Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 November 2017) . . Page.. 4790 ..
While I appreciate the intention of the clause in Ms Cheyne’s motion which calls for this issue to be raised with our federal counterparts at every available and appropriate forum, I am afraid I hold little hope that formal requests from the ACT government will receive any more positive response than we have received so far. Rather, I suspect that change will depend on an upsurge of people power aimed at the federal government. Citizens in the ACT—both those who support voluntary assisted dying and those who more generally want ACT citizens to be treated equally—need to tell their federal representatives to undo the discriminatory restriction on the ACT’s law-making powers. There needs to be a chorus of ACT voices loud enough that the federal government cannot ignore it.
Like Ms Cheyne, the ACT Greens have petitions along these lines and I urge everybody to sign these. I also urge you all to talk to your friends who live in other jurisdictions, because clearly the ACT has only four federal representatives and if we are to have change we have to get people from other jurisdictions on board. Hopefully once New South Wales and Victoria have passed their own legislation, their federal lawmakers will feel emboldened to support it in the federal chamber.
I thank Ms Cheyne for bringing this motion to the Assembly. It is an issue of great concern to many Canberrans and I know it is of personal significance to Ms Cheyne and many other members of this place. And it is my hope that with the current debate, as I said, occurring in other states, the ACT will soon be given the freedom to debate this important issue.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism and Major Events) (11.49): I rise in support of Ms Cheyne’s motion today. I do so because this Assembly is able to make sensible and balanced decisions in the interests of our community. The restrictions that were placed on the territories in relation to voluntary assisted dying by the federal parliament 20 years ago in the Andrews bill are unfair, outdated and frankly insulting to our community and indeed to all who live in Australia’s territories.
Our community has consistently demonstrated that it wants to have a genuine discussion about this extremely important issue, and in most other jurisdictions around this country that discussion is occurring now. We are seeing legislation in various state parliaments across the country, and it would be absurd to continue with restrictions for territories if any Australian state passes legislation.
So today I call on my federal counterparts to repeal the Andrews bill and to allow for genuine community discussion and an appropriate process to be undertaken to develop a scheme and to introduce legislation for this Assembly to debate. Subject to a proper process and appropriate safeguards being in place, I would personally support a scheme and associated legislation to allow voluntary assisted dying.
Having said that, I acknowledge that this is not an easy topic. It is a question of deep moral and ethical debate which is extremely sensitive and personal to many Canberrans. But it is a discussion and a debate that we must be able to have in this territory. I thank Ms Cheyne for bringing this important and longstanding issue to the