The Rationalist Society of Australia welcomes Labor Minister Kristy McBain’s commitment to give the territories the right to legislate for voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in their own jurisdictions.
Speaking on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing today, the newly appointed Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories said she would work with the crossbench to repeal laws that prevent the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory from legalising VAD.
Since the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 stripped the territories of their right to legislate for VAD, all the states have legalised the humane end-of-life option for terminally ill people, with New South Wales completing the picture in May.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the expanded crossbench and working with my own colleagues and the Senate to make sure that we can bring a private member’s bill, or a private senator’s bill, forward which would look at the repeal of these laws,” Minister McBain said in the ABC interview.
“I think there is probably a range of both ACT and Northern Territory members and senators who are keen to see this come forward. And I’d like to sit down with a lot of my colleagues and have a discussion about how they would like to see this proceed.
“In my mind, jurisdictions across the country have the ability to make laws in regards to assisted dying. And the ACT and the Northern Territory should be no different, if that’s the way their elected assemblies wish to go.”
Before the election, the RSA said the new parliament should make it a priority to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 before the end of the year.
RSA president Meredith Doig welcomed Minister McBain’s comments.
“We’re looking forward to seeing members of the new parliament work together to ensure that the territories’ rights are restored so they can choose, if they wish, to legislate for voluntary assisted dying,” said Dr Doig.
“We know there is overwhelming support for VAD across Australia, including in the territories. And, despite what some might claim, we know this support is also strong among religious communities, as was shown by social researcher Neil Francis in his comprehensive Religiosity in Australia series.
“Citizens of the ACT and the Northern Territory deserve the same right as their fellow Australians to access VAD.”
Minister McBain said she would be working to ensure that a bill is introduced “as soon as we can”.
She added that the Labor Party would allow a conscience vote for its MPs and senators to ensure that it “doesn’t go against somebody’s personal religious or cultural beliefs”.
The Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 is also known as the ‘Andrews’ law after the former conservative Catholic member of parliament Kevin Andrews. Mr Andrews introduced that legislation into parliament following the Northern Territory passing of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995.
Dr Doig said the federal government should also amend laws that prevent the use of a ‘carriage service’ to talk about assisted dying.
“Assisted dying is not the same as suicide,” she said.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
Image: Kristy McBain (Facebook)