Assisted dying bill could be brought back to NSW parliament
ASSISTED dying legislation could be brought back to NSW parliament this year with a group of MPs looking at reviving the divisive issue just months after the decriminalisation of abortion.
Upper house Nationals MP Trevor Khan is leading a working group who are "again looking at the issue" after a bill he introduced in 2017 failed to pass through the Legislative Council by just one vote.
Western Australia and Victoria have passed assisted dying legislation, while Queensland and South Australia have initiated parliamentary inquiries into the issue.
But some furious Liberal MPs say it is the "last thing the government needs" given the state is still on fire and that the focus is on the recovery effort.
Introducing new legislation would also put Gladys Berejiklian in a difficult position.
The Premier has told colleagues there will be no more conscience votes in this term of government after the disastrous handling of the abortion bill, which at one point threatened to split the Liberal Party.
She has also demanded that no government MPs be involved in cross-party working groups again.
Mr Khan said he understood that "following abortion reform the appetite of the parliament to consider another contentious social reform is not great".
The Nationals MP was a key backer of the abortion bill, which he helped draft alongside Labor's Penny Sharpe and independent MP Alex Greenwich.
"We have much work to do in convincing colleagues of the appropriateness of the (assisted dying) reform before, and I emphasise before, we introduce a bill," Mr Khan said.
"When parliament resumes our group will meet and consider what's next."
The lower house will return to sit on February 4 while both houses will sit on the 25th.
Mr Khan also said the "gestation" of the assisted dying issue had been "very long" and that he had committed to reintroducing a bill before the last election.
"That said, I don't think now is the time for a variety of reasons including the need for the parliament to work together on the (bushfire) recovery effort," he added.
Mr Khan said he had not instructed the Parliamentary Counsel's Office to start drafting the legislation and that "no detailed consideration has been given to a bill".
One concerned Liberal MP said: "We're dealing with a crisis and emergency relief and given the party tore itself apart over the abortion law reform process this sort of diversion is potentially terminal."
"It would be a gross misadventure and against the Premier's strong view there will be no more conscience votes in this term of parliament," they added.
Liberal MPs Tanya Davies and Kevin Conolly last year threatened to move to the crossbench over key abortion amendments but decided to remain in the party after most of their demands were met.
Another Liberal MP said: "This is a time to unite people in the parliament in a common cause rather than dividing them".
"Not to be supporting a common outcome of recovery is just self-indulgent," they added.
A senior Liberal MP agreed, saying it was "disappointing to see a Nationals parliamentarian putting his priority elsewhere".
Upper house Greens MP Cate Faehrmann is one member of the working group.
She said she was "committed to seeing dying with dignity laws pass in NSW during this term of parliament".
"Adults with a terminal illness living in WA and Vic now have the choice to die with dignity, surely we can extend that choice to people in NSW too?" she said.
"Right now in NSW, there are a handful of people with excruciatingly painful terminal illnesses including Motor Neurone Disease who are desperate to die with dignity."
"We owe it to these people to get this done and I'll be working collaboratively with members from all sides of politics to do this."
One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham said he was "surprised that a Nationals MP Khan, instead of focusing on helping NSW regions recover from bushfires and drought, has been advancing a private members bill like this".
Mr Latham is not part of the group.