Written by Andrew Murphy
Labor MPs Alicia Payne and Luke Gosling have introduced a private members bill into the Federal Parliament in an attempt to overturn a 25-year-old ban which prevents the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory from legalising euthanasia.
On May 25,1995 the Northern Territory became the first jurisdiction in the world to allow a doctor to kill end the life of a patient with a terminal illness. However, only four patients were killed before the Federal Government stepped in to overturn it.
In September 1996, Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews introduced the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 into the House of Representatives in an effort to stop “the use of a lethal injection to bring about the immediate death of another”. His bill was passed, 38 votes to 33, and not only overturned the Northern Territory laws but also banned the ACT from introducing similar legislation in the future.
The Restoring Territory Rights Bill introduced by Ms Payne and Mr Gosling aims to overturn the Andrews Bill and allow the territories to make their own euthanasia laws. It comes in the wake of every Australian state legalising euthanasia over the past five years – beginning with Victoria in 2017 and ending with New South Wales on May 19 this year.
Ms Payne has argued that “in 2022 our democracy is not equal because some Australians don’t have the right to debate a certain issue because of where they live.” There have been a number of failed challenges to the Andrews Bill over the past 25 years but Ms Payne told Sky News Australia she was “optimistic” the new bill will pass.
While Mr Gosling is personally opposed to euthanasia, he believes the people of the Northern Territory and the ACT should have the right to make a decision for themselves.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has indicated he is likely to support the bill but he will allow Labor MPs to have a conscience vote on the issue.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill as early as this week. While many believe the bill will pass the lower house, there is hope it could be halted in the Senate.
Last week, Canberra and Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse wrote to Federal politicians, asking them to consider the bill in light of the fact it will allow the territories to “legislate for state-sanctioned killing”.