Three MPs from the conservative Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party are backing a voluntary assisted dying bill due to come before the New South Wales parliament this week, a crucial sign of crossbench support for the legislation.
Put forward by independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, the voluntary assisted dying bill will be introduced into the state parliament on Thursday. Greenwich unveiled the legislation along with 12 co-sponsors from the Labor party this week, and said the bill would have 30 signatories when it comes before the parliament.
NSW is the last state to pass voluntary assisted dying legislation, after a bill narrowly failed to pass the state’s upper house by one vote four years ago.
Among the the bill’s opponents in 2017 were two upper house MPs from the Shooters party. But the party’s three lower house MPs have signalled they will support the new bill, citing overwhelming support from their electorates.
Roy Butler, the MP for the regional seat of Barwon which covers a vast stretch of NSW from Lightening Ridge to Broken Hill, said feedback from his constituents had been “overwhelmingly” in favour of the bill.
Butler had reached out to his voters through social media and print newspaper ads to ask for feedback on the legislation, and said about 80% had supported a bill in favour of voluntary assisted dying.
“Barwon is probably a conservative electorate but that being said a lot of people have relayed their own stories of loved ones who were terminally ill, having to watch them die a painful and awful death,” he said.
“It’s something that’s not just difficult for the person dying but it’s also incredibly difficult for their family. Anecdotally what we’ve heard about a lot is people taking their own life because they felt the didn’t have another option. They can’t be with their family in that moment.”
The two other Shooters MPs in the parliament’s lower house have also signalled they will support the bill. Helen Dalton, the party’s MP for the seat of Murray, has already said she would vote in favour of the legislation, while Orange MP Philip Donato told Guardian Australia he was “broadly supportive” of the legislation.
“Obviously I’m still reviewing the legislation and listening to feedback and you never know what will happen with amendments [but] I said in 2017 that if the bill came to the lower house I would support it and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m broadly supportive of it,” he said.
The Greenwich bill would limit access to voluntary assisted dying in NSW to people with terminal illnesses who will die within six months.
People with a neurodegenerative condition who experienced unbearable suffering would have that period extended to 12 months. Hospitals, facilities or doctors would not be forced to participate, and two doctors would have to sign off on the request.
The support of the three lower house Shooters MPs could prove crucial after the new premier, Dominic Perrottet, signalled he would give Liberal party MPs a conscience vote on the legislation.
“The parliament needs to be mature enough – and I think, in the main, conscience votes bring out the best in our parliaments,” he said during his first press conference after being sworn in as premier last week.
The bill would need 47 votes to pass the lower house. A string of moderates in the Liberal party led by the outgoing minister Andrew Constance have voiced their support for the bill, while the majority of the Labor caucus are expected to vote in favour of the legislation.
On Tuesday Greenwich is expected to accept a petition signed by 100,000 people supporting the legislation.