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Restoring Territory Rights (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2016

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 1 Mar 2016

That the following bills be introduced: A Bill for an Act to amend certain territory legislation to restore legislative powers concerning euthanasia and to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, and for related purposes.

Question agreed to.

I present the bill and move:

That this bill may proceed without formalities and be now read a first time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a first time.

This is a Bill for an Act to restore the rights of the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island Legislative Assemblies to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of their respective territories, including their right to legislate for dying with dignity laws.

The Bill repeals the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, through which the national parliament overturned this right, and specifically, the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995.

In 1995, the Parliament of the Northern Territory passed a law which reflected not only the will of Northern Territorians, but also the strongly held views of the majority of all Australians. Every opinion poll conducted over the last two decades has shown that approximately three-quarters of Australians support the concept of dying with dignity. A poll conducted by The Australia Institute in November 2012 found that 71 per cent of Australians support the legalisation of dying with dignity for people experiencing unbelievable and incurable physical and/or mental suffering and that only 12 percent opposed. The survey also found that of those Australians who support dying with dignity laws, 85 per cent also believe that terminally ill patients should have the option of choosing when they die.

Previous research has found that 22 percent of respondents nationally have had a personal experience of a close relative or friend being hopelessly ill and wanting voluntary euthanasia. It has been consistently reported that each year hundreds of terminally ill people are assisted to an early and dignified death by compassionate medical professionals. This is an issue of great importance to many Australians and therefore all Australians should have, at the very least, the right to elect representatives to debate and make laws on this subject.

In 1995, the Northern Territory Assembly led the way in Australia by giving its citizens the option to end their suffering with dignity and medical support. In 1997, the Federal Parliament removed that right. This Bill will redress that action and restore the legislative rights of the governments of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Norfolk Island to make decisions that both affect their citizens and reflect their views and concerns. In so doing, it reflects the heartfelt views of the majority of Australians on this important issue.

In 2011, the Parliament passed the Territories Self-Government Legislation Amendment (Disallowance and Amendment of Laws) Act 2011, introduced by the Australian Greens, which removed the power of the Federal executive to overturn legislation enacted by the Legislative Assemblies of the Territories. This Bill further enhances the rights of Australian citizens in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island to make legislation on those matters of importance to them without undue interference from the Federal government.

In particular, it should be noted that this Bill does not restore the Northern Territory'sRights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. It does, however, restore the rights of the Northern Territory legislature to make laws about voluntary euthanasia in the future.

We commend the bill to the Senate.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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