Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General's Portfolio) (No 3) Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 3 November 2022.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:03): I rise to make some brief remarks in relation to this bill, which deals with matters relating to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act that passed this parliament and, specifically, how a death in accordance with that act is to be dealt with by the Coroner. Currently, a death that occurs in accordance with the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act may be caught by the definition of a reportable death, with the result that there is a compliance with the process set out in the VAD Act, such as a death that would trigger a full investigation by the Coroner.

The bill introduces section 3(2a) to provide that the death of a person is not reportable under the Coroner's Act if the death occurs as a result of the administration of a voluntary assisted dying substance in accordance with the VAD Act.

Clause 4 requires that the State Coroner reports annually on the number of notifications received under the VAD Act, which is in addition to other reporting requirements. Under section 84 of the VAD Act, a medical practitioner must notify the Coroner of a death—which is to the relevant minister and then tabled in each house of parliament. The Liberal Party supports the bill.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:05): I rise to indicate the Greens' support for the Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General's Portfolio) (No. 3) Bill. The Greens have been very supportive of voluntary assisted dying laws across the country for over a decade, with the Greens campaigning strongly in every jurisdiction for this reform. In South Australia, my predecessor, the then Hon. Mark Parnell, twice moved for voluntary euthanasia bills—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I apologise; I understand he is still honourable. I would like to acknowledge both the Hon. Mark Parnell and my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks for their work on this important reform over many years in this parliament. Indeed, there is strong support across our movement within the Greens in terms of euthanasia reform.

The bill before us today ensures that deaths that occur under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act do not require an investigation by the South Australian Coroner. The Attorney-General indicated a concern about the current situation where the Coroner is required to provide findings in these types of deaths, leading to delays in finalising the affairs of deceased persons. The Greens share this concern. We believe we should minimise the risk of increased trauma for families in what is, of course, a very difficult situation for them.

However, there is provision to ensure that the Coroner can still investigate deaths that do not occur in accordance with the voluntary assisted dying scheme to ensure that legislative processes are enacted correctly. We consider this to be an important safeguard within the scheme. Furthermore, this bill ensures that deaths under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act are reported in the Coroner's annual report. The Greens believe that reporting these figures is an important transparency measure.

The Greens support the measures outlined in the bill and are pleased that the government has indicated an intention to bring the voluntary assisted dying scheme into operation as soon as possible. I put on the record our belief that that cannot happen soon enough for families and those who are terminally ill and are waiting to access the scheme. With that, I conclude my remarks.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (17:08): I rise to speak very briefly on behalf of SA-Best in support of this bill. Also, given the opportunity, I echo personally the acknowledgement of the mammoth efforts by all honourable members over the years to get these laws through this parliament. We do support this bill, as I understand that it is somewhat of a clean-up to ensure future compliance with the VAD legislation. My understanding is that these changes were requested by the Coroner to address reportable lawful deaths—it always gives me a great degree of confidence when it comes from the Coroner directly.

I also understand that South Australia is the only jurisdiction where deaths that occur by way of a VAD scheme are reported as reportable deaths, and that keeps us out of line with those other jurisdictions. I do not think that was ever the intention when the legislation passed this parliament. Consequentially, requiring the Coroner to report and make findings on deaths by VAD will also, in addition to not being the intention of this parliament, clearly put immense and unnecessary strain on the Coroner and his jurisdiction's already very busy obligations.

Making this process streamlined—by adding a requirement of a notification by the Coroner's Court of VAD deaths as part of the annual reporting—in our view provides the right amount of transparency, alleviates any additional burden on the Coroner and is more consistent with what this parliament intended in the first place.

In addition to the VAD provisions, the bill also seeks to remedy some confusion in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act regarding child exploitation material offences by implementing one standard maximum penalty and removing the differentiation penalty scheme for first and subsequent offences, something that we also support. With those words, we indicate our support for the passage of this bill.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (17:10): I thank all honourable members for their contribution. I note the words in support of the voluntary assisted dying scheme, which is important, but these changes are not whether you support the scheme or not: this was an omission. Whoever drafted the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill last year stuffed up, I must say, by borrowing very largely from the Victorian model but not making the same changes to the Coroners Act, which we are now seeking to remedy in this bill.

I think I can reliably inform the Hon. Robert Simms, in relation to his contribution, that it may well be now that Mark Parnell is just plain old Mark Parnell, not having applied to carry on his title of 'honourable'. I think the Hon. Robert Simms was wrong when he corrected himself because he was right in the first place.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

Bill taken through committee without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (17:13): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.