Page 1580 - Week 05 - Thursday, 2 June 2022
MR PETTERSSON: Chief Minister, what previous attempts have been made to restore territory rights and why did they fail?
MR BARR: Since 1997 there have been many efforts, in terms of persuasion, following almost every federal election, seeking for the parliament of that new term to address this issue. The most recent attempt to restore territory rights was in 2018, with a private member’s bill from a Liberal Democrats senator, David Leyonhjelm. I do not think many people in this place would have much in common with the views of David Leyonhjelm, but in this instance “any port in a storm”! So we were very happy to swing in behind that legislative reform.
It got very close. Firstly, credit to former Senator Leyonhjelm for bringing it forward. He did not represent the ACT; he was a New South Wales senator. So the fact that we got support from outside the territories for this was encouraging. The disappointing matter was that one of the territory’s own senators voted against that legislation and that turned out to be the decisive vote in defeating it.
We then saw a former Northern Territory senator, CLP Senator Sam McMahon, introduce a private member’s bill last year. Following a discussion with our former senator, it included the Northern Territory but excluded the ACT, extraordinarily. So we have had a few efforts in recent times. I think the people of Canberra have pretty conclusively settled this matter by voting out the senator who stood in the way, so we are now a step closer to getting this done for the people of the ACT.
MS ORR: Chief Minister, why is it important that the ACT can consider making laws with respect to voluntary assisted dying?
MR BARR: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary. We know that Canberrans care about this issue. We know that community opinion is 80 and 90 per cent in support. We have seen that in many surveys. There is no statistical error here. It is not even close. It is overwhelming: the community wants to see this change. It has occurred in every Australian state. The views of Canberrans and the Australian people are very clear.
I know we have enough respect for ourselves in this chamber—and I think that is held across all parties—that we are mature enough to legislate on this issue. So I am glad that the new Prime Minister agrees with that. I hope that my friend and colleague Andrew Leigh will be able to introduce a private member’s bill into the lower house, the House of Representatives, very soon after the house reconvenes, which I understand will be in late July. It will obviously need to pass through both the house and the Senate in order to repeal the Andrews bill.
I know it is on the way, so we need to get ready for this change—to the extent that this is putting everyone in this place on notice that we need to turn our minds to this issue and to have a good process to develop the best piece of legislation in Australia. I think we are up to that task.