2 December 2022

Voluntary assisted dying in the ACT: what happens now?

| Ian Bushnell
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Team effort: ACT politicians and supporters at Parliament House last night for the Territory Rights Bill vote. Photo: Supplied.

Draft legislation for voluntary assisted dying will likely be introduced into the Legislative Assembly in August next year after what Chief Minister Andrew Barr called a “thorough” process to consult with the ACT community.

Welcoming the passing of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill last night, Mr Barr said that process would be led by himself, Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury.

“We understand the significant obligation that is now on the ACT and NT Legislative Assemblies,” he said.

It will be a government bill but Labor members would be given a conscience vote, as would Liberal MLAs, while voluntary assisted dying is a Greens policy and all their members support it.

“We know there will be a respectful and detailed engagement for the Territory parliament on this matter,” Mr Barr said.

The Government will use the Christmas and New Year period to refine and finalise the public consultation process, which will include a discussion paper to be released in late January or early February.

READ ALSO Landmark bill returns Territory rights as quarter century ban is overturned

It will include questions on a range of issues including safeguards, eligibility and residency requirements.

That consultation will run for a minimum of eight weeks.

The Government will prepare and release a listening report on the feedback, with plans to introduce a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to the ACT Legislative Assembly in the second half of 2023, probably during the August sitting.

The draft legislation will then be scrutinised by an Assembly committee for a minimum three-month period, meaning the bill could be debated towards the end of 2023.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said that while he believed the community was relieved at the Senate vote, and wanted the Assembly to deal with the issue, it did not want the process rushed.

“That’s why we’re setting out a clear timetable,” he said.

“We want to move forward on this legislation, but we’ll do it in a way where they there is a strong chance for community input. We will be seeking that feedback. We’ll be putting it out there in a very transparent way.”

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says a clear timetable and strong community input is needed. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The government does not have a preferred model and will take the best parts from the six voluntary assisted dying schemes set up by the states.

Asked about checks and balances in any legislation, Mr Rattenbury said the government would need to listen to the community and its concerns.

“We now have the opportunity to have this discussion with our community to ask them these questions, ask them what thresholds they want to see prominent in the legislation,” he said.

“And that means talking to a range of people in our community.

“The medical profession will have views. I imagine there will be different views in the disability community, within our culturally and linguistically diverse community there will be different views on this and so the job of the Assembly over the coming 12 months or so will be to try and listen to those communities very carefully, and then to synthesise them into a model of legislation.

Mr Rattenbury said the role of Catholic-run Calvary Public Hospital in any ACT voluntary assisted dying scheme would be a sensitive question.

“I don’t know Calvary’s position at the moment, that’s something we will need to talk to them about,” he said.

Ms Cheyne led the ACT Government’s drive to overturn the Andrews Bill denying the territories the right to debate and legislate on the issue and was at Parliament House last night with Mr Barr, federal colleagues, Senator David Pocock and other supporters when the vote carried on voices.

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“It has been decades in the making to right this wrong, to correct this injustice,” she said.

“We are indebted to the hundreds of thousand of people who for so long have not given up, and tonight’s result is reflection of their perseverance and commitment to territory rights, to democratic rights which ultimately are human rights.”

Former chief minister Senator Katy Gallagher said it was a really significant and historic moment that many had fought a long time to witness.

“I know how much the restoration of territory rights matters to Canberrans,” she said.

“It’s something I championed as Chief Minister, I fought for as a Senator and am now really proud to have played a part in delivering as part of a Federal Labor Government.”

Senator Pocock said the ACT community could now start having the conversation on whether a voluntary assisted dying scheme is right for us.

“Dignity, freedom and choice shouldn’t end at the borders we draw on a map. We are all Australians and we all deserve the same democratic rights,” he said.

“I look forward to the ACT Legislative Assembly leading that discussion, drawing on diverse voices and asking the right questions on whether it is appropriate for our community and what safeguards should be considered.”

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Wow suicides are going to become a lot easier and prevalent and we are celebrating this? Why use euphemisms here: voluntary assisted deaths is just assisted suicide.

