by Ann David
Raymond Huo? Raymond Who?
What did Raymond Huo, Chair of the Justice Select Committee have to say when reporting back on the End of Life Choice Bill on 9 April?
He delivered sane, factual commentary, which is why you probably haven’t heard of him. He got almost no media coverage.
Bullhorn Barry – assertive without evidence
Instead, his flame-haired Deputy Chair Maggie Barry made headlines in print, on air and on TV. This is a woman who sells newspapers; she’s an advertiser’s dream with her aggressive manner and her bullhorn voice.
She has made it her mission to sink David Seymour’s proposed legislation.
Vainly did David Seymour and journalist Corin Dann try jointly to wrestle her down on a recent Q+A show by pointing out that there is absolutely no evidence that assisted dying results in increased suicide as she claims.
She bulldozed loudly over the two of them. The poor fellas were merely quoting facts whereas she was Scaremongering with a capital “S,” so no wonder she came off best.
The Bill proceeds
Meanwhile, in the real world, the End of Life Choice Bill is progressing slowly through Parliament just like any other Bill.
The Justice Select Committee comprises 8 parliamentarians from a variety of Parties. Given that Barry was one of their number, they were unable to agree on much.
In the end and because this will be a conscience vote, the Justice Select Committee settled for some minor technical recommendations that will come into effect only if the Bill passes its Second and Third Readings. This is the norm for any Bill requiring a conscience vote.
Heading for a vote
What happens next? It is expected that the Second Reading will take place on or soon after 22 May. There’ll be a lot of speech-making and then a vote.
When the MPs are invited to shuffle themselves through the Ayes or Noes doors, a minimum of 61 will be required to approve it to the next step.
But the real bun-fight will come thereafter. We will then enter on the stage known as the Committee of the Whole House. And if you thought the 15 months of relentless bickering at the 8-person Select Committee stage was bad enough, wait until we watch potentially each of 120 parliamentarians propose their own amendments, known as Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs).
Each will need to be voted through or against separately. Oratory will be the order of the day. The Speaker descends from his throne and joins his colleagues on the floor of the House. It will be gloves off!
In the case of the End of Life Choice Bill, it will probably take until the end of the year for all SOPs to be heard and voted on.
Back then to the drawing board where the Bill with approved amendments will be re-drafted and presented to the House for its Third Reading, the final decider.
Heading for a referendum?
Now you think I’ve come to the end of the story, don’t you? But wait, there’s probably more . . .
It’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll get a binding referendum on the Bill if it passes its Third Reading.
People warn against referenda. They worry that the outcome can be biased by the wording of the question. In this case, we know in advance what the question will be. It will be something like: Do you want the End of Life Choice Act to be passed into law? Yes/No.
And THAT in turn will mean that voters wanting to make an informed decision will need to do their homework by reading the Act before they go to the polls. Follow the unfolding saga at www.parliament.nz