Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 November 2017) . . Page.. 4787 ..
I thank Ms Cheyne very much for pursuing this very important fundamental right for ACT citizens and I look forward, irrespective of the outcome of this motion today—which I believe will be passed, sadly without the support of the opposition—to continue this important discussion in our community about dying.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (11.37): The Greens of course are very pleased to support Ms Cheyne’s motion today because we support the right of people in the ACT to debate and legislate for themselves on everything, including this very important issue of voluntary assisted dying. The ACT Greens believe that the people of the ACT, just like all other Australians, should have the right to make choices about their own life and the manner of their death. At the end of their life, our citizens should have the right to die with dignity how and when they choose.
As Ms Cheyne’s motion notes, the issue of voluntary assisted dying has gained increasing national attention over recent months, with bills tabled in both the Victorian and New South Wales parliaments this year. A couple of weeks ago the ACT Greens welcomed the passage of the Victorian bill through the lower house and we anxiously await the upper house’s final consideration of this historic piece of legislation.
Here in the ACT of course our situation is completely different, because we are currently subject to the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, a federal law. The federal government added a section to the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988, commonly known as the Andrews bill, to specifically prevent the ACT making laws which would prohibit voluntary assisted dying. The question that Ms Cheyne has so rightly brought to this place today is: why are we, the citizens of the ACT, subject to different rules and restrictions than people in Victoria and New South Wales?
Whether you support voluntary assisted dying or not, the ACT was granted self-government in 1988, it has a properly elected democratic government and the territory should have the right to debate and legislate on this issue. The Andrews bill means that Canberrans are prevented from determining our own laws and we are subject to undemocratic and discriminatory restrictions that are not imposed on Australians in state jurisdictions.
It is simply arrogance on the part of the federal government that they have refused to remove this restriction. The ACT government and the Assembly have made repeated calls on the federal government to repeal the limitations imposed by the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 but these calls have fallen on deaf ears. In September 2014 this Assembly passed a motion brought by my colleague Mr Rattenbury which asked the Speaker to write to the Prime Minister and the federal Minister for Health to make this request and restore the right of the ACT to consider laws on this issue. The federal government’s response noted:
The Australian government does not support legislating voluntary euthanasia and does not propose to remove the restrictions on the Legislative Assembly.