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Canberra
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Calls for senators to support ACT legislative rights

There have been renewed calls for Federal Parliament to allow the ACT to legislate on voluntary assisted dying, or euthanasia.

The ‘Andrews Bill’ was introduced into Federal Parliament as a private members bill by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews after the Northern Territory legalised euthanasia in 1995, and specifically prohibits the ACT, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island from “passing certain laws permitting euthanasia”.

The ACT Greens are calling on ACT Senators Zed Seselja and David Smith to vote in favour of repealing the Andrews Bill, to allow the ACT to legislate for itself on the issue.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said it is “absurd” that Canberrans are prevented from determining their own laws, given that the Territory was granted self-government almost 30 years ago.

“The issue of voluntary assisted dying is a sensitive one that will require a lot more discussion in community, but the principle of the ACT determining its own legislation should be an easy one for these two Senators to support,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The two Senators who claim to represent the ACT should commit to repealing these undemocratic restrictions, or explain to local voters why they should have fewer rights than their friends and relatives in Australia’s states.”

Mr Rattenbury said ACT Labor Senator David Smith, who replaced Katy Gallagher earlier this year, “won’t decide if he’ll help restore Territory rights until an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry on voluntary assisted dying reports at the end of the year”.

Senator Smith said he would support any repeal of the existing restrictions, as he “does not believe the ACT Legislative Assembly should be fettered in its powers to make laws, any more than a state parliament would be”.

Senator Smith said he would “wait to see the outcome of the current ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry to inform the details of any proposals that the Legislative Assembly might consider.”

Mr Rattenbury also called on ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja to cross the floor in Parliament to repeal the bill.

“Liberal Senator Zed Seselja also needs to make clear whether he trusts ACT voters and their duly elected representatives at the Territory level.

“This is a sensitive discussion that we know people in the ACT want to have. The Senators who claim to represent Canberrans should not stand in the way of that discussion taking place,” Mr Rattenbury said.

The Canberra Liberals maintain their position on voluntary assisted dying has not changed.

“The Canberra Liberals maintain that euthanasia is a conscience issue and we are not lobbying the federal government for changes to the current arrangements,” they said in a statement.

Federal Parliament is expected to debate the repeal of the Andrews Bill next month.

                At the time of going to print, Senator Seselja had not responded to a request for comment.

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