In late 2017 Australia's two biggest states, NSW and Victoria, debated voluntary assisted dying bills.
In New South Wales, a cross-party working group spent two years consulting a range of key stakeholder organisations and took the best parts of similar legislation across the world to draft the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017. In May they released a Public Consultation Draft and after further amendments, the Bill was introduced into the NSW Upper House on 21st September.
Unfortunately, following a debate that continued into the night, the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 failed to pass in the NSW Upper House by one vote. All MPs were given a conscience vote (apart from the 5 Greens who supported it as party policy and the 2 Christian Democrats who opposed it as the policy of their party). The final vote, taken at 11.15 pm on Thursday 16 November 2017, was 19 votes in favour, 20 opposed.
In Victoria, the process had also been impeccable. Following a 10-month Parliamentary Inquiry Into End Of Life Choices, the most comprehensive of its kind ever held in Australia, the cross-party committee tabled its report one year ago, which included a recommendation to introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation. In December 2016, the Premier, Daniel Andrews, and his health minister, Jill Hennessy, announced they would follow that recommendation and they appointed a Ministerial Advisory Panel to draft their legislation led by former AMA President, Professor Brian Owler.
On 29 November 2017, less than two weeks after the NSW VAD Bill failed to pass, the Victorian Parliament made history by becoming the first Australian state to approve the introduction of a voluntary assisted dying scheme. After more than 100 hours of debate across both houses of the Victorian Parliament and two demanding all-night sittings, Lower House MPs ratified the Victorian Government’s amended Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill.
Outside Parliament House, Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, told reporters that “This is a day of reform, a day of compassion and a day of giving control to those who are terminally ill….I’m proud we have put compassion right at the centre of our parliamentary and political process."