Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 1799 ..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Labor Opposition in the Northern Territory, Mr Brian Ede, commenting on the proposal by Marshall Perron to introduce voluntary euthanasia in the Northern Territory, told reporters on 1 February 1995:
I think this is a situation where people should be able to make that decision for themselves.
"For themselves", he said. He said that it is vital that every step towards voluntary euthanasia be preceded by the widest possible consultation with the community. Let us look at another statement, one from Maggie Hickey, the Deputy Leader of the Northern Territory ALP. She told the Legislative Assembly:
I feel that, on this occasion, I have to cast a conscience vote.
Perhaps the statement from Terry McCarthy, a CLP member of the Northern Territory Assembly, best sums up the attitude of members on this issue. He said:
Members have been given the right of a conscience vote on this matter. If that right had not been offered, it would have been taken.
Mr Speaker, the Government has no policy on euthanasia, because it believes that every member of this house should have the right to act according to their conscience. As Health Minister, I can assure this house that no advice has been provided to the Government from the Health Department on this issue, and rightly so. It is a matter of personal conscience. I can assure the house that every Liberal MLA has, always has had and always will have the right to follow their conscience on issues which deal with the sanctity of human life.
I am disappointed that the Labor Opposition in this place has attempted to take a partisan view in deciding not to allow its members a conscience vote on this important issue. In fact, it is a decision that has rightly attracted condemnation from within their own ranks and shows a demonstrable lack of credibility in Ms Follett's leadership. I think that is really the issue here. That she forces her caucus to toe the party line on an issue that has involved no consultation by the party outside its own branch council is deplorable. Bob Carr and Brian Ede both support the right to a conscience vote based on the widest possible consultation. It seems not so Ms Follett. She has forced her members into silence and, in doing so, I believe, has stretched her credibility as leader beyond sustainable bounds. We only have to look at what Terry Connolly said yesterday, namely:
I have the gravest reservations about this proposed law. Accordingly, I have asked to be relieved of responsibility as caucus spokesperson on the issue of euthanasia.
Bill Wood said that he will exercise a vote based on his conscience. Ms Follett stands condemned for her failure to allow her own members to exercise that right. I believe that she should immediately grant them that right.