Chief Minister calls on Federal MPs to lift ‘absurd’ bar on ACT euthanasia legislation

Ian Bushnell 26 July 2018 5
The ACT has been blocked from making laws on assisted dying since 1996.

The ACT has been blocked from making laws on assisted dying since 1996.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has implored federal MPs to support moves to overturn ‘absurd’ legislation that thwarts the ACT from making its own laws to allow voluntary euthanasia.

In a letter to MPs and Senators ahead of parliamentary debate on the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill when Federal Parliament resumes in August, Mr Barr says the “the legislative bar was particularly absurd given that Victoria has now legislated in this area”.

The so-called Andrews Bill — named after Victorian conservative MP Kevin Andrews, who introduced the legislation in 1996 — used the constitutional power of the Federal Government to legislate for the Territories to overturn euthanasia laws passed by the Northern Territory.

Mr Barr argues that ACT citizens are not being treated equally within the Federation, and the Bill should be supported on the principle of equal democratic rights.

“Australia’s federalism works best when all jurisdictions are treated fairly and equally. With the residents and representatives of the Territories not able to debate important public policy matters, the current arrangements are neither fair nor equal,” he said.

The Chief Minister said the ACT was ready and capable of having a mature and respectful discussion about voluntary assisted dying, with a Legislative Assembly Select Committee currently inquiring into end of life choices in the ACT.

The Assembly also had recently unanimously voted in support of repealing the current Commonwealth legislative bar.

The committee has been hearing from individuals, community groups and other organisations, and will make recommendations to the ACT Government in coming months.

The Senate will soon debate legislation to overturn the Andrews Bill after it passed a motion in June to debate a private Bill from Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.

Senator Leyonhjelm said the Government had assured him that its MPs and Senators would be given a free vote on the Bill and, if passed by the Senate, it would go to the Lower House for debate.

ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury has also written to the ACT’s Senators, Liberal Zed Sesela and Labor’s David Smith, calling on them to support the Bill.

ACT human rights commissioner Helen Watchirs also backed the move, saying times had changed and the Territory should have the right to decide for itself.

What are your thoughts on voluntary euthanasia laws in the ACT? Share them in the comments section below.

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5 Responses to Chief Minister calls on Federal MPs to lift ‘absurd’ bar on ACT euthanasia legislation
Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 4:44 pm 28 Jul 18

Typical of Andrew Barr- rude, patronising, abrasive and disrespectful. This is a debate where people are entitled to have dyrong views. There are clearly risks around euthanasia. Telling me I am “absurd” because I think the legislation would have to be carefully thought out, and all citizens’ views need to be respected, is not worthy of a Chief Minister.

    Garfield Garfield 7:33 pm 29 Jul 18

    The last thing I thought I’d be doing when I got up this morning was defending Andrew Barr. I have to ask if you read the article as it clearly states that he wasn’t calling people who oppose or have reservations about voluntary euthanasia absurd, but rather that the territories can’t make their own decisions in this area. We had self government thrust upon us 29 years ago and for the last 22 years we’ve been treated as 2nd class citizens in that we’re not allowed to make up our own mind. Every politician I’ve heard speak in favour of this issue has stressed that the legislation would need to be carefully thought out, because it could be open to abuses if the right safeguards weren’t there.

    Jim9 Jim9 9:30 am 30 Jul 18

    The complaint in this case is all about the Territory not being able to action its powers under self-Government, and not an argument for or against voluntary euthanasia…. but as is often the case, some people only ever see what they want to see…

Garfield Garfield 8:12 am 28 Jul 18

I was interested to see that the motion in the Assembly was passed unanimously when the Opposition Leader recently told the Canberra Times the ACT Liberals were not seeking to have the Andrews bill revoked. I googled it and found the hansard from 1st November last year and he spoke against the motion in the Assembly. Did he in fact vote for the motion or did he perhaps leave the chamber after making his opposition known? I don’t believe the ACT’s right to self determination on this issue should be in question at all and so was disappointed to see his attitude to it.

My thoughts on voluntary euthanasia laws for the ACT is that it should be available for terminally ill people with appropriate safeguards. The fact that it runs contrary to some people’s values shouldn’t mean that the rest of the community should be prevented from having it as an option. If it becomes law, people who don’t like it can choose to suffer all the way to the bitter end because its a choice, not mandatory.

    Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 9:49 pm 29 Jul 18

    It could be the thin edge of a wedge though. With people living so long, and “inheritance impatience” a growing phenomenon, old people are likely to be guilted into thinking they are a burden. Next step: being allowed to die despite not being terminally ill. Society’s caution around letting old people dispatch themselves will gradually diminish.

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