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Doubts over Palaszczuk bid to fast-track euthanasia laws

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised to introduce draft legislation on voluntary assisted dying in February but it may not be ready. That would breach an election commitment.

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Last term, Palaszczuk avoided a parliamentary vote on euthanasia laws by referring the issue to the Queensland Law Reform Commission. The commission was to provide draft legislation to the Attorney-General by March 2021, which would normally see the government consider the proposal for a month or longer before taking it to parliament for debate and a vote.

However, late in the election campaign, Palaszczuk promised to take draft legislation to parliament in February 2021 if Labor was elected for a third term.

It was seen as an attempt to highlight Labor’s commitment to law reform, and also put pressure on the conservative Liberal National Party. Palaszczuk said she was personally in favour of voluntary assisted dying laws and for the first time linked her stance to the death of her grandmother earlier this year.

Yet the bid to fast-track the laws came only five months after Palaszczuk set the March deadline for the commission, and only days after the commission formally called for submissions by the end of last month. The commission is expected to confirm its timing next week and the situation today appears fluid.

“The timing of the QLRC’s report, which will require legislation to be drafted in consultation with the Office of Queensland Parliamentary Counsel, is the subject of ongoing and constructive discussions between the Commission and the newly appointed Attorney-General,” commission chair Justice Peter Applegarth told InQueensland in a statement.

“The Commission is considering the tasks that lie ahead and a realistic timeframe to complete them.”

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman also declined to comment on whether draft legislation could, or would, be introduced when parliament resumed at the end of February.

“Voluntary assisted dying is a complex and deeply personal issues,” Fentiman said in a statement.

“Right now we are working closely with the QLRC on this issue to make sure we get things right. We have committed to providing the QLRC with additional resources so they are able to deliver the crucial review for an important piece of legislation. And we will continue to work with them to ensure they have the tools and resources required to complete the review.”

It was not clear whether the government had formally requested the commission bring forward its report.

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