Victoria looks set to become the first Australian state to legalise assisted dying, after a mammoth 30-hour debate in the lower house of parliament.
The eventual vote finished 47 to 37, and supporters of the bill believe they have the numbers to pass it completely when debate moves to the upper house in two weeks.
The bill required the calling of a conscience vote after more than 300 proposed amendments on the bill failed.
The bill’s most prominent supporter, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, praised the parliament’s decision, saying he was proud the state had become the first to pass the laws.
“We have taken a very big step towards giving many, many Victorians the dignity and compassion they have been denied” Andrews said.
Euthanasia was previously legalised in the Northern Territory for a short period of time in the 1990s, before it was overturned by federal parliament.
Despite the passing, the bill has accrued a number of high-profile detractors. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating said he considered assisted dying laws to be “unacceptable” and “a truly sad moment for the whole country”.
The move also drew criticism from another former Prime Minister, current member for Warringah Tony Abbott.
Abbott and Keating don’t agree on much, but the conservative Abbott said the move would result in human beings being treated as ‘disposable’.
“I think we’ll regard this is a sad milestone in our decline as a decent society.”
“It marks our descent into a country which regards human beings as disposable, and we don’t want anyone ever to be regarded as useless, worthless or disposable. But that’s what this legislation says,” said Abbott.
A number of religious organisations also spoke out against the bill, while the opposition suggested the laws could encourage ‘rogue doctors’ to be more willing to assist patients to die.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he would not use his power at a federal level to overturn the laws, despite indicating he did not support the bill as it had currently been drafted.