Page 3951 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 September 2018

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compared to some other jurisdictions who have 12 senators for a population not much larger than our own, if larger at all, demonstrates the denial of equal democratic rights to territorians. But possibly that is a matter for another day.

I understand that politics is not always simple. I understand that doing what is best for the community sometimes means taking a nuanced position or working quietly behind the scenes. But I do not believe that that this is what Senator Seselja is doing when he works to block Canberrans from exercising their own legislative rights. As the senator said in a Canberra Times article on 14 August:

If you were talking about a general look at the rights of a territory and how it should be able to legislate, of course, different issues would be on the table …

Senator Seselja has made his position on this matter clear. He does not believe in voluntary assisted dying, and because he does not believe in it Senator Seselja has voted to stop Canberrans having their right to democratically consider it. It seems that Senator Seselja only wants the territory to govern itself when it is governing in a way he personally agrees with. It seems that the reason that Senator Seselja wants to supress territory rights is not that he does not believe in territory rights but that he does not believe in Canberrans.

The senator’s apparent contempt for the voices of Canberrans for the democratic rights of this territory to govern itself truly does beggar belief. It is unconscionable that Senator Seselja would use his privileged position as a representative of this territory to supress his constituents’ democratic voice.

Senator Leyonhjelm’s recent bill to restore territories’ rights to make their own decisions about voluntary assisted dying was defeated by a margin of only two votes. Senator Seselja’s vote was crucial to blocking Canberrans’ democratic rights.

Imagine what the result might have been if, instead of voting against the rights of the ACT, Senator Seselja had been a champion for those rights within the Liberal Party. Senator Seselja had a real chance to stand up for Canberrans, and he did not take it. It seems that there are no real champions for Canberrans in the federal Liberal Party.

As I stated earlier, regardless of parliamentarians’ views on voluntary assisted dying, Canberrans should be afforded equality under the law to legislate in line with community views. Senator Seselja’s predecessor, Senator Humphreys, understood this. When speaking about the ACT’s civil partnership legislation, an issue which he crossed the floor on in spite of his personal view on the issue, Senator Humphries argued that the commonwealth should not be able to overturn territory legislation, commenting:

I also acknowledge that Jon Stanhope went to the 2004 election with an explicit promise to legislate, to recognise in law relationships between people of the same sex and to remove legal discrimination against gay and lesbian territorians.

And here the democratic process—which of course was conferred on the ACT 17 years ago by parliament—provides a clear formula for what happens next: the ACT government is entitled to pass laws, in an area of its legislative competence, to effect an explicit promise made to the ACT community.

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