7 July 2021

Seselja 'not keen' on restoring the Territory's right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying

| Dominic Giannini
Join the conversation
Zed Seselja

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja does not support reinstating the ACT’s right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying. Photo: Region Media.

It’s been revealed that ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja was “not keen” to include the ACT in a new territory rights bill that would allow the two territories to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.

Outgoing Coalition Senator for the Northern Territory Sam McMahon has announced her intention to introduce a private member’s bill that would reinstate the right to legislate on the issue. The Howard Government stripped both territories of the right under the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997.

READ ALSO Is there a pollie out there who can tell the truth and act in the public good?

Senator McMahon told The Sydney Morning Herald that she originally tried to include the ACT in her proposed bill but her conversations with Senator Seselja indicated “he wasn’t keen to do that” so it would be “rude” to progress the issue.

“If Zed’s not interested and not going to support it, I don’t think it would be worth doing. I’d be better off just doing it for the NT,” she’s quoted as saying.

Senator McMahon angered some conservative Coalition members by calling for a conscience vote on the issue without consulting the party before making her announcement.

Senator Seselja, a conservative, 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.

Tara Cheyne

Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said, “Zed only speaks for himself”. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

His reluctance to include the ACT in Senator McMahon’s bill incensed local MLAs, who accused him of neglecting ACT residents.

“Even when invited to speak for Canberrans on an issue as important as Territory rights, Zed only speaks for himself,” ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said.

“By asking NT Senator Sam McMahon to leave the ACT out of her prospective bill to restore Territory rights, Zed has not only abandoned Canberrans but he’s gone against his own colleagues’ wishes and actively and knowingly undermined the ACT Opposition Leader.”

ACT Labor and Greens politicians, and Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee on behalf of the Canberra Liberals, signed a letter to all Australian MPs and Senators alerting them to the Legislative Assembly’s unanimous motion calling for the Assembly’s ability to legislate on voluntary assisted dying to be restored.

Ms Lee says that that the position of the Canberra Liberals is clear after co-signing the Assembly motion.

“I have made the views of the Canberra Liberals Legislative Assembly team very clear to Senator Seselja and will continue to discuss this matter with him and other federal colleagues,” she said.

“The ACT Legislative Assembly is democratically elected by the people of Canberra. It should have the right to legislate on this matter on behalf of Canberrans, just as we have the right to legislate on a whole host of other matters dealt with by state and local governments across Australia.”

READ MORE ACT leaders may take battle for euthanasia laws to the UN

Ms Cheyne has previously said that the territories’ inability to have their elected representatives legislate on their behalf contravenes Australia’s human rights obligations.

Her view is supported by ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs who said “it is entirely inappropriate for the Commonwealth Parliament to determine a policy setting that is only relevant to the people in the ACT”.

Senator Seselja was not available to answer questions from Region Media about a direct vote on voluntary assisted dying or elected representatives legislating for their constituents.

“The Senator’s views on euthanasia are well known and have not changed,” a spokesperson from Senator Seselja’s office said.

“Individual senators are free to present legislation to the Parliament as they see fit.”

Senator Seselja previously said he was open to an omnibus territory’s rights bill that included the right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.

Katy Gallagher

ACT Senator Katy Gallagher has been a long time advocate for reinstating the ACT’s ability to legislate on voluntary assisted dying. Photo: Auspic.

ACT Labor Senator and former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher introduced a similar bill to the Senate in 2016 which included both territories. It remains on the Notice Paper.

When asked if she would move amendments to include the ACT in Senator McMahon’s bill, Senator Gallagher’s office said it only had media reports on which to base comments as the proposed bill has not been released and she had not been consulted.

A vote to repeal the laws was narrowly defeated 36 to 34 votes in the Senate in 2018.

Senator Gallagher said it would be a hard path for Senator McMahon’s bill to even make it to debate on the Senate floor after she lost pre-selection and would not be returning after the next election.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Capital Retro5:08 pm 08 Jul 21

Some comments here are bordering on hate speech.

