Health Minister Greg Hunt says he opposes a push by crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm to give the ACT and Northern Territory the right to legalise euthanasia.
Mr Hunt said he was opposed to euthanasia in principle and would vote against Senator Leyonhjelm’s legislation if it passed the Senate and a vote ensued in the House of Representatives.
“While I support the right for people to refuse treatment I don’t support the extra step of euthanasia,” Mr Hunt said in Canberra this morning.
Mr Hunt said he was not persuaded by the argument the territories should be in control of their own destiny on the issue, just like his home state of Victoria, where doctor assisted suicide was legislated to come into effect in 2019 last year.
Mr Hunt said legalising euthanasia could send a message to older Australians that they were not valued.
“Having spoken to many medical professionals, I know there are differing views but the view that has been predominantly put to me and also the view I have formed myself is that, I don’t support euthanasia in Australia for the very simple message that it sends to older Australians about how they are valued,” Mr Hunt said.
“But I respect everyone can and should be entitled to different views on this, I have deep respect on alternative views.”
Mr Hunt noted his late father, former Victorian upper house MP Alan Hunt, crossed the floor on a bill that gave terminal patients the right to refuse treatment.
“I support the right for people to refuse to take treatment, indeed my father crossed the floor on that bill some decades ago and in his own final week made that decision based off the very legislation that he passed, so it is something I know very well,” he said.
The Australian has confirmed a majority of senators are leaning towards voting in favour of Senator Leyonhjelm’s bill, which would overturn a 20-year-old federal government ban on the territories legalising euthanasia.
But Malcolm Turnbull is understood to be considering blocking the bill from coming to a vote if it gets to the lower house.
Senator Leyonhjelm has said such a move from the Prime Minister would break a promise he was given in return for supporting the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
“Now if they think that they can just walk away from deals then obviously the rest of the crossbench will also take that into account. It will totally compromise the ability of people like Mathias Cormann to deal with the crossbench on issues such as company tax,” Mr Leyonhjelm told The Australian on Sunday.
“They need my vote, they need the crossbench vote in the Senate, we’ve got at least until the end of June next year with the current Senate and it would be a very high price that they pay if they reneged on a very clear deal.”