Debate begins on territory rights bill in the Senate

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The debate to gut an archaic law barring the Northern Territory and the ACT from legislating on controversial issues, including euthanasia, has reached the Senate.

The private member’s bill, introduced by Canberra MP Alicia Payne and Salomon MP Luke Gosling, will repeal legislation introduced by Kevin Andrews in 1997.

Nationals deputy leader Perin Davey told the House that the current legislation is not fair, giving her support to the bill.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the territories always have this idea over their heads that if we don’t like their laws, we’ll come here and work against them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham said he believes the Kevin Andrews Act should never have been passed.

SENATE QUESTION TIME
Camera iconACT Senators David Pocock and Katy Gallagher chat during the debate. NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“It has always been anachronistic for the Commonwealth to have decided that the only limitation on territories versus states would be on issues of voluntary euthanasia, or voluntary assisted death,” he said.

Parliament last voted on the issue in 2019, when it was defeated by two votes.

The bill comfortably passed the lower house 99 votes to 37 last month, but a final vote is not expected this fortnight.

Finance Minister and ACT Senator Katy Gallagher said the current bill was “the best chance of getting it done”.

“You’re not asking too much. You are just asking for the same rights as your neighbors across the border in Queanbeyan,” she said.

Behind-the-scenes lobbying is ongoing, but advocates of the bill aren’t yet sure they have the numbers to see it become law.

SENATE QUESTION TIME
Camera iconLabor Senator Deb O’Neil spoke about her faith. NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

A number of Labor senators have indicated they will not vote for the legislation, meaning its passage could depend on the Coalition.

Labour’s Deborah O’Neil, who voted against the push in 2019, spoke about her Catholic faith, saying she wanted to “emphasize the importance of a religious perspective in this debate”.

Tasmanian senators Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell have previously said they will support the push for land rights.

The Greens are also expected to support the bill, as is David Pocock who has campaigned extensively on the issue.

“Senators are only being asked to allow the territories to have the debate for themselves,” he told the Senate on Monday.

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