ACT Senator and former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says her Liberal counterpart, Zed Seselja, is failing to put the democratic rights of Territorians ahead of personal ideology under the new Territory rights bill.
Senator Gallagher said Senator Seselja was stubborn for stonewalling a renewed push to give the ACT and Northern Territory the right to legislate on euthanasia.
“Zed Seselja always prioritises his own conservative personal views over the majority views of his electorate,” she said.
“The fact that he is deliberately blocking one of his own Coalition colleagues from including the ACT in a private senators’ bill to restore territory rights is telling about who he’s really in politics for – himself.
“He’s previously been at odds with the majority of Canberrans on key issues like marriage equality or the light rail project, he doesn’t want to see real action on climate change and now he can’t even put his own views aside to protect the democratic rights of ACT residents.”
Senator Gallagher has now launched a petition through her personal website calling for Senator Seselja to support legislation allowing the ACT to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.
“It is not fair that someone who lives in Queanbeyan should have more democratic rights than someone who lives five minutes away in Kingston,” an email from Senator Gallagher to her constituents said.
ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee is also continuing to hold discussions with Senator Seselja over the issue after she, on behalf of the Canberra Liberals, signed a letter to all Australian MPs and Senators requesting the Legislative Assembly’s ability to legislate on voluntary assisted dying be restored.
While views about voluntary assisted dying in the local party room are split, the Canberra Liberals unanimously endorsed the motion to give the ACT to right to vote on the issue.
The issue was put back on the table last week when outgoing Coalition Senator for the Northern Territory, Sam McMahon, announced she would move a private member’s bill to reinstate the right to legislate on the issue in the NT after both territories were stripped of the right under the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997.
However, the ACT was left out by Senator McMahon after she said Senator Seselja was “not keen” to include the ACT in the bill.
Senator Seselja has previously stated that he was against reinstating the territories’ right to legislate on the issue as he saw it as a pathway to legalising voluntary assisted dying under the current ACT Government.
Ms McMahon has since said she has received an overwhelming response from people in Canberra who want the ACT added to her bill.
Senators can introduce amendments to the private member’s bill, but it remains unclear if Senator Gallagher will move to add the ACT to the bill.
Senator Gallagher has previously said she would not decide on a bill that had not been drafted yet.
She said it would be a hard path for Senator McMahon’s bill even to make it to debate on the Senate floor after she lost pre-selection and would not be returning after the next election.
Senator Gallagher introduced a similar bill to the Senate in 2016 which included both territories. It remains on the Notice Paper.
A vote to repeal the laws was narrowly defeated 36 to 34 votes in the Senate in 2018.
Senator Seselja’s office has been contacted for comment in light of the petition. A spokesperson for the Senator previously told Region Media, “the Senator’s views on euthanasia are well known and have not changed”.