain, nobody should feel like a burden, and nobody should feel that their life is worthless.”
“But it’s every Queenslander’s human right to have equal access to good quality palliative care before parliament considers a policy default to euthanasia. It is certainly not something to be rushed, least of all at a time like this when suicide is a national problem.
“It’s a strange contradiction that euthanasia and shut borders seem to be the platforms this government is taking to the electorate – one to jeopardise life and the other to protect life.”
At Labor’s election launch in Beenleigh, attended by party faithful, Ms Palaszczuk stood centre stage while the song “I won’t back down” boomed across a plumbing training warehouse.
She said a re-elected ALP government would fast-track the independent Law Reform Commission review and its draft legislation, and give Labor MPs a conscience vote.
“I believe families should be empowered to consider all the options available,” Ms Palaszczuk told supporters.
“That’s why today I can commit that the government I lead will introduce (VAD) legislation in February next year to provide for the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying.”
The Premier promised $171m for palliative care funding – although doctors, health professionals and carers say far more is needed to make palliative care available across the state.
Palliative Care Queensland, the sector’s peak body, AMA Queensland and community groups from across the state that have called for a more-than tripling of funding – from the current $110 million each year to $385 million
Archbishop Aspinall said he was disappointed at the Palaszczuk Government’s continued underfunding for palliative care.
He said high quality care should be made available for all Queenslanders regardless of where they lived.
“If good palliative care is available when people are faced with a terminal illness, the choice for a great majority of people is very different and many of their concerns and fears can be allayed,” Archbishop Aspinall said.
“This should also include funding for spiritual care which is an indispensable element of end of life care.”
You can read the terms of reference for Queensland Law Reform Commission inquiry here