The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer)


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (21:48): At the outset, I congratulate members on the respectful way thus far the second reading debate of the bill has been conducted. Certainly, I have appreciated the considered submissions of a number of members whose views have accorded with my own but even some who have put a considered position diametrically opposed to the view that I have.

Mr President, as you are probably aware, I have been called many things over my long career in parliament but very rarely have I been called inconsistent. My views on euthanasia and related bills have been very consistent over a long period of time. I can clearly say I am the only member to have debated end-of-life issues through the 1980s, 1990s, the noughties, the teens and now the twenties.

My views have remained whilst the passage of the legislation has changed and morphed the eighties. The bill related to the Natural Death Act and then since the nineties, legislation in the mid-nineties and I think on two occasions we were asked to consider bills in the noughties, possibly three times—2000, 2002 and 2009, I think—and then again in 2010. I think for the last decade essentially the House of Assembly had the challenge of debating the legislation and now we have the legislation again 2021.

At the outset I want to state clearly, as I have on one previous occasion, that I stand in the chamber proudly as the product of my upbringing, my beliefs and my values. As a Catholic, I subscribe to the views generally—not always—of my church and my upbringing. I am very much a product of my family values and the upbringing imbued in me by my family both as a child and even in my early adult years.

I say that at the outset because they are the values and beliefs that I bring to the chamber in all that I do. I have on previous occasions rejected the view, and I do so again today, that in some way I as an individual member should park my religious views, my values, my beliefs or the product of my upbringing or what I bring to this chamber as an individual legislator to consider legislation. It does not and should not and need not dictate my views, but it is a significant influence for me in terms of how I vote and how I appreciate legislation.

I do not accept the view that, because I am Catholic, because I am religious, because I am a product of my family values, I need to park those particular views to the side as I consider legislation. That is important to me. As a result of that, I am a strange mix, as many might say. I am very much a fiscal conservative. In the truer sense of the word I have very liberal views on gambling issues, probably quite opposed to the views of the Catholic church that I am a member of. I have quite liberal views in relation to the views of—I will use a nice descriptor—the health conservatives who want to ban everything that might have sugar in it, so Coke, doughnuts and some of the joys of life.

Even though I have never been a smoker myself, I have always respected the individual, if they make a choice that they want to smoke, as long as they are not going to impact on others and we can park them off in the corner somewhere and they can go happily about their smoking or indeed eating their doughnuts or drinking their Coke, or whatever it might happen to be. That is a matter of freedom of choice. It is individual choice. To me, in the truer sense of the word liberal, I have very liberal views in relation to those particular issues.

I have very conservative views on the sanctity of life and moral issues and I am probably a product of my family upbringing, my religious views and my church. I proudly bring that to the chamber in terms of the debates that I have. I do not apologise for it; I never will, and I certainly do not intend to park those particular views as I consider how I am going to vote on particular issues.

The other thing I reject is the view that on every occasion—and this has been going on in every decade that I have debated this issue—in some way as an individual legislator the views of the majority expressed by either an opinion poll, market research or whatever else it is should dictate the way I vote. That is, I should park my own views and vote in a particular way because the majority of people in a poll say that I should vote in that particular way.

I have to respect those views, I need to have a look at those particular views, I need to listen to those particular views, but I do not have to accept—and I will argue till my last breath in this house; it is not too far away—that that is not what a legislator is elected to do. We are there to listen to those views and, if we want to, in the end make a judgement that that is a view we have. In the end, we can be judged by that, whether we support that view or whether we do not support that view. We will either be judged at an election or be judged within our own parties in terms of preselection in terms of those views.

I know that generally the majority view in relation to euthanasia issues is to say, 'You should vote for it.' People say to me, and very good friends and acquaintances say to me, 'The majority of people want it. You are honour-bound or obliged to respect the views of the majority.' We have opinion writers in the media who say, 'The majority of people say that they want this; therefore, it's your responsibility to vote for it.' No, it is not. It is our judgement as legislators to understand those views, listen to them and then form our views as individuals, and then we will be judged accordingly, either within our parties or ultimately in the electorate, in terms of the judgements we make on these issues.