… and your point being, Sam? Are you now going to enforce your own religious dogma on everyone and say individuals are not entitled to make their own choice?

JS it’s nothing to do with religious ideology. Just wanted to point out the irony of spending billions in suicide prevention, mental health and the NDIS and at the same time being pro- euthanasia and pro-abortion (involuntary death of foetuses).

Yeah right, Sam, no religion in your thinking at all!
There’s no irony here, just distortion of reality to suit your narrative.
Nevertheless, you are entitled to your opinion. It just so happens a majority of Australians disagree with you … hence the elected representatives in every state have passed VAD legislation and now the elected representatives in the Territories will be able to debate such legislation. Similarly elected representatives in every State and Territory have enacted legislation granting women the control over their own bodies with respect to abortions. Both pieces of legislation allow individuals to make a choice which is personal and theirs to make.

This really is an historic day for ACT residents and all Territorians!! It has only taken 25 years to reach equality with the states on voluntary assisted dying legislation! The above photo says it all! Where is Elizabeth Lee and her party to rejoice!!!

Wonderful, now we have some of most incompetent politicians in the world making, unchecked, life and death decisions.

Time to watch Soylent Green again for what the future may behold

No louinski we don’t have incompetent, ultra conservative bigots making decisions for us!! How good is that!

Jack D,
We do have incompetent bigots making decisions for us.

They aren’t conservative though, so you can have that.

“… unchecked, life and death decisions …” Seriously, louinski? Firstly, you do understand that the “V” in VAD is for VOLUNTARY don’t you?
Drop the emotional claptrap and actually take a minute to understand what has happened. The democratically elected representatives, of the citizens of NT and ACT, have been now been confirmed as having the authority to debate, and if agreed, enact legislation to enable VAD.
It means the question can now be debated by those elected to represent the people it actually affects – that’s how democracy works.
By all means exercise your right to voice your objection to VAD, if you have one, but please be truthful in expressing your opinion and don’t stifle the debate because you have an issue with the democratically elected representatives.

Capital Retro7:28 pm 03 Dec 22

Even Charlton Heston can’t save us this time.

How refreshing and what a good day this is for Canberrans. Has anyone in our city’s recent past seen two Senators from opposing sides working together to negotiate necessary changes to benefit all ACT residents? Not to mention the restoration of Territory rights. This is after 25 years of Liberal and conservative resistance. The faces in the above picture say it all. Not a Liberal face in sight to rejoice!! The recently dumped senator Zed Seselja was part of this resistance. Prior to becoming senator, Zed Seselja spent much of his political career trying to become ACT chief minister despite not believing in territory rights. As senator he used his personal and deeply conservative values to influence parliamentary procedure to undermine Territory rights. As Federal minister for International Development and the Pacific he failed dismally putting relations between our country and Pacific neighbours in reverse. This idleness (laziness) has allowed China to set up bases on the Solomon Islands, one of our nearest neighbours.

“has allowed China to set up bases on the Solomon Islands,”
That wouldn’t have been something to do with the Solomon Island PM holding out his palm to be greased, would it?

Solomons Islands is one of our closest neighbours and one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world Futureproof. The Morrison government showed its contempt for the country by putting Zed Seselja in charge. In what can only be described as a joke, he was made Federal minister for International Development and the Pacific. After years of smug and contemptuous treatment, the Solomons Islands government was offered a deal to bring the country and its people out of misery. But it’s easy to sit back in comfort and make smart alec judgements isn’t it Futureproof!

“But it’s easy to sit back in comfort and make smart alec judgements isn’t it Futureproof!”

Yes, yes it is easy to do that Jack.

Exhibit A, your posts on the issue.

Capital Retro7:31 pm 03 Dec 22

Must be Scott Morrison’s day off. Let’s all bash Zed instead.

Capital Retro7:33 pm 03 Dec 22

The leaders of the Solomons Islands don’t seem poor looking to me and their personal villas look very well developed.

How do you explain that?

Bash Zed = flog a dead horse … he’s an irrelevance and has gone.

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