Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 16 August 2018) . . Page.. 3067 ..
every so often when there are visitors—students and visiting delegations—I wonder what they must make of us with some of the debates we have. What must they think we do?
To outsiders, sometimes the debates might not make sense. They might not realise the fundamental importance of our democratic system. I was heartened to think that those students were here today. They could hear members on both sides of this chamber having this debate. I could not agree more with Minister Ramsay that, in fact, this is the most stellar example of exactly why we are now an Assembly and a community that is ready to face up to some of the biggest questions.
I am also very disappointed. I acknowledge the incredible efforts of members on this side, particularly the Chief Minister and Ms Cheyne, in working on these issues. I particularly thank Senator Smith. I know he is a new senator and I know that this would have deeply engaged him. I think that he made a very significant decision. I really honour the decision that he made to vote for this bill in the Senate last night.
It is very disappointing—Mr Hanson noted his disappointment—that these two issues, territory rights and voluntary assisted dying, are being conflated. I remind him that the only reason they are being conflated is that the rights of territorians in the ACT and the Northern Territory were taken away. That is the only reason they are being conflated. The simple fact of the matter is that territorians in this country do not have the same rights as everyone else.
I offer some counterpoints to this. As others have noted, the matter of voluntary assisted dying has been debated in parliaments across Australia. Legislation has been passed in one parliament and not passed in three others. But what if, in the process of that debate, those parliaments had voted to relinquish their right? That is the alternative. Madam Speaker, could you imagine a parliament, elected by its own community, relinquishing the right to debate an issue? If that was their vote, it could have been respected. But territorians’ rights were taken away.
I offer another counterpoint. I grew up in New Zealand. I spent years living in different cities. But, for argument’s sake, let me instance Dunedin, where I went to high school and university. What if, for some reason or another, the people that lived there, who voted for council members and members of their national parliament, simply were not allowed to have the same rights as people who lived in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington? If you put it in that context and do not conflate the issues, I really struggle to see how members of parliament could not have supported this.
I particularly struggle to understand how Senator Seselja—unlike Senator Smith, who thought deeply about these issues—could have voted in the way that he did. I acknowledge the rights of everyone in this place to hold a deeply held conscience view on the issue of voluntary assisted dying. Again, I reflect that it has engaged parliaments across the country, most recently in Victoria and New South Wales.
It most certainly is the most serious of issues that a parliament could discuss. It goes back to some of the fundamentals of why many of us are in this place. Many of us are challenged daily on balancing our personal views, our political views, the views of