I have recounted on a previous occasion people who say to me, 'Seventy per cent of people,' or whatever the number is, 'want you to support voluntary euthanasia. You have to', and I say to them, 'Okay, the same polls say to me that 70 per cent of people want capital punishment for terrorists who murder and maim children. They want capital punishment for serial killers who murder and torture young children. Should I support that?' They say, 'Oh, no, you shouldn't support that. You can't support capital punishment. That's cruel and unconscionable,' but the majority view in those specific areas would support it.

I do not support capital punishment. I never have, even if it was the majority view. One member of my former party room back in the eighties used to run very successful surveys in her electorate in the north-eastern suburbs, some of our more conservative areas over the years, with overwhelming support for capital punishment in certain areas—for killing policeman, killing children; it was a bit before the terrorism days but for those sorts of areas. We were always asked to support capital punishment in those sorts of specific areas. I did not support it.

I supported, for example, the introduction of the casino to South Australia. I supported the introduction of gaming machines to South Australia, even though the majority view was against it. I was one of a small number of Liberals in this chamber in both cases who supported the introduction of the casino and the introduction of gaming machines. I am consistent in my view. I am a maddening confusion of values in a whole variety of areas, but I am unconcerned about supporting minority positions if that is the view that I strongly hold.

I know that in this particular chamber, whilst the view that I held years ago was the majority view in the chamber on euthanasia, it is very much a minority view at this particular time. However, I cannot, will not and do not have to subscribe to the view that, because a poll says that the majority of people say I should vote a particular way, that is the way I should vote on that issue.

I will not go through all the detail of the reasons why, because I have done it so many times over the years in relation to the legislation. This legislation is slightly different, and I therefore enjoy—others perhaps dread—the committee stage of debates on issues like this. Unlike the Hon. Ms Bonaros, I look forward to amendments teasing out potential changes to the legislation. I do agree with the position of the Hon. Ms Bonaros that amendments moved on the day or the day before do not give sufficient time for consideration and do not need to be and should not be given as much attention as those where due notice is given.

Credit to the Hon. Mr Maher, we now have a four-week break between the second reading vote and the commencement of the committee stage. I think I am correct, and he can correct me if I am wrong, that he has indicated the committee stage is likely to go over a couple of sitting weeks, so we do have a period of time when I would hope that people who subscribe to the view that I have one week, is it? I am corrected: it is only going to be the one sitting week. Good luck with that in terms of getting through the committee stage in one week. Anyway, we will put to the side whether that is achievable or not. We are not intending to do an Hon. Mark Parnell and filibuster on the issue, but there are genuine issues that might need to be teased out. Anyway, I do look forward to the committee stage of this particular debate. Whilst I will not be supporting it, there may well be amendments which in my view make it a less unpalatable piece of legislation for those of us who have concerns about it.

Before concluding—as I said, I am not going to repeat all the detailed areas as to why I have consistently opposed euthanasia legislation over the years—a number of members over the years understandably have shared personal reflections which have influenced their views. For some, the personal reflections, not necessarily just of themselves but of friends and others, have influenced the changing of their vote on this legislation, and each of us is a product of what we have experienced.

I can say at the outset that my views have not been influenced by any personal experiences with end-of-life issues. As I outlined earlier, my views have been a product of my views on the sanctity of life that I bring to the table as I consider issues like this, but for a different reason I do want to share a personal reflection that relates to my mother's passing.

I make no criticism of the very excellent specialists we have here in South Australia, who may consider judgements in relation to their diagnosis, so I do not want anything I say (and I have never reflected on this before in any way) to be a criticism. The diagnosis my mother had many years ago, with the very best of specialists, oncologists and the like, was that she had ovarian cancer that had then spread to her lungs. She declined over a long period of time and was hospitalised for a long period of time as well.

