In welcoming news that Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying bill has passed the Lower House, the ACT Greens today again called on the Federal Government to lift restrictions barring the ACT from determining its own legislation—restrictions that deny the rights and wishes of terminally ill Canberrans to end their lives on their own terms.
“The ACT Greens believe that the people of the ACT, just like all Australians, should have the right to make choices about their own life and death. At the end of their life, our citizens should have the right to die with dignity, how and when they choose,” said Greens MLA and spokesperson for Seniors Caroline Le Couteur.
However the ACT is currently subject to the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, an imposed federal law. The Federal Government added a section to the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 to specifically prevent the ACT from making laws which would permit voluntary assisted dying.
“It’s absurd that Canberrans should be prevented from determining our own laws, and be subjected to these undemocratic and discriminatory restrictions,” Ms Le Couteur said. “We were granted self-government almost thirty years ago, and it speaks to arrogance on part of our Federal counterparts that this restriction still exists.
“The Greens want to see governments across Australia take action to create a compassionate, safe and workable scheme for voluntary assisted dying.
“The ACT is being prevented by a Federal Government that is otherwise unwilling to act on an issue that is of great concern to many people in the community.”
The issues of balance between people's dignity and the sanctity of human life, and the extent and efficacy of safeguards for vulnerable people, are important considerations in this debate. Several countries have developed schemes for voluntary assisted dying that are working effectively and safely.
“Of course, moving forward on the issue of voluntary euthanasia in the ACT would involve extensive community consultation, input from experts and no doubt vigorous debate in the Assembly – all of the parliamentary and community engagement that are appropriate for such an important change,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“It’s time that the Federal Government repealed this undemocratic limitation - which is solely based on politics instead of principle. Canberrans should not be treated as second-class citizens, and must be allowed the freedom to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of our community.”