Yet another Sydney Morning Herald report on euthanasia today says that Greens Senator Richard Di Natale will table a bill to overturn the the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 as early as next Monday.
The Euthanasia Laws Act was introduced by Liberal MP, Kevin Andrews in 1996. It's objective was to remove from the limited governmental powers of the Australian Territories (namely: The Northern Territory, The Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island) the ability to pass legislation in regards to end-of-life issues such as euthanasia & assisted suicide. The effect upon the Royal Assent to this bill was to make nul and void the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act passed in 1995 in the NT under the watch of the then Chief Minister, Marshall Perron.
The Sydney Morning Herald article quotes Mr. Perron, a continuing euthanasia advocate as saying that there should be no conscience vote available to MPs in debating Di Natale's bill:
''The territories' rights issue should not be about conscience at all. The issue of the constitutional standing of our self-governing territories and what they should be allowed to do for themselves is quite separate to voluntary euthanasia. And therefore it shouldn't be a conscience vote it should be party policy that the territories do have state-like powers,''.
Perron's observations do not hold with the history of the Euthanasia Laws Act nor with the reality that the Territories are not states (more on that later). When the Andrews Bill was debated, all MPs were able to exercise a conscience vote - there was no party line. MPs on both sides of the chambers voted both for and against. The issue under debate, as the name of the act suggests, is and remains inextricably linked to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The creation of the acts that enabled the three territories in question to exercise limited jurisdictional autonomy did just that. As territories their 'rights' to self-government remain always at the gift of the Federal Parliament and will stay that way until, if ever, any of these territories seek full statehood.
Commonwealth Government Minister and former Labor leader, Simon Crean, himself a supporter of euthanasia was drawn into the debate: ''If you've moved to self-government, it's important to properly allow the Territory - especially as they develop and have experience in government, to make decisions that affect them.''
It is more than a little strange to read a federal Minister playing down the current efficacy of territories' parliaments and their experience of self-government in order make it seem that, somehow, the collective well being of all territorians will be enhanced by the accretion of power and 'rights' so called.
The closing paragraphs of the article really do bell the cat. The focus, should this bill pass, will not be the Northern Territory but, rather the Australian Capital Territory.
In consideration, it is hard to avoid the observation that this is less about a hand-on-heart social justice and rights push than it is about seizing the day in the ACT where the sole Green MP holds the balance of power.
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