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Life and death: Labor breaks promise to fast-track euthanasia laws

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk vowed to bring forward the introduction of voluntary assisted dying laws. Instead, there will be a three-month delay.

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After InQueensland last week revealed the prospect of a delay, new Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman today confirmed the Queensland Law Reform Commission would be given more time to report back to government.

The move comes despite Palaszczuk originally giving the commission a reporting date of March, only to then, during the election campaign, bring that forward to promise draft laws would be introduced to parliament in February.

The commission will now report by May 10, with draft laws to be introduced by the end of May – and then referred to a parliamentary committee for further review.

“This is life and death legislation,” Fentiman said today.

Fentiman said she understood the government had become aware of time pressures during the election campaign and she discussed it with the commission “a week into the job”.

Fentiman suggested the key issue was the inability to call for submissions – as the commission did, only days before Palaszczuk announced changes to the timeframe – on a government website due to the caretaker provisions.

Fentiman said commission chair Justice Peter Applegarth had made a “compelling case” to be allowed more time, and would himself be committing to the review full-time. She said the commission had also requested about $500,000 in additional funding for health and legal policy staff, and would need to find an acting judge to cover for Applegarth.

“Voluntary assisted dying is an incredibly complex and deeply personal issue and it is so important that we get this right,” Fentiman said.

Last Wednesday, Fentiman’s office was twice asked about timing, on each occasion refusing to respond. Today, the Attorney-General said she briefed Palaszczuk on the delay late last week.

In a budget estimates committee hearing, Liberal National Party veteran Tim Nicholls – who crossed the floor to support Labor’s abortion law reforms – pressed the government on whether Palaszczuk would have known of the time pressures when she promised to fast-track the laws.

Outside the hearing, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the time pressures were not foreseen but, where possible, the government would reduce the implementation period for the laws if passed by the parliament.

In a statement, Applegarth said the revised timeframe was still “tight” but the commission hoped to meet the deadline.

Euthanasia campaigner David Muir, from the Clem Jones Trust, said that while it was prudent to give the commission more time, he was disappointed the laws had not been introduced last term. He encouraged Queenslanders to have their say and suggested it would also give LNP members more time to engage.

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