13 Nov 2019

The End of Life Choice Debate: in pictures and the words of MPs

From The House , 11:18 pm on 13 November 2019

Wednesday November 13 dawns at Parliament like any day, but this particular Members' Wednesday is one that some MPs have spent years anticipating with dread while others have done so with hope. David Seymour's End of Life Choice member's bill is receiving a third and final reading debate.

A successful bill goes to a public referendum at the next election; a failed bill is consigned to history, as two other similarly themed bills have been before it. 

But the day is busy well before anyone starts debating.     

Lunchtime Protestors against the End of Life Choice Bill

Lunchtime brings a few hundred End of Life Choice Bill protesters to Parliament's front lawn. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Wheelchair user Claire Freeman speaks to lunchtime protestors against the End of life Choice Bill

Among the protest speakers is Claire Freeman who sees the allowance of death for the terminally ill will expand to other groups, such as the disabled. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Lunchtime Protestors against the End of Life Choice Bill

Where protesters are, there also are cameras and costumes. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

NZ Sign Language interpreter Melissa Sutton (Ngāti Maniapoto) in the Parliament TV sign studio

 NZ Sign Language interpreter Melissa Sutton (Ngāti Maniapoto) warms up for a pre-debate photo in the Parliament TV sign studio. She and her fellow deaf sign interpreters watch the live TV feed of Parliament and add  NZSL to the broadcast in real time.  Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

As the Bill's sponsor, David Seymour gives the first speech. He must sit quietly and listen to nearly three more hours before MPs make a final call on his bill.

As the Bill's sponsor, ACT leader David Seymour gets the opening speech.  Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"If some people are suffering at the end of their life, do we say to them that they must suffer some more because we in this House lack the courage to make better laws or even let our fellow New Zealanders have a say in a referendum on that law? No. We must give them choice." - David Seymour (ACT)

Chris Penk speaks on End of Life Choice. Behind him are two of Parliament's chamber staff.

National MP Chris Penk is the first speaker opposed. Behind him are two of Parliament's chamber staff. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"The question is not whether some people should die in a way that the bill allows, but whether any people could die in a way that the bill does not allow. We don't know the number of people that will be coerced into an early death, but we do know that it is not zero." - Chris Penk (National)

Tracey Martin defends New Zealand First's policy in referenda

New Zealand First's Tracey Martin has a few words with her colleagues. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"If this passes and it now goes into the public domain, it is on us to be the grown-ups, to carry the respect that has been shown in this House, to lead by example, and to go out there and help the New Zealand public be as informed as possible, be as respectful to each other as possible, and make the choice that they believe that this House should implement. So New Zealand First will be casting all their votes in favour of this bill so that the New Zealand public will be able to make up their mind." - Tracey Martin (New Zealand First)

Labour MP Anahila Lose Kanongata'a-Suisuiki

Labour MP Anahila Lose Kanongata'a-Suisuiki Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"As a Christian, I believe in the sanctity of life, but that right and belief is enshrined in most nations' constitutional documents around the world, in the United Nations key covenants, in the historical development of democracy, in the rule of law, and in numerous other sources. Believing in the sanctity of life, and therefore opposing this bill, is not purely a Christian view, but it is a view based on different views of politics, the medical profession, philosophy, and various other disciplines." - Anahila Kanongata'a Suisuiki (Labour)

Labour Minister Aupito Tofae Su'a William Sio's speaks on End of Life Choice. Anahila Lose Kanongata'a-Suisuiki and Carmel Sepuloni listen.

Labour Minister Aupito Tofae Su'a William Sio's speaks on End of Life Choice. Anahila Lose Kanongata'a-Suisuiki and Carmel Sepuloni listen. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"The death of one affects the group, especially the next generation. Therefore, weighty decisions are made by the collective in consideration on the impact of the individual's lives in that collective, especially the young ones. The Samoan way of decision making is a collective decision making. One's autonomy has to be balanced out with the effects and impact it has on individuals of that collective. As the son of an elderly father of 81 years of age and not at his best health-wise, I'm reminded by my covenant carved on my body: as long as any of my parents are alive, I am bound to do all I can to provide them with soifua maloloina. For that reason, I'm voting no." - Aupito William Sio (Labour)

National MP Alfred Ngaro is watched by Scott Simpson

 National MP Alfred Ngaro's speech is watched by his colleague Scott Simpson Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"We abolished the death penalty for capital punishment in 1989 because we knew that we could get it wrong and people who were innocent could die. I ask that all of us hold ourselves under the same level of accountability. I want us to urge all 120 members of this Parliament: can we guarantee that this bill will do no harm? If there is even a fraction of doubt, then vote No to this bill. Do not allow this bill to change the social values of this country." - Alfred Ngaro (National)

At six in the evening the MP's break for dinner, to return at 7:30.

Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien prepares for a live cross from the chamber's Press Gallery

 Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien takes advantage of the newly empty chamber to prepare for a live cross from the chamber into the evening news from the Press Gallery's gallery in the chamber above the Speaker.  Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

RNZ operator Colin Pearce announces the impending start of the evening sitting on the Parliament radio broadcast. He's is in the chamber audio booth from where he will control the debate audio.

