Victoria’s upper house has passed a bill legalising voluntary euthanasia, becoming the first Australian state to authorise assisted dying. The laws will give patients in intolerable pain the right to pursue a doctor-assisted death from 2019. Emotional scenes prevailed in the Legislative Council, with both supporters and opponents of the bill in tears after more than 28 hours of debate. Australian Medical Association Victoria president Lorraine Baker said the new law would “cause anguish for some members of our profession, as well as the public”. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews defended the legislation, saying it was ”the most conservative voluntary assisted dying model that has ever been proposed – let alone implemented – anywhere in the world” and declaring “its time has come”. The bill will now head to the lower house, where parliamentarians will vote on amendments passed by the Legislative Council.
Nick Xenophon Team Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has resigned after confirming she inherited dual British-Australian citizenship through her Singapore-born mother. Speaking at Parliament House yesterday, Kakoschke-Moore said she intended to return to federal politics because she has “unfinished business”, promising that “this will not be the end of my political career”. It is unclear who will replace Kakoschke-Moore, given that Tim Storer, the NXT’s fourth-placed South Australian Senate candidate, quit the party in October when he was overlooked as a replacement to fill Nick Xenophon’s absent Senate seat. The outcome could hinge on a pending High Court case involving Liberal politician Hollie Hughes, who is contesting being struck out as deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash’s replacement due to working in a taxpayer-funded job when Nash was ruled ineligible.
Howard government immigration minister and mayor of Hornsby Shire Council in Sydney’s north, Philip Ruddock, has been appointed to head an inquiry into whether Australian law adequately protects religious freedom. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the panel, which is expected to report back in March, will not delay debate on a bill legalising same-sex marriage, but said the review was necessary to “inform consideration of any necessary legislative reforms”. A former special envoy for human rights, Ruddock is best-known for the 2001 Tampa affair, falsely claiming that "a number of children [were] thrown overboard” the asylum seeker vessel Olong by their parents in an attempt to force Australian soldiers to rescue them. As attorney-general, Ruddock also oversaw the 2004 amendments of the Marriage Act to ban same-sex weddings.
Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladić has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mladić, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, was found guilty by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 10 of 11 charges, including for massacring 8000 men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995 and for killing 11,000 civilians during the siege of Sarajevo. Presiding judge Alphons Orie said Mladić’s crimes “rank among the most heinous known to humankind”. Mladić was arrested in Serbia in 2011 and was uncooperative in the lengthy trial process, refusing to enter a plea and at one stage making a cut-throat gesture in the courtroom to the mother of a man who died at Srebrenica.
And factory workers making Streets ice-cream have won their fight for better working conditions after parent company Unilever folded in the face of a public boycott. Attempts by Unilever to force workers at its Streets factory in south-west Sydney onto the award wage prompted the boycott in October, with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union encouraging consumers to avoid Streets-brand ice creams such as Paddle Pops, Cornettos and Golden Gaytimes. At a meeting yesterday, Streets workers voted to end the boycott after Unilever offered a revised wages offer. Besides causing embarrassment for Streets, the boycott also left Liberal MP Jason Falinski and several members of the New South Wales Young Liberals red-faced after they were excoriated online for showing support for Unilever. AMWU NSW secretary called the result “an enormous victory for fairness”, while Unilever released a statement saying “this outcome is in everyone's best interests”.