Senate debating legislation to return the option to territory governments
Debate is beginning this week in the federal Senate over the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015, a bill that would allow the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island (which is part of the Archdiocese of Sydney) to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide. Three days have been set aside for the debate.
The bill – to be introduced by Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm – seeks to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 (Cth), which removed the ability of each of the territory governments to legalize euthanasia.
That law was passed following the legalization of euthanasia in the Northern Territory in 1995; the first place in the world to do so.
Under the constitution, the federal parliament has the ability to pass laws in relation to the territories, including one that would prevent a territory from legalizing euthanasia. This is because, among other reasons, the territories have just a single house of parliament, leaving them without a “house of review.” The federal parliament, then, provides the extra layer of accountability.
If the Leyonhjelm bill is passed, the territories will once again be able to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. In anticipation of the change, the Australian Capital Territory has already conducted an inquiry into so-called “end-of-life choices.”
An online petition to all Senators, asking them to vote against the change, is being circulated by advocacy group HOPE.
The petition argues that euthanasia and assisted suicide disproportionately affects those already vulnerable to elder abuse, the disabled, and other at-risk groups, and asks the Senate to acknowledge that overseas experience demonstrates there is no safe way to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. It also notes that the Australian Medical Association has consistently opposed the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
In encouraging people to sign the petition, Archbishop Fisher said: “We can do better for the sick and vulnerable in our community.”
Sign the petition here: http://www.noeuthanasia.org.au/tell_the_senate_to_listen
Email Senators here: http://www.noeuthanasia.org.au/sign
Find out more about HOPE here: http://www.noeuthanasia.org.au/
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