Ms Berejiklian assured colleagues in a party room meeting in August 2019 that there would be no more conscience votes in this term of government.
One senior minister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “A deal’s a deal.” Another MP said Ms Berejiklian “promised it wouldn’t be considered”.
The decriminalisation of abortion was politically damaging for Ms Berejiklian despite it being a private member’s bill, also introduced by Mr Greenwich but co-sponsored by several Coalition MPs.
In August last year at the height of the abortion debate, Ms Berejiklian told the Herald she did not believe community attitudes towards voluntary assisted dying had changed.
“The upper house dealt with assisted dying in 2017 and it didn’t get up…we have had the debate.”
In 2017, the upper house debated a bill to make it legal for terminally ill patients aged 25 or over and expected to die within 12 months to end their own life with medical assistance.
It was narrowly defeated by 19 votes to 20 but supporters had been confident that a new make-up of the upper house would make it more likely to pass this term.
Many Liberals believe Ms Berejiklian could not survive another bruising policy debate after revelations emerged this year of her long-term relationship with a disgraced former MP.
Right-wing MPs have also been angered by a proposal put to cabinet for a three-strike drug possession policy and have demanded changes, warning they would not soften drug laws.
One Liberal minister, who supports euthanasia, said Ms Berejiklian was a “hero and conqueror” after the 2019 election but a drawn-out assisted dying debate would be “politically disastrous” for her.
While the issue will split the Liberals, the Nationals leader John Barilaro said assisted dying would not be a policy that would divide his party.
“Assisted dying is well supported in the Nationals’ party room, among members and our base and it is not something that is going to tear us apart,” Mr Barilaro said.
Mr Greenwich proposes a model similar to that in Western Australia which would allow assisted dying for terminally ill patients whose prognosis indicates death in the next six months – or 12 months for neurodegenerative illnesses such as motor neurone disease.
It would need to be approved by two doctors but, unlike the Victorian version, the second doctor would not need to be a specialist. The WA model also allows nurse practitioners to administer the medicine, as well as doctors and the patient themselves.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.