Debate continues on territory rights bill in the Senate

Home Politics Debate continues on territory rights bill in the Senate
Debate continues on territory rights bill in the Senate

A landmark Bill to lift the ban on the Northern Territory and ACT from legislating on euthanasia is all but certain to pass after a major win in the Senate.

The private members Bill, introduced by Canberra MP Alicia Payne and Solomon MP Luke Gosling, would repeal legislation brought on by Kevin Andrews in 1997.

In positive signs, scheduled for next Thursday, it passed the second reading stage 41 votes to 25.

An attempt to bring on a final vote failed as opponents of the Bill used Senate procedure to filibuster to delay the vote.

Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam, who led the delay, said it was clear the “no” camp didn’t have the numbers.

“It is clear that the numbers mean … territory rights will be restored,” he told the Senate during committee stage.

Finance Minister and ACT senator Katy Gallagher said it was a “historic moment” for the territories.

“I want to mark this moment and thank everybody for the way we have conducted this and for the support for the rights of the territories,” she said.

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was the sole territory senator to vote against the Bill at the second reading stage.

Speaking later, the Country Liberal senator raised concerns about the lack of “safeguards” for “the most vulnerable” who reside in the NT.

“It is actually about considering what those safeguards might look like, particularly for vulnerable Australians who are often unheard, who are often disregarded because they’re largely out of sight and out of mind,” she told the upper house.

But ACT independent senator David Pocock disagreed and expressed frustration at the no camp for putting the final vote off until next week under the guise of needing to draft amendments.

“Senators are claiming they haven’t had time to draft amendments, but we’ve had more than five months to do this,” he said.

Earlier, Victorian senator Sarah Henderson said she could not vote for the “deeply offensive” Bill because of its “inevitable consequence”.

“I lost my mum and my dad, both of whom spent a considerable amount of time in palliative care at a young age. I have seen first hand what families go through as they deal with loved ones reaching their end of life,” she told the Senate.

“But for me this Bill, because of its inevitable consequence, is a statement that we in Australia are prepared to kill our most vulnerable, sometimes under circumstances, when it becomes too difficult, perhaps too expensive, perhaps too inconvenient to allow them to live.

“It represents state-sanctioned killing.”

She said understood that some within the ACT and NT believed they should have the right to make the decision on their own, she couldn’t support it “in all good conscience”.

Senator Henderson’s home state was the first in Australia to pass legislation allowing voluntary assisted dying. On Thursday, she said she still held out hope that laws would change.

A final vote will be held next Thursday afternoon during a late-night sitting of the Senate. It will not rise until a conclusion is reached.

The Bill comfortably passed the lower house in August 99 votes to 37.

Both Labor and the Coalition have granted a conscience vote on the issue. All 12 Greens senators will vote in favour of the legislation.

On Thursday, Mr Gosling said he was confident the Bill would pass when it returned next week.

“It’s awesome to see today’s vote in the Senate in favour of restoring Territory rights, and I am even more hopeful that next week we’ll see the Andrews Ban gone for good,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“We’ve done a lot of work to show our Senate colleagues that this bill is about righting a 25-year-old wrong, and restoring democratic equality to Territorians. We’ve been second-class citizens for far too long.

“It’s disappointing to see Senator Price voting against restoring Territory rights. Someone who does not believe her constituents deserve equal rights to other Australians shouldn’t be representing them in the federal parliament or anywhere else.”

Parliament was last asked to vote on territory rights in 2018 when it was defeated by two votes.

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