The Australian Greens have long advocated for the repeal of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 and restoration of the rights of elected assemblies in the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island and Australian Capital Territory to legislate in the interests of their citizens, including the right to die with dignity.
Voluntary assisted dying is an issue that affects countless families, medical professionals, health care and aged care workers across Australia. Recent polling by the Australia Institute found strong support (76 per cent) both for voluntary assisted dying, and for the Commonwealth removing restrictions on territory governments enacting voluntary assisted dying laws. In fact, almost every credible opinion poll conducted over the last two decades has shown a similar level of support for the concept of dying with dignity.
The number of passionate submissions to this inquiry is further testament to the significance of this issue to many Australians.
Since the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 overruled the historic Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT) allowing euthanasia in the Northern Territory, five Australian states have passed legislation authorising voluntary assisted dying: Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and, most recently, Queensland. The independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, is expected to introduce a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying to the NSW parliament in October 2021.
There is no compelling rationale for citizens of the Northern Territory and the ACT to be denied the opportunity to engage in similar debates, particularly in light of the Northern Territory having led the way two decades ago.
In 2011, the Parliament passed the Territories Self-Government Legislation Amendment (Disallowance and Amendment of Laws) Act 2011, introduced by the Australian Greens, removing Federal powers to overturn laws passed by the Legislative Assemblies of the Territories. The principle behind that change must apply to all laws.
Given the importance of dying with dignity to many Australians, all Australians should have, at the very least, the right to elect representatives able to debate and make laws for voluntary assisted dying.
The Australian Greens support the intention of the bill and recommend that it be amended to ensure that it affords all Australian self-governing territories the same legislative rights as the Northern Territory.