Another Euthanasia Bill in the Senate


The Federal Parliament of Australia doesn't have a great deal to do with euthanasia really. Given that, since Federation (and even earlier) the Six States each have had on their statute books their own criminal codes, matters to do with euthanasia and assisted suicide have been considered as 'states matters'. This is because such matters would create a variance in one way or another to those criminal codes.

This division of powers could conceivably see any one or more states legislate for euthanasia. But not so the two Australian Territories with limited self-government. Neither of these territories existed at Federation in 1901. They were created and given limited self-government by the Commonwealth (Federal Parliament) and are, therefore, subject to the Federal Parliament. Yes, they have their own criminal code and other statutes but these exist in a manner that is subject to the Federal Parliament unlike to states who have no such dependent relationship.

Such was the lawful and proper intervention of the Commonwealth in response to the Northern Territory becoming the first place in the world to legislate for euthanasia in 1995. In 1997 the Federal Parliament passed a law amending the legislation that enabled limited self-government to exclude from the powers the ability to create,"laws permitting or having the effect of permitting (whether subject to conditions or not) the form of intentional killing of another called euthanasia (which includes mercy killing) or the assisting of a person to terminate his or her life."

The Northern Territory's euthanasia law was, thereby, rendered null and void.

Since that time, there have been a number of attempts to overturn the Euthanasia Laws Act, most notably by the former leader of the Greens Party, Bob Brown. The only abberation was a cynical attempt by Bob Brown's replacement, Senator Richard Di Natale, to have euthanasia and assisted suicide rendered as 'medical procedures' which would have allowed the Federal Parliament to legislate for E and AS under the Commonwealth Powers in regards to health. A very similar situation to what took place in Quebec, Canada. (see HERE)

To be totally clear, the only substantial way that the Federal Parliament can express a legislative interest in euthanasia or assisted suicide is to debate a bill that has as its object the repeal of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997.

In the current parliament there seems to be something of a power or relevance struggle between senators that support euthanasia. Last December, true to his party's platform, Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm (NSW) introduced the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015. Yesterday (March 1), Greens Senator Di Natale (Vic) and Labor Senator Katy Gallagher (ACT) introduced the Restoring Territory Rights (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2016. Ostensibly the same bill with exactly the same objective, we should at least give Senator Leyonhjelm credit for a title that suggests what it is all about.

And yet the fallacy continues, adopted by all comers, that this matter is principally about restoring rights; that somehow a Territorian is a lesser citizen because of what occurred in the Federal Parliament nearly two decades ago.

Indeed, in their 'Explanatory Memorandum' accompanying the bill, Di Natale and Gallagher attempt to explore reasons why they think repealing the Euthanasia Laws Act 'reduces restrictions' on the Assemblies of both territories without addressing the fundamental question about whether or not euthanasia and assisted suicide are goods in themselves.

Embarrassingly, while tying to sell the idea that this new bill has 'cross-party' support and has arisen out of a cross-party grouping of 'right-to-die' MP-supporters, the press releases and even the memorandum looks like it was simply cut and paste from a previous bill. The Senators talk about three self-governing territories, including Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island lost this status when their enabling bill was recinded in May 2015!

Richard Egan, writing in the Defend Human Life! March newsletter points out the silliness of the rhetoric:

Proponents of the Bill are running the primary argument that laws that permit the intentional killing of some people under some circumstances are good because (a) some people are better off dead and/or (b) people have a right to ask to be killed at a time of their choosing.

However, they are also arguing that regardless of whether or not you support euthanasia you should support the right of the Territories' Legislative Assemblies to make laws permitting "that form of intentional killing of another called euthanasia ".

Now this argument is a patent nonsense. It is illogical.

Lincoln v Douglas

There is an exact parallel with the slavery issue in the mid-nineteenth century in the United States of America.

In the Sixth Joint Debate between Abraham Lincoln and Judge Stephen Douglas during the campaign to represent Illinois in the Senate held at Quincy on 13 October 1858, Lincoln exposed the illogicality of Judge Douglas's attempt to claim that he could say slavery was an evil but that Territories should have the right to have slavery if they wanted too:

So I say again, that in regard to the arguments that are made, when Judge Douglas says he "don't care whether slavery is voted up or voted down," whether he means that as an individual expression of sentiment, or only as a sort of statement of his views on national policy, it is alike true to say that he can thus argue logically if he don't see anything wrong in it; but he cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He cannot say that he would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted down.

When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong. ( )

As we have constantly said; anyone who wants to vote to repeal a law that stopped euthanasia must argue that euthanasia is a social good. That is the only legitimate point for debate. If territorians are so disenfranchised by this one issue, they have every right to apply for statehood.

To TAKE ACTION on both bills CLICK HERE.

Further Reading:

Discrimination of the vilest kind
New Bill in Australian Senate