Independent ACT senator David Pocock says federal Labor should not hold a conscience vote on whether to allow the ACT and Northern Territory rights to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.
Senator Pocock spoke against a conscience vote because it would be deciding on those territories’ rights to pass their own laws, rather than a vote on voluntary assisted dying itself.
“This isn’t about legislating voluntary assisted dying,” Senator Pocock told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.
“This is a question about whether the territories have the same right to debate that.”
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The NT and ACT are now the only two Australian jurisdictions where assisted dying is banned, with NSW becoming the last state to make it legal earlier this year.
In 1995 the NT became the first to permit voluntary euthanasia but the Howard government later banned the Top End and ACT from legislating on the issue.
Health Minister Mark Butler said Labor won’t stonewall any proposed bill but it was party tradition to allow conscience votes on the issue.
This would mean the vote is up to individual MPs and senators rather than voting as a party. It could mean the legislation has less chance of passing.
Mr Butler personally supports allowing the territories to get their say on voluntary euthanasia.
“I think the Commonwealth Parliament’s legislation to override that right has been a substantial overreach,” he said.