5 June 2022

Barr readies euthanasia laws ahead of expected Territory rights restoration

| Lottie Twyford
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Andrew Barr in the Legislative Assembly

Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday (1 June) that work would begin on voluntary assisted dying laws. Photo: Region Media.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has confirmed work is underway to commission draft voluntary assisted dying legislation.

It’s expected a newly elected Federal Labor government will lift the 25-year ban on Australian territories being able to legislate on the matter.

Mr Barr told the ACT Legislative Assembly last week that work would begin on a consultation document alongside a draft bill and the first phase would be comparing the laws passed in other states.

“The matter that best surmised the former government’s disdain for the ACT was the issue of territory rights,” the Chief Minister said.

“Canberrans are sick of being treated like second-class citizens … we know Canberrans care deeply about this issue, and they have every right to feel frustrated and disappointed.”

READ ALSO New government offers fresh hope for voluntary assisted dying laws in Canberra

Mr Barr used his address to the Assembly to say that Canberra’s future was looking brighter with a Federal Labor government.

“Efforts to restore Territory rights were consistently blocked [under the Coalition government],” Mr Barr said.

“The change of government is a significant opportunity for the ACT to achieve progress on a number of reforms or projects that have been blocked or stalled.”

Mr Barr said the election of a more socially progressive parliament and two ACT senators who respect the Territory’s right to make its own laws has put the ACT in a better spot to see the Andrews bill repealed.

David Pocock promised to move a private Senator’s bill to restore the ACT’s right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

During his campaign for the Senate, David Pocock promised to move a private Senator’s bill to restore the ACT’s right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying in his first weeks in the Senate.

All Australian states have now passed voluntary assisted dying laws, with NSW the last to do so last month.

The NSW bill lets adults with a terminal diagnosis and up to six months to live to voluntarily end their life with assistance, with the approval of two independent doctors.

It will come into force within 18 months.

The independent MP who originally introduced the bill in the NSW Parliament, Alex Greenwich, also called for the ACT and the Northern Territory to be afforded the same rights as the rest of the country.

READ ALSO McBain gives Canberra region a stronger voice in new Ministry

Both the Northern Territory and the ACT have been barred from legislating or debating the issue since the 1997 passing of federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews’ private member’s bill.

During the election campaign, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government would not have lifted the ban on the territories, and outgoing Liberal Senator Zed Seselja had also repeatedly refused to lend his support to overturning the Andrews bill.

Mr Seselja said he did not support repealing the Andrews bill as he believed it would be a pathway for the current ACT Government to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

He further argued that the ACT should not be able to legislate on the issue because it is a unicameral jurisdiction.

Queensland is also unicameral.

READ ALSO Pocock vows immediate move to give ACT right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying

But Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has previously said she believed the ACT Legislative Assembly should be able to debate and legislate on the issue.

Federal Labor promised a parliamentary debate and conscience vote on the issue during the federal election campaign.

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Stephen Saunders9:36 am 06 Jun 22

Good. The rebuffs of Seselja, Morrison, Frydenberg, Wilson, Morton, Keneally and others are a real lesson for aspiring politicians.

Lesson: Try to be a little bit more subtle about your utter contempt for the unwashed voters.

We spent an entire pandemic protecting the feeble and frail at the expense of our children’s future only to allow them to choose to die? On the one hand the government forces parents to vaccinate kids apparently for their own good and on the other, abortions are legal. Yeah right, no double standards to see here from left wing extremists!

On what grounds does the ACT government support voluntary assisted death? It clearly doesn’t believe people can be trusted to make their own health and medical decisions, as the last two years demonstrate.

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