It’s hard to believe that in 2022 citizens of territories are denied the same democratic rights as other Australians by the federal parliament.
The Australian Constitution allows the federal parliament to legislate to prevent territories from making particular laws. In 1996, Liberal MP Kevin Andrews introduced a bill to prevent the territories legislating on voluntary assisted dying (VAD), in response to the NT passing a law to allow it.
This has become known as the “Andrews’ Legislation” and to this day prevents the territories from debating the issue of VAD, although all of the states now have.
It is well past time that we had the right to debate and make our own laws on this issue as other Australians have.
The Albanese Labor Government has already begun an ambitious legislative agenda.
Labor Member for Canberra, Alicia Payne and Luke Gosling, the Labor Member for Solomon (NT), have introduced a private member’s bill to repeal the Andrews’ Legislation to restore territory rights.
Standing up for the democratic rights of Canberrans has long been core business for ACT Labor.
Senator Katy Gallagher advocated for territory rights when she was Chief Minister from 2011-14. During their time in the federal parliament, both Katy and Andrew Leigh have sponsored bills to restore territory rights.
Since their election in 2019, David Smith and Alicia Payne have both spoken in parliament calling for ACT citizens to have equal democratic rights.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne, and the ACT Labor team have championed the cause and worked incredibly hard to raise awareness and progress the issue.
Whether in the Assembly or in federal parliament, for years your Labor representatives have been fighting to have your democratic rights restored.
In total, eight bills seeking to repeal the Andrews’ act of 1997 have been moved in parliament. Most of these bills lapsed or were not brought on by the previous government. Just one of these bills was brought to a vote in the Senate in 2018, and was narrowly and excruciatingly defeated by just two votes, one of which was former ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja.
Luke and Alicia’s Bill does not legislate voluntary assisted dying in the territories. But it would allow the legislative assemblies of the ACT and NT to debate the matter and decide for themselves.
This is an issue of territory rights. While all states have now passed laws allowing voluntary assisted dying, the 25-year-old law prohibits the territories from even considering similar laws.
This has been a long fight for our ACT Labor team, and with the election of Senator Pocock, now all ACT federal representatives support equal rights for Canberrans.