28 November 2022

Preliminary Senate vote on territory rights clears way for ACT euthanasia legislation

| Chris Johnson
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Australian Senate

The Australian Senate will make a final decision next week. Photo: JJ Harrison.

A majority of senators have indicated their approval for the ACT to legislate for itself on controversial issues such as euthanasia.

In a preliminary vote Thursday morning, ahead of next week’s final vote on the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022, 41 senators showed their support while 25 remained against.

It means the ACT and the Northern Territory will soon be able to make their own laws on controversial matters without them being overturned by the Federal Government – as has happened.

In this second reading, all parties determined to allow a conscience vote on the legislation.

The third and final reading of the private members bill, introduced by Member for Canberra Alicia Payne and Member for Solomon (in the NT) Luke Gosling, should be heard by the end of the week as parliament draws to a close for the year.

ACT senator Katy Gallagher described Thursday’s vote as an historic moment.

“I think it gives the first indication of how everybody is going to vote,” she said.

“It’s a conscience vote for everybody in the chamber and the second reading vote passed 41 to 25, which is just amazing.”

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She said once passed, the new law would not actually make euthanasia legal in the jurisdictions, but it would allow the ACT and the NT to vote on the issue.

“I want to mark this moment and thank everybody for the way we have conducted this and for the support for the rights of the territories,” Senator Gallagher said.

Twenty-five years ago, Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews introduced a bill to the Federal Parliament that succeeded in overturning the Northern Territory’s pioneering right-to-die legislation.

The federal veto bill allowed the Commonwealth Government to stop territories from legalising euthanasia, even though the ACT and NT had self government.

Senator Gallagher said she had campaigned to overturn the federal veto for more than decade, beginning when she was the ACT chief minister.

But not everyone was happy with Thursday’s outcome.

Liberal senator Sarah Henderson described the bill as deeply offensive.

“This bill, because of its inevitable consequence, is a statement that we in Australia are prepared to kill our most vulnerable, sometimes under circumstances when it becomes too difficult, perhaps too expensive, perhaps too inconvenient to allow them to live,” she said during debate.

“It represents state-sanctioned killing.”

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ACT independent senator David Pocock said he was frustrated that those who stood against the bill had put the final vote off until next week.

“Senators are claiming they haven’t had time to draft amendments, but we’ve had more than five months to do this,” he said.

All Australian states have passed laws that allow for voluntary assisted dying.

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This seems like a trojan horse to bad things.
Euthanasia is the start but what is next on the chopping block.
Rather than give ACT all the power why not just setup Euthanasia at the federal level?
Seems like we want these laws for purposes other than what is described.

Carolyn Vaughan makes a good comment that Voluntary Assisted dying is quite different to Euthanasia. She is correct, although in my opinion, there is still some grey area.

Dependent of the legislation, there would be a number of safeguards, although that doesn’t prevent unfortunate outcomes.

I am quite concerned about people in this situation, deciding that they don’t want to be a burden to their family. To the family, that loved one is still precious and ever minute still valuable.

I wouldn’t judge someone for making that decision because one day, we too could be in that situation. (In fact, I have cancer).
I would hope that palliative care options had been fully explored and so on.

Sarah Henderson needs to read the legislation in place in other states, an emotive statement such as hers is ill informed and designed to mislead. There are multiple steps that have to be taken to access voluntary assisted dying and anyone who wishes to do so has to prove they’re of sound mind.

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