 RNZ operator Colin Pearce announces the impending start of the evening sitting on the Parliament radio broadcast. He is in the chamber's audio booth from where he will control the audio for TV, radio and the web as he watches it through his window. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Labour MP Ruth Dyson has supported two failed euthanasia bills before. This is her final shot as she plans to retire at the 2020 election

 Labour MP Ruth Dyson has supported two failed euthanasia bills previously. This is her final shot as she plans to retire at the 2020 election. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"Everyone in this House should ask themselves how do they want to die. Well, in my view, we should want everyone to die in dignity, without pain, and peacefully, and they should then rest in peace. This bill will allow people who choose that option to do so." - Ruth Dyson (Labour)

National MP Harete Hipango wears black to signify the import of the debate. She is watched by her fellow National MPs Lawrence Yule and Chris Penk.

National MP Harete Hipango wears black to signify the import of the debate. She is watched by her fellow National MPs Lawrence Yule and Chris Penk. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"I stand, before us all, dressed in black, a symbol of the sombre and sobering session this evening—dressed in black to dress down this bill—and I wear the silver fern. I stand here in the Chamber, which is a memorial to all those who have fought in honour for the protection and the preservation of the sanctity of life. The silver fern is a representation to Māori of strength, of resistance, and of enduring power, and to Pākehā, it has a strong sense of belonging and attachment." Harete Hipango (National)

National MP Nikki Kaye

The very next speaker, Nikki Kaye also from National, is dressed in white. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"So I support this bill to the House in the name of fairness and justice, and I want to pay tribute to you, David Seymour. I've been in the Parliament for 11 years, and I do want to acknowledge that this has taken up years of your life and that your compassion and the way that you have worked tirelessly for this cause needs to be acknowledged in the Parliament this evening. Again, I stand here and say to all of you that we can do better as a nation. We are a compassionate nation. We need to pass this bill in the interests of fairness and justice and, as my colleague Paulo said, in the interests of love and hope." - Nikki Kaye (National)

National MP Tim McIndoe has brought visual aids. This one is a full page advert by doctors opposed to the End of Life Choice Bill.

National MP Tim McIndoe has brought visual aids Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"No member of this House is devoid of compassion, and none of us has a monopoly of it, so I begin by thanking everyone who has engaged respectfully in this debate over the past two years. There have been many heartfelt and compelling contributions, and I'm sure I'm not the only MP who, despite having a firm conviction one way, has also found many of the opposing arguments both moving and persuasive. I think that's healthy." - Tim McIndoe (National)

Labour Minister Peeni Henare gives a speech in the reo

Peeni Henare is the Labour MP for the Maori Electorate Tāmaki Makaurau. He delivered an impassioned speech in te reo but as of writing Parliament's record of debates, Hansard, has not yet released the Maori original or its English translation. Peeni Henare voted for the Bill. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Labour Minister Carmel Sepuloni explains how she reached the voting decision she did

Labour Minister Carmel Sepuloni explains how she reached the voting decision she did Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"There's one more issue that has made this particular debate very difficult for me, and that is the fact that, on so many occasions, culture and religion have been conflated into one thing. I don't see them as one thing. As a Pacific person, on so many occasions I've heard in this House that this is not the Pacific way. Well, it stopped being the Pacific way when Christianity arrived potentially. I will not accept that prior to Christianity that during the many battles and wars that we fought, when our people were falling ill with terminal illnesses or illnesses that were hurting them, that at no point did any of our Pacific people turn around and say, "I want to take my own life. I cannot live like this." It is unacceptable to think that that never happened. So we shouldn't conflate the two. We should talk about both of them in the context of this debate, but they are not one and the same." - Carmel Sepuloni (Labour)

And the last speech goes to Maggie Barry, watched by fellow National MP Agnes Loheni

And the last speech goes to Maggie Barry, watched by fellow National MP Agnes Loheni Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

"I think that when I look at public safety and protection of the most vulnerable, we as politicians must be aware that that is the most important aspect, rather than an individual's personal choice. Our role as lawmakers is to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number. We have a duty to ensure that the degree of safety built into the legislation matches the gravity of the risk. The stakes are very high, and we each have to ask ourselves the question and then be able to live with the answer: how many unintended deaths are too many?" - Maggie Barry (National)

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After three hours of debating the vote fell 69 in favour to 51 against. You can see how the various MPs cast their votes in the Hansard record. The Bill was read a third time. All New Zealanders will get a chance to offer an opinion on it in a referendum at the next election. 

And as MPs filed out of the chamber the big event the House immediately swung into the next item of business.

Meanwhile in the lobby, as public file past from the emptying galleries...

The Bill's sponsor David Seymour talks to a gaggle of journalists after the third reading victory

  The End of Life Choice Bill's sponsor David Seymour answers questions from within a scrum of journalists after the third reading success.  Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith