Latest newsletter #167 Click to read online

We All Need HOPE

Paul Russell

In my last contribution to Endeavour Forum I talked about how euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are not an inevitability. I was grateful for feedback from readers; some asking: "But how do we go about opposing these laws?"

This year will mark the eighth anniversary of the creation of HOPE in Australia. It all started from a visit by my colleague, Alex Schadenberg, who was brought to Australia from Canada by Babette Francis. Alex challenged me: he not only provided inspiration, he also provided practical support. It seems fitting that I should try to do the same for others, as we have done in various ways over seven years and more.

Euthanasia is currently under debate in Tasmania, a bill is expected in New South Wales and in Victoria later this year, and the new Western Australian government has offered support to a private members bill at some future date. All of this activity can seem overwhelming.. I offer a different view; that the definition of madness is to continually do precisely the same thing and expect a different outcome! I'm making light of the situation of course, but this is serious.

So, what can we do? Let's remember, firstly, that all politics is local. That means that each one of us has a personal responsibility and even a duty to make sure that our local Members of Parliament hear from us. The most effective way you can do that is by personal contact via a phone conversation or by appointment.

The next most effective way - far more effective than any other way except those already described - is via a personal, hand written letter. Get to it! Most Parliamentarians dislike the effect that a conscience vote on a social issue has upon their work. Granted, it is difficult. Yet, most will want to hear from constituents and most will take the matter seriously. But, regardless, they are elected to represent their constituents as well as their own personal views and you have every right to be heard.

Your local church or prayer group or social organisation also has a right to be heard. Why not talk to those in charge and see if you can help create a small delegation to visit with your MPs? Remember also that most people you know will not be connected as you are to an organisation that provides you with information and assistance in this endeavour. Why not get together with friends over a coffee and help them express themselves as well. Without your connection, these people may never get the opportunity to pitch in.

People will often say: "but I don't know what to write". Please keep in mind that your letter is not so much about convincing your Parliamentarians through force of logic or by providing pages of reasoned critique; it is more about expressing a view. A simple one-paragraph letter saying that you oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide and you hope that your MP will do the same is really enough. The fact that you took the time to craft a letter when you could have sent an email or simply signed a petition means that this issue is probably a 'vote changer' for you and not simply something of a passing interest.

Please consider offering to help out at your local church. Priests and Pastors are busy people and, really, if you think about it, organising letters and events and delegations is really a role for people in the pews. Encourage them and offer to help. If you have access to the internet, you can find helpful hints and names and addresses for your local MPs at and then click on the 'Victoria' menu item.

Is there a 'magic bullet' sure fire way of winning this debate? No, there isn't. But one thing is for certain; if everyone takes up the challenge to do what they can do then we stand the best chance of success.Get to it!

Important news for Victoria The interim report of the 'expert' Ministerial Advisory Panel looking into so-called 'assisted dying' was due to be tabled in April. We have been told to expect the report sometime in the next week or so. The Panel advised Victorians that they would not be interested in submissions from people opposed to or for the assisted suicide regime but wanted to hear mainly from people who could assist them in making such a bill safe and workable.

Having said that, I understand that there were a number of solid submissions that pointed out that such legislation can never be made safe. Victorian Upper House MP, The Hon Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins MLC, asked a question in the chamber today about the report: "Minister, a number of people have raised concerns with me, that the Panel has crossed the line into activism, rather than sticking to the guidelines given to them. A number of people and organisations have made submissions to the panel, and they are concerned that their viewpoints will not be adequately represented due to the Panel's perceived bias.

"There are a number of others - particularly people in the disability community where opposition is such that they wanted to express their opinion that no attempts to make suicide safe would be satisfactory, who were advised by Panel members that if they put in submissions they would be excluded. To avoid appearance of bias, and in the name of transparency, at the time of publishing the Final Report in July, will this Panel be publishing submissions received, as well as publishing the transcripts of meetings and interviews?"

These are important observations and important questions. Time will tell whether or not the public are able to assess the recommendations against the submissions.

ACTION: Please write and phone your local Lower House and Upper House MPs and please try to get your friends involved. Letter writing pressure now puts MPs on notice for later - very important.

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