A “simple but long overdue” proposal to restore territory rights has been introduced to federal parliament.
NT MP Luke Gosling introduced the proposal in collaboration with ACT MP Alicia Payne which would allow territory governments to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.
While introducing the bill, Mr Gosling asked his colleagues to support the simple but long overdue proposal.
“For too long Australians living in the territories have been treated as second class citizens,” he told parliament on Monday.
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“This private member’s bill restores the democratic rights of citizens in the territories by removing a constraint on the legislative authority of their elected representatives which does not exist anywhere else in Australia.”
The NT government passed a world-first law to legalise euthanasia in 1995.
But the so-called Andrews Bill – named after former Liberal MP Kevin Andrews who introduced it in opposition to the legislation – passed federal parliament in 1997, invokes a constitutional power which enables federal parliament to overturn territory laws.
While every state government has since passed laws to allow terminally ill adults to decide how to end their lives, the ACT and NT have been prevented from doing so.
Ms Payne urged her state colleagues to support the proposal.
“For Canberrans and Northern Territorians, this is personal and this is urgent,” she said.
“This is an incredibly important debate that we are not allowed to have simply because of where we live.
“We should give the right to all Australians to have an equal right to the discussion.”
Previous attempts by federal parliament to overturn the Andrews Bill have failed, but Mr Gosling hoped this would be the last time federal parliament would have to debate it.
“The support of this bill does not automatically confer support for voluntary assisted dying,” he said.
“We are not legislating for that, we are simply righting an old wrong and ensuring that all Australians have equal democratic rights.
“That is our job to ensure fairness across the board for all citizens regardless of whether they live in a state or a territory.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will allow Labor MPs a conscience vote on the matter.
A recent attempt to repeal the Andrews Bill in 2018 was defeated, with several Labor senators voting against it.
Mr Gosling said it would be a disappointing prospect if the new bill did not pass parliament.
“Hopefully they arrive at the same conclusions that we have. Even someone like me with reservations around voluntary assisted dying, that is not what’s at stake here,” he told reporters.
“Territorians demand that they are represented in this place by people who will not stand for us being treated as second-class citizens.”
While NT senator Jacinta Price has expressed concern with the bill, Mr Gosling said it was important for all the territory senators and MPs to be on board.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the introduction of the bill was a significant day.
“This time it is different, there is much more optimism about the likely success of this private member’s bill,” he told reporters.
“Were we to be granted this democratic right, we would pursue the matter in a sensible and measured way.”
Mr Gosling said there was renewed optimism about the bill, given all states have now debated and legislated voluntary assisted dying.
“Increasingly, senators and members of the House of Representatives do understand that these sensitive issues can be handled properly by the legislative assemblies,” he said.