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No room for little lies: In the euthanasia vote the truth will count, big time

Opinion

The conscience vote on the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation in state parliament this week will be a closely-watched test of democracy, writes Rebecca Levingston.

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I was stunned.

He was famous, slightly breathless and desperately seeking a positive response.

It was the first time I’d interviewed a big time film director. I’d just watched his new movie and I didn’t like it. Who cares what I think?

That’s what I thought at the time when I walked out of the cinema preview. It was years ago (I won’t say how many or you might be able to figure it out). The film was going to be a hit based purely on the reputation of the director and the star power of the cast.

I was super keen to do the interview because the man behind the lens was intense and talented. I’m interested in creative people and there was tonnes to talk about.

Plus I was reasonably confident when I turned on the microphone for the interview that the director wouldn’t be remotely interested in what I thought.

“Did you like it?” His question ricocheted around my head.

I’m pretty sure I lied and said yes. It wasn’t entirely a lie. I did like parts of the movie. Just not the whole thing. It wasn’t my jam.

Should I have been more honest? Nah, art is totally subjective. My opinion doesn’t really matter. Mr Director and I had a fascinating chat and the film lit up big screens across the country. My little lie was irrelevant.

This week I interviewed another creative powerhouse known for Big Little Lies. Liane Moriarty, the author who’s created characters sought after by the biggest movies stars in the world.

Nicole Kidman gave Ms Moriarty the chills when she promised to turn Nine Perfect Strangers into nine very well known stars streaming all over the world.

Plot twist – I’ve never read one of Moriarty’s books. It didn’t matter. She was fabulous company. Honest and funny. Mates with Meryl Streep who showed her pictures of her grandchild at a glitzy premiere.

Liane recalled the first time she saw someone reading one of her books “in the wild”. It was on a ferry and she watched closely, almost creepily she confessed, as the pages turned. She never told the woman reading the book that she was the author. A lie by omission. True story.

This week in Queensland Parliament, you’ll get a rare opportunity to see politicians tell the truth. Their personal view. A conscience vote on voluntary assisted dying.

All 93 members of parliament will be given the opportunity to vote in favour or against legislation that will be life changing for a very small proportion of the population. Life ending for some, by choice.

Every time the discussion comes up on my radio show, heart wrenching personal stories dominate the debate. The anguished son who wept through his father’s final days. The wife who held her husband as he drifted in and out of consciousness. Just a shell of the man she once knew. The daughter still traumatised by the parent who wanted to go gently and voluntarily. The nurse whose bedside commitment was unwavering, wishing for dignity and relief for her patient.

Words like agony and cruelty flood my radio text line.

Murder, yells another message. Suicide. What about palliative care? Doctors call in concerned about a lack of funding for terminally ill patients.

Religious views dominate too. This week I had three church leaders on my program all expressing different views on voluntary assisted dying. One in favour, one against and one agnostic. Why does the Church have such a loud voice in this debate? Can choice be given to all?

The Premier repeatedly asserts that this legislation is a deeply personal decision. That may be true. But it’s also a test of our democracy when 93 members of parliament vote on the end of life plans for five million Queenslanders.

No room for lies. The truth shall set you free. Isn’t that what The Bible says? What form that freedom takes will be revealed this week.

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