Well … Here is my view

Back in 2008 I spend 10 weeks in an Nursing-Home doing voluntary work.
It was an eye opener. People that were close to death were put in to darkened room with some soft music playing 24/7 … No food …No drink.
Every now and then … someone would check to see if their gone.
I had 2 friends who killed them self’s …because they did not want to die that way.
One told her family she was going to do it …The send one did it and was found 5 weeks later.

Capital Retro10:19 am 08 Jul 21

They would have been sedated and barely aware of what was going on.

Many would have advanced dementia which takes away the ability to eat and drink.

You didn’t learn much about the end of life process did you.

Re, You didn’t learn much about the end of life process did you.

Happy reading …

Google : Top doctor’s chilling claim: The NHS kills

Capital Retro2:37 pm 08 Jul 21

That claim is almost 10 years old and it specifically relates to the UK.

People have to die somewhere and I guess most of us in Australia will die in a aged care facility when it is our turn because the family home usually isn’t equipped to handle old age. Placing elderly loved ones in a care facility is very stressful for all concerned.

With old age there are a lot of difficult to manage situations and the line between protecting people from harming themselves and others by intervention and alternatively sedating them is very thin.

Actually I would suggest that it’s you who doesn’t know much about the end of life process, Capital Retro. VAD is about giving individuals the right to choose to not be put into the position where they are “sedated and barely aware of what is going on”. You do understand that the V in VAD is for “voluntary” don’t you? You and Zed have the right to oppose VAD as an option for yourself, but please don’t assume that gives you the right to enforce your views on others … it’s about individuals being able to choose for themselves.

Capital Retro7:59 pm 08 Jul 21

Most people in care are there because they can no longer make decisions for themselves so VAD doesn’t come into the equation.

Capital Retro: But not all people. My mother can still think for herself but is dying. I am looking after her, but there will come a time when that is beyond me, when more than one carer is needed to get her to the toilet, etc, or when at hand pain management is needed, and then she will have to go into care, likely Clare Holland House. She should be allowed to make her own decisions, whatever they are. I know she doesn’t want to go into a nursing home.
My father was also able to think for himself right up until almost the end at 95 years. Up until he was given so much morphine that he was hardly ever conscientious, his breathing coming with difficulty. I was told he expressed a view that he was in favour of euthanasia. He had requested no resuscitation.

Euthanasia does happen now, but is not fully acknowledged. Too much morphine, etc. But dying people, people in pain, should have the choice to go earlier, not when they are on their death bed.

Sir Robert must be rolling over in his grave about what has become of the once great Liberal Party.

He called it the ‘Liberal’ party rather than the Conservative Party as he wanted it to be progressive, inclusive, open to new ideas and to keep government interference out of how people live their lives.

Over the last two decades that vision has been eroded so much that it is no longer even a memory.

Actually we only have two Senators in the ACT (like NT), whereas each state (including Tasmania) has 12. Our two are one from each tribe (Zed and the right and Katie on the left).

Capital Retro5:29 pm 07 Jul 21

“Surely a quarter century in opposition is some sort of record?”

Sure it’s a record for the ACT Legislative Assembly but we are talking about Zed who is now Federal, representing the ACT.

Apart from the 6 years preceding 2013 when Labor (Rudd/Gillard/Rudd) had the numbers the LNP has held power for more than 20 years.

Zed has delivered well since being a Senator. Let’s face it, the main criticisms of him relate to minor lifestyle issues. Isn’t anyone worried about the big picture?

“Zed has delivered well since being a Senator”
Perhaps you can enlighten us, Capital Retro, as to exactly what Zed has delivered for the ACT since he moved from the local pond to the Senate.

Capital Retro7:42 pm 07 Jul 21

Lots of money.

Ok, lets look at the big picture, which is life and death. We are all going to die and I want to die painlessly, comfortably and at a time and in a way of my own choosing with someone to assist me. Zed is opposed to voluntary assisted dying. Therefore Zed is in favour of an undignified, protracted, painful demise as one by one our organs fail and we struggle for breath. Zed represents cruelty and suffering. He is unfit for public office.

