The ACT’s fight for the right to debate euthanasia has been dealt a blow, after the Federal Government confirmed it has ‘no plans’ to overturn a ban that would allow the Territory to consider laws on the matter.
In a letter to the ACT Human Rights Minister, the country’s Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash said that while the Government recongnised the community had strong views on the matter, it has no plans on changing the federal laws that prevent the ACT from considering euthanasia.
“The Government believes that people should have access to quality palliative care and relief from pain and suffering and that, where possible, people should be able to choose the extent of active medical treatment they receive.”
However, ACT Human Rights Minister, Tara Cheyne, said the Attorney-General’s response ignores the concerns of citizens.
“It shows contempt towards the issues reflected by citizens across Australia who are appalled that ACT and NT residents cannot engage in a genuine way on this issue while residents in every single state can.”
“The response also lacks reasoning and an explanation behind the Commonwealth Government persisting with its approach to allow for the democratic rights of citizens in its own country to be inconsistent, simply based on whether a resident lives in a state or territory.”
Current federal laws, introduced in 1997, removed the power of both the ACT and Northern Territory from legislating on voluntary assisted dying.
After numerous failed attempts to have the laws overturned, the ACT and NT again came together earlier this year, writing to the federal government, to launch a renewed push to see the rights of both territories restored.
Since then, the states of Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland have voted to legalise voluntary assisted dying, the matter had already been passed in WA and Victoria with New South Wales the last of the states, expected to hold a vote on the matter in the future.
More recently, NT Senator, Sam McMahon introduced a private members bill to restore the rights of the top end, without seeking the same restoration for the ACT.
The decision to exclude the ACT was made after Senator McMahon was unable to engage with ACT Senator, Zed Seselja who refused to support the move, claiming the ACT Government would likely pass the “most extreme” voluntary euthanasia laws in the country.
All sides of ACT politics support the move to allow Territories to legislate on the matter.
ACT Liberal Opposition Leader, Elizabeth Lee, has previously offered her support, saying that the issue is bigger than any one individual’s political views on euthanasia.
“It is about the right of Territorians, who’ve been elected by Territorians, to have the right to debate and legislate on this issue.
Ms Cheyne said she remains open to discuss the matter with her federal counterparts and encouraged all member of federal parliament to continue to engage and act on the ongoing fight to restore the rights of Australia’s two territories.
“This untenable situation cannot be ignored, and it is unconscionable that the Commonwealth Government has attempted to do so—particularly in light of how voluntary assisted dying laws have progressed in other jurisdictions (with Labor and Liberal Governments) this year.”