The Examiner: Anti-assisted dying campaign stoking ‘shock and guilt’: Gaffney

Article by Rob Inglis, published in The Examiner (Tasmania) on 12 July 2020. The article is in response to our interview with Mike Gaffney MLC on his Tasmanian VAD Bill.

The politician behind the latest push for voluntary assisted dying laws in Tasmania says language used by the Australian Christian Lobby to describe his bill is "designed to shock or initiate guilt".

With the assistance of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, independent Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney has prepared a bill running more than 130 pages that, if passed, would legalise voluntary assisted dying in the state.

It represents the fourth time such laws have been brought before the Tasmanian Parliament. And Mr Gaffney hopes this time will be the last.

In a question-and-answer session with the National Secular Lobby, Mr Gaffney has outlined the process behind the bill and lamented the "emotive and inaccurate language" used by the ACL when discussing the proposed laws.

The ACL held its Tasmanian conference two weeks ago, where the subject of voluntary assisted dying was a hot topic.

Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous and Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz both spoke of their staunch opposition to Mr Gaffney's bill, describing voluntary assisted dying as "state-sanctioned suicide".

"I am somewhat saddened by the emotive and inaccurate language used by the ACL when speaking of the bill," Mr Gaffney told the NSL. "That language is, clearly, designed to shock or initiate guilt."

"All groups and individuals have a right to voice their opinion on any issue. However, no religious group should feel as though they should be able to influence policy-making in Australia.

"I have always believed that the decision-making of the state and the possible influence of the church should always remain separate."

Mr Gaffney said he had been "very pleased" with the largely positive response to his proposed legislation.

"I recognise that it's a huge task and that it's so important for current and future Tasmanians to have the right to choose," he said. "I'm pleased that I've undertaken this significant task for the people and for the state I love."

Senator Abetz told the ACL conference that "the numbers are not in our favour" when it came to the looming parliamentary vote on the issue of voluntary assisted dying.

Archbishop Porteous, meanwhile, urged attendees to "have confidence" that the campaign against the proposed laws would prove successful, as previous campaigns had in the past.

"Let's go forward hoping and trusting that God will guide us and help us," Archbishop Porteous said.

Mr Gaffney's bill is expected to be tabled in the upper house in late August.