Victorian MPs are being “bombarded” with emails and calls as opponents of assisted dying legislation make a last-ditch attempt to stop the state legalising voluntary euthanasia.
One legislator has reported receiving “abhorrent” messages from “no” campaigners as the final hurdle of the legislative process approaches.
The pressure has been stepped up as the nation’s largest doctors’ group, the Royal College of General Practitioners, throws its support behind the Andrews’ government’s legislative model, saying it should be a blueprint for national reform.
But in the wake of the legislation’s passage through the state parliament’s lower house after a marathon sitting last week, upper house MPs have told Fairfax Media that efforts to persuade them to reject the bill have only intensified.
Upper house President Bruce Atkinson, who remains undecided, said he expected it could take up to three sitting weeks to deal with the legislation – meaning that lobbyists could have until November 30 to campaign.
With the passage of the laws’ through the state’s upper house far from assured, the pro and anti camps have stepped up their lobbying of the 40 Legislative Council members, especially the small group of MPs who have not publicly declared a position.
Liberal MP Simon Ramsay said his office was fielding constant calls on the issue and up to 40 emails a day.
He said opponents accounted for the majority of the correspondence on this issue with some accusing him of being a “party to inflicting suicide” if he supports the bill.
“I find that pretty abhorrent,” he said.
The Geelong-based politician said he remained undecided but would speak to doctors whom he respected to help guide his vote.
“I can vote either way at this stage,” Mr Ramsay said.
The government’s leader in the upper house, Gavin Jennings, said the assisted dying bill could potentially go down to the wire.
“I think most people have made up their mind but they are being subjected to last-minute lobbying,” he said.
Mr Jennings said there were some undecided MPs who would be supportive of the legislation but were facing community and political pressure every day.
Liberal MP David Davis said he would oppose the legislation, saying it was a flawed bill.
“I think it will put at risk many vulnerable Victorians,” he said. “What is being proposed in this bill steps into a new zone that’s a bridge too far.”
And vocal opponent of the voluntary euthanasia bill Bernie Finn promised he would continue lobbying his upper house colleagues to oppose it until the final vote.
Mr Atkinson said he was also receiving dozens of emails a day but they were not threatening or nasty.
Fellow Liberal MP Craig Ondarchie told Fairfax Media he understood both sides of the argument but the bill did not contain enough safeguards to allay his concerns and that coercion was a major worry.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Daniel Young confirmed he was likely to vote against the bill although he was still undecided.
Mr Young said he and fellow party member Jeff Bourman always voted together on legislation, but in this case they would vote independently.
Mr Bourman described his position as “not philosophically opposed” to assisted dying but he had concerns about the “practicality of it”.
Vote 1 Local Jobs MP James Purcell said he personally supported the bill but would seek public opinion before casting his vote.
Meanwhile the GPs group’s president, Dr Bastian Seidel said the “ethical and professional issues associated with voluntary assisted dying” had been well covered by the bill and he called on other states to follow the Victorian approach.
“The RACGP is satisfied that appropriate safeguards for patients, relatives, and medical and health practitioners have been put in place in the legislation,” Dr Seidel said.
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