27 August 2019

Cheyne to take assisted dying message to Federal Parliament

| Ian Bushnell
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Tara Cheyne

Tara Cheyne and Andrew Barr. Ms Cheyne will champion the ACT’s right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying. Photo: Region Media.

The newly appointed Special Secretary to the Chief Minister, Tara Cheyne will take the fight to reverse the ban on the ACT being able to vote on voluntary assisted dying to the Federal Parliament.

Armed with her personal experience of her father’s death and a passion to see the Andrews Bill overturned so Canberrans are able to fully exercise their democratic rights, Ms Cheyne has been drafted by Chief Minister Andrew Barr to knock on the doors of MPs and lobby for change.

She said on Monday (26 August) that Canberrans were sick of being treated as second class citizens in the ACT.

“This is going to be a tough fight, taking it back up to Federal Parliament and prosecuting it once again on behalf of Canberrans but it’s not a fight we should shy away from. Canberrans expect us to lead that fight and restore those rights to them,” she said.

Ms Cheyne said it was absolutely absurd that the ACT Legislative Assembly could not vote on this issue, saying it may have been thought that such an inexperienced Assembly could not have debated such a complex issue when Federal Parliament passed the Andrews Bill in 1996 to prevent the Northern Territory legislating.

But the Assembly was now a mature parliament and “Canberrans tell us they’re ready for us to have that conversation”.

“I’ve got my own personal experience with my father’s death that I’m very comfortable talking about however emotive that might be,” Ms Cheyne said.

“I’m happy to take that story and the stories of many other Canberrans right up to Federal Parliament and continue telling those stories to make those politicians listen to realise that restoring Territory rights is the right thing to do.

The move comes as the political landscape continues to evolve on this issue with Queensland and Western Australia shaping to follow Victoria on assisted dying.

Mr Barr said it was increasingly untenable for the Commonwealth Parliament to say that states can legislate on this matter but territories can’t.

“Potentially the territories will be the last or the only ones not to legislate in this area,” Mr Barr said.

He said the attempt last year to change the Commonwealth legislation only failed by a single vote so a conscience vote in the Parliament could well be successful next time.

“We need to step up our advocacy efforts. I will of course be doing that but I won’t be in a position to knock on as many doors at Parliament House as Tara will,” Mr Barr said.

He said an overwhelming majority of Canberrans wanted movement and action on this, with Government research showing 80 per cent support.

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