Capital Retro11:52 am 08 Jul 21

You are welcome to oppose him at the next election. Good luck with your single “life and death” policy.

Retro-dude. Could you point to two times that Zed has advocated and voted for a view or issue that is obviously and clearly the will of his constituents yet is in opposition to his his personal beliefs or his toeing the party line? Thanks!

“Lots of money”
An unsubstantiated generalisation – is that the best you can offer on what Zed has offered?

Capital Retro5:02 pm 09 Jul 21

Look it up on his website for goodness sake.

Capital Retro4:39 pm 07 Jul 21

Do we have any other ACT Senators? If we do we never hear anything from them or about them.

I guess there are a couple of Labor ones there somewhere and I’ll take a wild guess and say they used to have stellar careers in the trade union movement.

Shame on Zed Seselja. If he had ever had to watch his own mother suffer in incredible pain, struggling just to breathe for 2 long weeks, whilst listening to her repeatedly beg you for help to stop the suffering, he might have a different view. His lack of compassion on this subject goes beyond his Catholicism, its simply cruel and inhumane.

In regards to euthanasia laws, our politicians must put their personal opinions aside and do what the people they represent want.
Watching your parents die slowly and painfully is WRONG! Give us the choice over how we end our own lives.

As much as I am not a fan of Senator Seselja and his antics in (supposedly) representing Canberrans, he has been successful at 3 elections (2013, 2016 and 2019). So that means that under our current (arguably flawed) representative democratic process he is quite within his rights to ignore the vocal citizens of the ACT as he sees fit. The one thing that has to be acknowledged is the Zed has never hidden his Christian Right (Catholic) views, so it’s not surprising he would baulk at any action to assist VAD. (Just for the record, I am very pro VAD).
The bottom line is that until we wisen up and stop electing lame duck Senators (i.e. one Labor and one Liberal who cancel each other’s vote on party lines) we will never get representatives who work for the ACT ahead of their own political ambition and/or agenda. I had hoped that Anthony Pesec, a conservative independent, may have been a change for the better at the last election but he ended up getting virtually no support from the ACT constituency.
So, after the votes are counted, we get the politicians we deserve.

Indeed Mark. Too many people Australia wide simply ‘Vote insert party here’ irrespective of what lame duck is put up. Its a general problem across Australian politics, and a key contributing factor more generally to why we have so many poor quality representatives in the Parliament these days. Far too many get a cushy ride, and part of that cushy ride comes from apathy in the general public, and a willingness to vote for ‘x’ every time because ‘my family always does, or ‘the cat told me to do it’, or whatever other bizarre reason. About time Australians start actually valuing their vote and making politicians earn it.

I couldn’t agree more. The indifferent and lazy voters of Australia are the reason we get such lacklustre politicians. Three word slogans and populist spruikers win out too many times.

Jenny Graves5:24 pm 06 Jul 21

Incredible that HIS opinions trump those of the people who voted him in. Perhaps one day he’ll develop an incurable disease that is incredibly painful. Then we’ll see whether his position changes, won’t we?

Finally Relented3:53 pm 06 Jul 21

Years before any other state or territory, ACT voted to have assisted dying laws. Overturned by liberal Federal government.

Capital Retro4:57 pm 06 Jul 21

And that was years before Zed got into politics so, what?

@Finally Relented
I just saw your post. Unfortunately you are incorrect. It was the NT Assembly which passed, and subsequently had overturned by the Feds (The Andrews Bill), legislation to allow voluntary euthanasia. The ACT has never had the power to legislate on VAD, as the prohibition is firmly enshrined in the Federal Act which gave the ACT self government – that prohibition was “reinforced” by The Andrews Bill which prohibited any territory from passing legislation on VAD. The closest we have ever got is the defeat of the Leyonhjelm motion in the Senate in 2018 – which as even CapitalRetro will know, Senator Seselja voted against.

Yes, well I’m not keen at all on the Vatican deciding whether the ACT has the right to legislate on Voluntary Assisted Dying, or anything else for that matter.

