Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm’s bill to restore territory rights was defeated by two votes on Wednesday 15 August 2018, following two days of intense and emotional debate in the Senate.
If passed the Restore Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 would have revoked a 20-year-old ban on the territories legalising euthanasia. The Bill had been expected to pass in the Senate and many view the result as a serious blow to our democracy because it effectively entrenches a system that treats Australians who live in a territory as second-class citizens.
It was obvious listening to the speeches that many Senators saw it as a proxy debate about voluntary euthanasia and supporters and opponents on either side of this issue, were certainly seeing it that way as well. In the weeks leading up to the debate Senators, and many lower house MP’s, received hundreds of emails from both sides.
Members of Parliament in both houses, who personally oppose assisted dying legislation, knew that if passed, this Bill would certainly lead to the ACT and the Northern Territory pursuing their own assisted dying legislation. Last year the ACT Parliament set up an inquiry into end-of-life choices to begin the process for an assisted dying bill.
Within days of the defeat, two Labor MPs tried to encourage the Coalition to allow debate on another bill to restore the territories’ rights to make laws on euthanasia. ACT Labor MP Andrew Leigh introduced a private members bill, co-sponsored by Northern Territory MP Luke Gosling, calling on the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to show whether he cared about territorians. Unfortunately, with the upheaval of the leadership challenge in the Coalition, it is anyone’s guess if this new Bill will be given any chance of being debating in the Legislative Assembly when Parliament resumes in September.
Watch this space.