In welcoming news that Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying bill has passed the Upper House, the ACT Greens and ACT Labor 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.
Comments attributable to Caroline Le Couteur, ACT Greens MLA and spokesperson for seniors:
“The 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.
“It’s absurd that Canberrans should be prevented from determining our own laws, and be subjected to the undemocratic and discriminatory restrictions of an imposed federal law. We were granted self-government almost thirty years ago, and it speaks to arrogance on part of our federal counterparts that this restriction exists for the territories.
“I accept that individuals’ views on euthanasia are a matter of conscience, but it should not be a matter of conscience whether or not the citizens of the ACT have the same rights as other citizens of Australia.
“It’s time that the Federal Government repealed this undemocratic limitation - which is solely based on politics instead of principle.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.
“The Greens want to see governments across Australia take action to create a compassionate, safe and workable scheme for voluntary assisted dying—and the passing of legislation through the Victorian Upper House is a milestone moment.”
Comments attributable to Tara Cheyne, ACT Labor MLA:
“The choices we have at the end of our lives concern all Canberrans.
“Canberrans are regularly telling me how important the issue of voluntary assisted dying is to them.
“We know that in the vast majority of cases where a person is terminally ill, palliative care is an effective and appropriate treatment at the end of a person’s life. But for a small percentage of people, palliative care does not ease their pain, and they suffer unbearably.
“This suffering is not limited to the person with the terminal illness; it reaches their loved ones, too.
“However, for 20 years the ACT has been subject to Federal legislation which restricts our community’s ability to determine our own policy on voluntary assisted dying.
“As a result, the ACT as a jurisdiction, and our citizens within it, have effectively been rendered second-class. That the Federal legislation continues to operate is reprehensible and disrespects the ACT and its citizen.
“And now, in light of the imminent passing of legislation in Victoria, it is absolutely inexcusable.
“We are calling on the Federal Parliament to act.”
The ACT is currently subject to the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, an imposed federal law introduced by Kevin Andrews. 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.
Following a motion passed by the ACT Greens and ACT Labor in November, both parties are actively raising this issue with their federal political colleagues and counterparts.