Territory Rights back on the agenda

Released 11/11/2019

Joint Media Release with Tara Cheyne, MLA

Following the successful passing of a motion today brought by Tara Cheyne MLA, Special Secretary to the Chief Minister, Territory rights is firmly back on the agenda for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

In the mid-1990s, the Federal Parliament inserted subsections 23(1A) and 23(1B) into the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth) which exclude the ACT from the power to make laws with respect to voluntary assisted dying.

These subsections persist unfairly, unreasonably and are untenable.

The ACT Legislative Assembly is now 30 years old and the Australian Capital Territory has a strong jurisdictional identity.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that the continued operation of the subsections was increasingly absurd, given States like Victoria had legislated for voluntary assisted dying, and Western Australia was in the process of doing so.

“When the Federal Parliament inserted those subsections into out Self-Government Act, it was because they did not want us to be among the first jurisdictions to legislate for voluntary assisted dying. Now, it’s increasingly likely we might be among the last – if the Federal Parliament ever restores our rights,” said Mr Barr.

The ACT community has a reasonable expectation that their elected, local representatives should and will be able to decide on issues that matter to it.

“Simply by virtue of living in a Territory, our residents have fewer rights than those who live in States,” said Ms Cheyne.

“No Australian citizen should be disadvantaged with respect to their democratic rights on the basis of where they live.”

For this reason, today marked the formally re-ignition of the campaign to have the Federal Parliament remove the subsections from the ACT’s Self-Government Act.

The motion called on the Federal Parliament to:

(i)  resolve that no Australian citizen should be disadvantaged with respect to their democratic rights on the basis of where they live; and

(ii) remove subsections 23(1A) and (1B) from the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth).

ACT Labor and ACT Greens agreed to write to their federal party leaders before the end of 2019 requesting their commitment to removing these subsections in the 2020 parliamentary year, and the Opposition Leader advised he was open to writing a letter.

Ms Cheyne signalled that writing these letters was the first step in the campaign, with more to come. A petition recently started on the issue has more than 250 signatories.

- Statement ends -

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

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