26 Jun 2019

What are the chances of the assisted dying bill passing?

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 26 June 2019

Today is a big one for ACT Party leader David Seymour.

David Seymour addresses media following the release of the justice committee's report on the End of Life Choice Bill

Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

His End of Life Choice Bill is back in parliament for its second reading. 

If it doesn’t get majority support, the bill is done – making it the third failed attempt to get a euthanasia bill through parliament.

If it gets through, the bill goes to the next committee stage, where the intricacies of what euthanasia could look like in action will be set out.

Mr Seymour’s bill was drawn from the ballot in 2017, and got through its first reading in parliament at the end of that year. 

“It’s kind of dominated his political career ever since,” Stuff senior political reporter Henry Cooke said.

“After that it had kind of a long and torturous – over a year – in select committee, one of the longest periods in select committee ever.”

But despite the long process, and the tens of thousands of submissions, the committee didn’t really change anything in the bill itself. It remains very similar to what was first put forward, and voted on, in 2017.

“There are some small changes … but the bones of the bill have not changed significantly. 

“That’s despite the fact that even David Seymour thinks it should be changed. He actually submitted on his own bill … recommending several changes to tighten the criteria up,” Cooke said.

Essentially, Mr Seymour’s proposing his bill be narrowed to apply only to those with a terminal illness and be put to a binding public referendum. 

“He did that, not necessarily because he believes it should be like that, but because he believes it gives it a shot at passing.”

Both with and without the changes the bill’s future is precarious. 

The Green Party won’t support it unless euthanasia is only an option for the terminally ill, and New Zealand First will only back it if the public has the ultimate say through a referendum. 

National and Labour MPs are both voting on conscience, but at this stage it’s unclear what they’re voting on – should it get through second reading, the bill’s likely to undergo big changes.

National MP Maggie Barry, who has been a vocal opponent of the bill from the beginning, and was instrumental in how the lengthy select committee played out, has plans to put forward about 120 amendments if the bill passes its second reading.

“I don’t want the bill to go through… to be clear, I don’t support the bill, I don’t want it to pass,” she said on Tuesday, adding that if it did pass the second reading she would be doing everything she could to make it substantially more restrictive by introducing dozens of changes.

“There are a lot of ways for this to go wrong, basically, and not a lot of ways for it to go right,” Cooke said.

“Seymour has a real tightrope to walk.” 

Photo: RNZ