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.
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