Scott Morrison confirms no plans to repeal euthanasia ban on territories as NSW laws pass

Scott Morrison confirmed a Coalition government would not seek to overturn the ban if re-elected, saying it was "not our policy" on Thursday, May 19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has doubled down on the Coalition government's stance to not overturn a law that bans the territories from legislating on voluntary assisted dying.

NSW on Thursday passed laws to legalise voluntary assisted dying, the last Australian state to do so. But the ACT and the Northern Territory are still banned from even debating the matter, after a ban implemented by the Federal Parliament 25 years ago.

ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said while she was pleased NSW had passed laws it was tinged with disappointment as the current federal government had continued to refuse the rights to the territories.

Mr Morrison confirmed a Coalition government would not seek to overturn the ban if re-elected at Saturday's poll, saying it was "not our policy".

"There are differences between territories and states and that is under our constitution, and we're not proposing any changes," he said.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was also asked whether a federal Labor government would make this a priority, but he would not put a timeframe on legislation to protect territory rights when asked if a bill would be put forward in the first 100 days.

"I'll set the priorities according to the priorities I've put out in the election campaign, not according to a press conference two days beforehand," Mr Albanese said.

"I have said my view is well-known about territories and about territories' right to determine their own legislation. I've spoken about that in parliament and I've spoken about that in interviews with The Canberra Times on the record," he said on Thursday.

FEDERAL ELECTION MUST-READS:

Legislation passed the NSW Parliament on Thursday afternoon. Terminally ill people in NSW will be able to access voluntary assisted dying within 18 months.

The bill was introduced into the lower house last year by independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, with Coalition and Labor MPs allowed a conscience vote on the issue.

The bill allows adults with a terminal diagnosis and up to six months to live to voluntarily end their life with assistance, based on the approval of two independent doctors.

The territories have been unable to make legislation on voluntary assisted dying since the Andrews bill passed in the Federal Parliament 25 years ago.

The federal bill was introduced by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and was in response to the Northern Territory legalising voluntary euthanasia in 1995.

Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said Canberrans were being treated as second-class citizens. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said Canberrans were being treated as second-class citizens. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Ms Cheyne said the passing of voluntary assisted dying in NSW was a huge moment but it reaffirmed Canberrans were being treated as second-class citizens.

"I know many people out there in NSW have been campaigning for this tirelessly and I really just pay tribute to them," she said.

"But of course, that's very much tinged with frustration, sadness, disappointment, and just sheer disbelief still, that the federal government has just been so dogged in refusing to afford the territories the same rights as the states."

Ms Cheyne said it was her understanding a Labor bill to repeal the Andrews Bill was ready to go if the party won government on Saturday.

"So it's drafted, it's there, it just needs someone to introduce it," she said.

"My preference, of course, would be for the government and the majority to be introducing that, because that sends a very clear signal that they would then be bringing it on for debate."

While the Coalition government does have a policy stance on the issue, when the matter has previously been debated in the Federal Parliament a conscience vote has been allowed.

Senator Sam McMahon brought forward a bill to restore the Northern Territory's rights to create laws on the matter last year. Senator McMahon was a member of the Coalition at the time but she has since resigned from the party. The bill controversially excluded the ACT, but it was never brought to a vote.

ACT independent senate candidate David Pocock has pledged to introduce a private senator's bill to overturn the ban within the first weeks of the new parliament if he is elected.

Mr Pocock slammed both Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese for their comments on Thursday.

"It is completely unacceptable that people living in the ACT and NT are treated as lesser citizens than people living in the states," he said.

"It is hugely disappointing to hear the Prime Minister entrenching this disadvantage and effectively saying that Canberrans deserve to go on being treated as second-class citizens.

"The Prime Minister has a duty to all Australians, including the people of the ACT and NT.

"While the Opposition Leader has indicated support for greater territory rights, his failure to see the urgency of this issue is hard to understand."

Polling from the Australia Institute has showed the majority of Australians - 76 per cent - support a repeal of the Andrews Bill.

"The NSW Parliament's decision to legalise voluntary assisted dying means the Federal Parliament should remove the bar that prevents the ACT and the NT from considering similar legislation," Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said.

"Our research shows the majority of Australians support the Federal Parliament giving back territory rights on legislating voluntary assisted dying.

"Canberra is a grown-up city and ACT residents should not be second-class citizens. The citizens of the ACT deserve the same democratic rights afforded to Australians living in the six states."

  • With AAP

Lifeline: 13 11 14

We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times' website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: James Croucher

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: James Croucher

This story PM confirms no plans to repeal voluntary assisted dying ban on territories as NSW laws pass first appeared on The Canberra Times.