Dear Murray Hindle at Dying with Dignity WA,
By now you will have heard the very disappointing news that our Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill failed to pass in the NSW Upper House by one vote. The final vote, taken at 11.15 pm last night, was 19 votes in favour, 20 opposed. We always knew that it would be close, but to lose by just one vote is a blow to all of us.
The morning started off well with a great gathering of members and supporters wearing blue DWD T-shirts, and holding placards in front of Parliament House. There was lots of media present, and our issue and the imminent debate received lots of coverage on TV, radio, print and digital media.
Shayne Higson and Penny Hackett from our Dying with Dignity board have done a huge amount of work in preparation for the bill, including organising information packages for all MPs, visiting and lobbying MPs, liaising with media, doing interviews, managing social media and creating an online platform that enabled supporters to quickly and easily email MPs over the last few weeks. They have essentially been working full-time on the campaign (unpaid of course) over many months, and both have been dynamos.
Dr Liz Jacka has also been working very hard behind the scenes, and many of you will have received a phone call or email from Liz as part of our campaign of engagement with MPs.
My thanks also go to the rest of the DWD NSW board for their dedication and hard work over the last few months, including Dee Johnson, Fiona Jackson, Judith Daley and Philip Busfield.
Our Executive Officer, Gabrielle Brown, has worked long hours across seven days for many months to maintain our website and provide the administrative support for our dynamic campaign.
I am extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work of our fabulous team.
Shayne and Penny spoke to every Upper House MP who was willing to meet with them, and we were able to predict how most would vote. We knew that the final count would be extremely close. Shayne, Penny, Gabrielle, Fiona and I remained at Parliament House until the end of the debate. We listened to 37 speeches, many going for the full 20 minutes that was allocated, and we were hopeful until the end.
It was instructive watching ‘democracy at work’. Many speeches were straight out of our religious opponents’ handbook, and many (including, paradoxically, Liberal MPs) cited Paul Keating’s dire warnings of disastrous consequences should the bill be passed. Several made references to God and their religion in describing the reasons for opposing the bill.
Trevor Khan’s speech at the end of the long day was excellent. He persuasively rebutted the spurious arguments of opponents, and made some powerful points. Unfortunately it appeared that most MPs had made up their minds before the debate, and all voted consistently with the stand they declared in their speeches. At the end, Trevor promised to resubmit the bill if this one failed, but we don’t have the energy to think about that at the moment.
Most importantly, I want to say thank you to all of our members and supporters for your efforts to help us get this bill through. Several MPs commented on the huge volume of letters and contacts they received from DWD supporters. Some read out personal letters of support to the Parliament.
I also want to say thank you for the very generous donations that we received from many of you during 2017, and especially in the lead-up to the bill's presentation to Parliament. You have been incredibly big-hearted, and I am so sorry that we could not deliver a happier outcome.
I have also thanked Trevor and his team for all their hard work, as they are also undoubtedly feeling deflated. Upon reflection, I think we all could not have done any more than we did. I am very sad for all the terminally-ill people in NSW, including Annie Gabrielides, who may now miss out on having the end-of-life choice they deserve. I hope that Trevor will indeed try again before too long, when the time is right, and that we will have bounced back by that time.
Meanwhile, DWD Victoria is going through the excruciating process of watching the Victorian Upper House debate their Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill clause by clause. We really hope that this Australian state will be successful in seeing an assisted dying bill become law in 2017.
My very best wishes to all,
Dying with Dignity NSW