News Weekly readers may recall that a euthanasia bill seemed set to pass South Australia’s parliamentary upper house, the Legislative Council, recently (News Weekly, November 14).
If carried, it would have marked the first time a state parliamentary house in Australia had supported such legislation and would have given the cause of euthanasia considerable momentum, not only in SA, but nationally.
It was with considerable surprise, then, that in the early hours of November 19 a dedicated group of pro-life supporters looked on as the Greens-sponsored bill was defeated 11 votes to 9.
Independent MLC Ann Bressington, whose vote seemed set to make or break the bill, failed to get support for her “safeguards” amendments and withdrew from the chamber. Evidently, she did not want to vote for the unamended bill, but did not want to vote against it either.
That would have led to a 10-10 stalemate, with the president of the chamber expected to vote in favour of the bill.
Remarkably, as a final vote was nearing, the leader of the Opposition in the house, Liberal MLC David Ridgway, spoke movingly about the recent death of his mother and said he could no longer support the bill.
While the circumstances surrounding Mr Ridgway’s decision are tragic and largely out of human hands, he should at least be given credit on this occasion for joining the other 10 parliamentarians who supported the sanctity of life. Their stand was sustained in no small way by the efforts of the National Civic Council and the Australian Family Association.
The real fight, however, is yet to come, with a much less friendly-looking Legislative Council after March’s scheduled state election.
Damian Wyld is South Australian president of the National Civic Council.