Scott Morrison confirms Coalition won’t allow NT and ACT a right to vote on voluntary assisted dying if re-elected

Home Health Scott Morrison confirms Coalition won’t allow NT and ACT a right to vote on voluntary assisted dying if re-elected
Scott Morrison confirms Coalition won’t allow NT and ACT a right to vote on voluntary assisted dying if re-elected

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed a re-elected Coalition government won’t allow the Northern Territory and ACT a chance to vote on legalising voluntary assisted dying.

As of Thursday it is legal in every state, after a marathon debate saw laws pass through New South Wales parliament on Thursday morning.

However, the Northern Territory and ACT don’t have the ability to pass assisted dying laws, due to a long-standing Commonwealth ban on Australia’s territories holding a vote on the issue.

“There are differences between territories and states, and that is under constitution, and we are not proposing any changes to that,” Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

It has now erupted as an election issue in the Northern Territory, with a Country Liberal Party candidate accused of “treachery” for not supporting the NT Parliament being allowed a vote.

A patient in hospital folds their hands and rests them on the bed covers
Euthanasia laws in the Northern Territory lasted for nine months before they were overturned in 1990s.(ABC News: Fiona Pepper)

Senate candidates at odds on the issue

When asked last week if the Northern Territory should be permitted to vote on the issue, Country Liberal Party senate candidate Jacinta Price said she “wouldn’t be committed to supporting that”.

“We’re not trying to support people ending their lives,” Ms Price said.

“I don’t trust this current Territory Government to make any wise decisions on behalf of Territorians.

“I’m certainly not going to trust them in making decisions around the lives of vulnerable Indigenous Australians.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce speaking at a press conference with the NT CLP candidates.
CLP candidate Jacinta Price campaigning in Darwin with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.(ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

Former CLP senator Sam McMahon, who is now running as a candidate for minor party the Liberal Democrats, released a statement blasting Ms Price’s point of view on Thursday.

“This is nothing more than an act of outright treachery from a self-centred person who does not have and never will have the interests of Territorians at heart,” she said.

Dr McMahon, who was beaten by Ms Price for CLP preselection last year, has been a supporter of the Northern Territory regaining a right to vote on the issue.

During her term in parliament, she put forward a private member’s bill to overturn the federal government’s block on the territories’ voting rights.

two men and two women stand in front of a microphone
Dr McMahon was a supporter of the NT gaining a right to vote on the issue during her term in Parliament.(ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

Former CLP chief minister voices disappointment

A former CLP Northern Territory chief minister has also voiced his disappointment in Ms Price’s comments.

Marshall Perron, a long-time voluntary assisted dying advocate, and the leader whose party made it legal in the NT for a period in the 90s, said Ms Price’s position “surprised me enormously”.

“We’re talking about the capacity of elected representatives, of Territorians, making this decision for themselves,” Mr Perron said.

Marshall perron leans against a tree.
It’s been 22 years since Mr Perron’s NT Government first legalised voluntary euthanasia.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

Federal Labor on Thursday alluded to a conscience vote being allowed on the issue if it won government.

“I’m a big supporter of conscience votes,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.

“I think there should be more, not less, conscience votes.”

A Federal Labor spokesman said, if elected, the party would “facilitate the introduction, debate and vote” of a standalone private members or senators bill to allow Australia’s territories to make laws on voluntary assisted dying. 

The Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise assisted dying, in 1995, a move that was overruled by John Howard’s Liberal Government in 1997.

Since then, the territories have been denied a vote on the issue.

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