No, the story is not about some despotic leader from a third world country. Nor is it an accurate description of the MP in question. But if your name is Marshall Perron, perhaps you have some sort of public immunity from throwing such invective at a fellow conservative MP.
While his successor is yet to be decided in the battle for the Federal Seat of Fairfax, the retiring member who had been a parliamentarian for more than 23 years has come under attack in the Sunshine Coast Daily news site. (The Division of Fairfax is part of the Sunshine Coast)
So what did Somlyay do to attract the disdain of the former NT Chief Minister? He voted to overturn the NT's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act by supporting the Federal Euthanasia Laws Act 1997. He helped squash Perron's legacy.
From the story:
Mr Perron said Mr Somlyay, by voting to support the Federal Euthanasia Laws Bill overturning the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, had left hundreds of people to die a "miserable lingering death".
"While reflecting on the highs and lows of his political career Alex Somlyay should think about the hundreds of people who have died a miserable, lingering death since he voted to overturn the Northern Territory voluntary euthanasia law,'' he said
"Despite his professed respect for democracy, he voted on that occasion against the wishes of 75% of the Australian population."
Mr Somlyay is a politician who 'made a difference'; unfortunately it was a negative one."
This is very poor form. I can well understand that Perron may still be miffed all these years later at those who collectively in both houses of the Federal Parliament formed the majority and overturned the law he steered through the NT Parliament. I can even understand that he might hold genuine (though misguided, I would suggest) concern for terminally ill Australians who have not had the ability to access his law. But to lay the blame in such an emotive and personal way at the feet of Mr Somlyay is not an appropriate expression such indignation.
Moreover, there's a fundamental problem with the suggestion that an MP such as Mr Somlyay only shows respect for democracy if he votes according to opinion polls. One can't simply park one's own grey matter at the door of the Canberra Parliament. Polls have their place at times, but they don't precipitate a frontal lobotomy!
Indeed, in his biography, Dr Philip Nitschke refers often to the NT law and, at one point quotes (with disappointment) 'former ALP heavyweight' Barry Jones, who said he was 'singularly unimpressed by the argument that, because public opinion polls support euthanasia, the Northern Territory's law should stand'. Does Jones share Somlyay's culpability?
Nitschke also talks about the then NT member for Arnhem, Wes Lanhupuy as being the 'Northern Territory MP who cast the winning vote for the original legislation, back in Darwin in 1995'. But Lanhupuy held and cast only one vote, as did all other MPs, in the wee small hours that night in the NT Parliament.
Somlyay deserves thanks and well wishes after his decades of public service. His valedictory speech makes it clear that he does understand illness and suffering, and that a cheery philosophical position can make all the difference:
My parliamentary career has been punctuated by my own health challenges. Whether all my professional aspirations may have been realised had I not endured a stroke in 1993 followed by two lots of heart bypass surgeries, seven angioplasties, a pacemaker, diabetes and cancer in subsequent years—they call me lucky—I will never know. But they say what does not kill you makes stronger. Despite the illnesses, as debilitating as they were, I always continued on with my work here in parliament and in my electorate. Sometimes I just had to do things a little differently. I had to learn to speak again after my stroke. For some time my speech was slow and difficult, but that taught me some valuable lessons about life. It taught me not to take everyday things like the ability to walk or speak for granted; it taught me to be more understanding and compassionate for those with a disability; and it forced me to listen more than I talked...
Yes, we need the energy and fresh ideas of younger generations, but we also need to balance that with the experience and wisdom of those who have served in the longer term. I will leave you today with my plea for all of you—like Paul Neville said—to act to restore the respect, trust and confidence of the Australian people in our parliament. I will also leave you with a quote that Jenny gave me from Dr Seuss: 'Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened.'