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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 2861


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (14:23): My question was selected as the people's question on civic activist website—

The SPEAKER: The member will get to his question.

Mr BANDT: and is to the Prime Minister. Eighty per cent of Australians believe that terminally ill people—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will recommence his question and the clock will start again.

Mr BANDT: Eighty per cent of Australians believe that terminally ill people—

The SPEAKER: To whom is the question directed?

Mr BANDT: My question is to the Prime Minister.

The SPEAKER: Would the member now repeat his question.

Mr BANDT: Eighty per cent of Australians believe that terminally ill people who request aid in dying with dignity should be supported. Why doesn't the federal government take over the issue of end-of-life decision making, which affects every single citizen as well as the medical and nursing professions? Prime Minister, will you institute an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:24): I thank the member for Melbourne for his question and understand that he is asking it on behalf of others who have raised this issue outside the House. The issue of euthanasia is clearly one where people have personal and deeply held views. Whenever the matter has come before the parliament it has been dealt with as a conscience vote, and I believe that that is appropriate. It is the sort of question on which community members from different walks of life will have different views. It is not something that breaks down, if you like, against the political spectrum. It is quite a different kind of issue than that.

It is not the intention of the Australian government to bring to the parliament any legislation dealing with voluntary euthanasia. Of course, in the parliament, parliamentarians as individuals have their rights, and if someone wanted to bring such a proposition as a private member's bill, that is possible, but the Australian government has no intention of bringing such a bill to the parliament.

We do have a very key focus on supporting people as they move towards the end of their life. One of the things that enliven the debate about euthanasia is people's fears and concerns about how they would be treated when they were at the end stage of life. I think many people in this parliament, through community links, through their own family, through having aged parents and relatives, have probably had to confront some of these questions in their own life. The quality of palliative care, the quality of care that we offer our older Australians, is very important to families, to older Australians and to the nation overall.

The approach that the government has taken is that we are determined to have a quality national palliative care system. We are working with states and territories on that through the 2010 National Palliative Care Strategy—Supporting Australians to Live Well at the End of Life. We are involved in a very important reform discussion about aged care. I know that in the gallery today there are a number of people who have come to parliament to raise with parliamentarians issues on behalf of older Australians. The minister, Mark Butler, has been making an important contribution, leading that conversation around the nation, and at the appropriate point the government will respond to what we have learned in those discussions.

The SPEAKER: I now give the call to the honourable member for Robertson.

Mr Bandt: Mr Speaker, a supplementary question—

The SPEAKER: I am sorry; I do apologise to the honourable member for Melbourne. I did not see him and I did give the call to the honourable member for Robertson. To be consistent, I have to give her the call. I apologise to the honourable member. The member for Robertson has the call.