Queensland opposition leader David Crisafulli will vote against voluntary assisted dying, throwing a late curve ball to the passing of the historic legislation to be voted on this week.
The state Liberal-National Party leader has repeatedly refused to reveal his position on the controversial bill but on Tuesday declared the proposed law failed to provide a “free choice” to those who are terminally ill.
The overwhelmingly supported legislation is likely to pass in state parliament this week, making Queensland the fifth state to adopt euthanasia laws.
Under the proposal, Queenslanders will be eligible for voluntary assisted death if they are expected to die within 12 months. But Mr Crisafulli said this was a concern, given palliative care services were only available to those with three months to live.
“I believe the intention of the bill is to offer choice, but the reality is that it offers choice on a sliding scale that is in proportion to the size of your bank account or where you live,” he told parliament.
“But most importantly it breaks a fundamental tenet of our society — that human life is sacrosanct.
“While my heart hurts for people facing great pain and terminal illness, I can’t assist them to die via flawed legislation.
“I can’t support something that offers the assistance of the state to terminate their life, the same state that does not give them the option of specialist palliative care in the same time frame.”
The health sector has lobbied for funding to support palliative care in the state, concerned the expected introduction of voluntary assisted death would create a greater emphasis on death rather than care.
But the Queensland government has committed an additional $171 million for the speciality treatment over six years, with deputy premier Steven Miles assuring end-of-life care would be consistent when the new law is accessible.
“Good palliative care should start the day someone is diagnosed and continue until their final days, whether they access voluntary assisted dying or not,” he told parliament.
“But for the very small number of people whose suffering cannot be eased, voluntary assisted dying should be available at that person’s request.
“This week in parliament, each one of us has a chance to vote for fewer bad deaths. To honour our loved ones lives with a good death. Surrounded by loved ones and free from pain.”
Both major parties have granted their MPs conscience votes on the highly sensitive bill, with Mr Miles admitting “voluntary assisted dying won’t be for everyone, and that should be respected”.
“Dying and death are deeply personal issues and for some people, the idea of voluntary assisted dying goes against their deeply held beliefs,” the deputy premier said.
“People who are opposed don’t have to make that choice for themselves, and they don’t have to be involved in the process.
“Voluntariness is the cornerstone of the scheme. The Bill respects these views, enabling both practitioners and institutions to elect not to be involved.
“The Bill provides mechanisms for individuals and institutions to not participate, while also ensuring all Queenslanders who are dying have access to what would become a legal and recognised option for them.”