My mother, being a kidney patient for many years with diabetes, was a dialysis patient. Dialysis patients have the wonderful option, if you want to look at it that way, of choosing whether or not to continue with dialysis treatment, and she was given that option by her specialist. She was diagnosed as terminal. As I said, in the original stages, ovarian cancer was the diagnosis and then there were spots on the lung, so the diagnosis—again, the very best of specialists, no criticism at all, made considered judgements—was that her condition was terminal.

So she had the option, but in this case it was her decision. I am sure she knew what the views of her children were, my views in particular and those of others, but ultimately she continued with her dialysis treatment even though she had had this diagnosis of being terminal. It got to the stage, for those of us who are Catholic, where the family was dragged from all over the state, the lights were drawn, the grandchildren had done their last farewell postcards on the wall and everyone was understandably quite sad. The Catholic priest came in and delivered the last sacraments and everyone came together to say goodbye.

That was the position she was in for a few days. Then, ultimately, we had forgotten that one of the specialists had sent off a culture some weeks before (and I am going to get this wrong because I am not medically inclined) for something that diagnosed the spots on the lung, and it took two to three weeks for those results to come back.

The results came back and they came to us and said, 'We've just diagnosed the fact that she's got tuberculosis. We don't think she's got cancer.' We said, 'Okay, what does that mean? That doesn't sound very good.' You say, 'Okay, she doesn't have cancer but she's got tuberculosis.' 'Oh no, tuberculosis we can treat with massive doses of antibiotics, pump her full of antibiotics, and there's a pretty good chance that she can survive.' It is quite contagious obviously, a bit like COVID-19 I suspect, almost, the early stages of that.

The reality was evidently unbeknownst to us that my mother, as a Japanese national living in Mukden, Manchuria, as a young woman had contracted tuberculosis and she had survived that. Evidently, kidney disease later in life can sometimes activate or reactivate tuberculosis. No-one told us this, of course, until they had done this particular diagnosis. So the reality was that they pumped her full of antibiotics and she lived on for a number of years afterwards. She saw a couple more weddings, a few more grandchildren being born, and lived a good life until she eventually passed away a number of years later as a result of a whole variety of complications to do with kidney-related disease.

So with the very best will in the world mistakes are made by the very best specialists in a very good health system that we have got in South Australia, and frankly in Australia for that matter. In different sets of circumstances other people confronted with the same situation might have made other decisions in relation to it based on, ultimately, honest mistakes being made by medical practitioners and the very best specialists that we have.

I have never shared the story. I know others have shared the story which has influenced their decisions. This has not influenced my decision in relation to euthanasia and end-of-life stories, but I only share it because it is probably my last opportunity to debate, hopefully, end-of-life issues in the parliament and to at least place on the record that there is an alternative set of circumstances that all of us need to contemplate; that is, that our very best medical specialists do not always get it right.

There are some people who are going to be diagnosed as terminal, and they will make judgements and decisions on the basis of that and what might be coming, and what they are experiencing, and then ultimately you find out later that the diagnosis was wrong in relation to the particular issue. So it has not changed my view in relation to this. It has obviously reaffirmed it, I suppose, but my views on euthanasia have been expressed on many occasions over many years prior to that particular personal experience with an end-of-life issue.

I will obviously vote against the third reading. I am not going to oppose and vote against the second reading because I look forward to the committee stage of the debate. I do hope some members will move amendments to seek to make, from our viewpoint, some aspects of the bill less unpalatable. They will have a slim chance of success, I suspect, knowing the majority view in the Legislative Council, but nevertheless they should be aired. As we saw in other legislation recently, amendments were moved in this particular chamber then were subsequently—some of them, anyway—successfully moved in debates in the House of Assembly.

The ventilation of those particular issues in this chamber, and the capacity to consider them and see the answers for and against, I think can assist the further consideration of the bill in another place at a later stage. With that, I indicate I will not oppose the second reading but I will vote against the third reading.