Zed will continue to be elected because the Senate electoral quota system ensures the second ranking ACT candidate gets in and there is always enough non-Greens/Labor votes to get any Liberal candidate in, whoever he/she is. Enough people will always vote for anyone who is not Greens/Labor. The only way to get rid of Zed is to join the ACT Liberal party and vote him out, from within.

I personally believe that we should have legalised voluntary euthanasia across the country.

But the idea that it’s somehow a breach of our human rights to not let the ACT legislative assembly control this is ridiculous.

The responsible elected body for this issue has legislated on tfhe issue.

Is it a breach of human rights that local councils can’t legislate on it?

Zed has stated his position on the overall issue of Territory rights, he doesn’t have to change his mind because of whingers here. You get your vote on his position every Senate election.

Capital Retro8:25 am 06 Jul 21

Wasn’t it it was Bob Hawke and his Labor cohorts that gave us self government and the latent legislative restrictions that went along with it?

An elected representative has one job and one job only… to represent the views of those who elected them.

They are not there to represent their own views or the views of their party. They are there to represent the views of those who gave them the job.

One job only.

Zed has consistently failed in his one job.

Capital Retro7:24 am 06 Jul 21

If that were the case he would never have been elected. Just because you don’t agree with one of his beliefs doesn’t mean that he has “consistently failed” in hi job.

In fact, he has been an outstanding success as a politician and representative for the ACT.

So what ‘outstanding successes’ has he achieved CR?

A failure in local politics, now just on the gravy train at the federal level. What exactly has he delivered for the Territory? Only ever pops his head above water when there is an election in the air.

He gets voted in because of the nature of the senate voting system and the fact that invariably more then enough people vote non labour/green irrespective of who is put up to ensure a 1/1 split for our senate seats.

There is a reason he has never attempted to run for the House of Reps – where his genuine popularity with the electorate he represents would be tested….. and same for Gallagher too. They know they’ve got it made in the cushiest seats in the whole of the Parliament.

A dead duck twice cremated could be put up on the ticket and get elected in the ACT on the senate ticket, as long as it was lead candidate for one or other of the major party.

Re-election in this case has zero to do with competency or popularity with the electorate.

I’d suggest that’s probably true for all our politicians at either federal level.

In the HOR, our electorates so blindly vote Labor that we never get any attention from either major party because the seats are so safe.

And then because we only get 2 senators, they mostly don’t do anything, hold bugger all power and only need to get 33% of the vote to be safe.

But unless we get more Senators or a new voting system, this is unlikely to change.

At least there is some resemblance of a contest occasionally in the lower house (though not too much) – but there is truly zero in the Senate. Its a sad state of affairs, but also the nature of the town.

It would take someone with some serious competency or personality to change things in either case – I think perhaps Elizabeth Lee in time could build a profile to be able to challenge genuinely for a federal lower house seat. But there isn’t much talent out there sadly either.

I think you’re being charitable with claims of a contest in the HOR, with the last Liberal member only being there for 1 year 25+ years ago.

Typically the two seats have been held by 10-15% by the ALP. Even with the new 3rd seat of Bean in a nominally more conservative area of Canberra, the ALP won the seat by 4% and will likely increase that figure in future elections now that the member has incumbency on his side.

Elizabeth Lee already ran for the HOR in 2013 and lost by around 13% although you’re right she might be a shot with more name recognition but unfortunately she’s from the wrong side of town where she might be a better chance down south.

We are far too politically stratified with not enough swinging voters to liven things up.

He is stuck in his narrow conservative Christian views. Most people would support the bill. He certainly dosnt represent my views

Politicians are elected to represent the majority’s views in parliament, not their own views. The majority of people want access to voluntary euthanasia and so that is what every elected politician must advocate for. If an elected politician cannot represent the people who elected them they should resign.

Capital Retro6:24 pm 05 Jul 21

There is nothing new in that report.

It’s a beat up of a bitter third party bad mouthing Zed.

But the haters love it so let’s feed them.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.