Territory Rights - 01/08/2022

01 August 2022

I am proud to second the motion. I thank the member for Solomon. It has been an honour to work with you on this private member's bill, the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022, in solidarity with our Northern Territory colleagues the member for Lingiari and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy.

In 2022 our democracy is not equal, because some Australians don't have the rights to debate a certain issue, simply because of where they live. Some Australians don't have rights simply because they live in the ACT and the Northern Territory. In 1997 the parliament moved what has become known as the Andrews bill, in response to the Northern Territory legislating for voluntary assisted dying, to prevent the territories from making such legislation. For 25 years we have been unable to have that debate, and in that 25 years all other Australian states have passed legislation in this regard.

For 25 years Canberrans have stood up in this place, and outside of it, to advocate to have the same democratic rights. It is on their behalf that I second this bill. I second it on behalf of my ACT federal Labor colleagues: the member for Fenner, who has moved several bills like this in the past; the member for Bean, like me elected in 2019, who has stood up for the rights of his constituents to have this debate; and Senator Katy Gallagher, who has advocated for territory rights for over 20 years, including as Chief Minister of the ACT. Our ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, and Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne, have campaigned long and hard to raise awareness of the need for the federal parliament to allow these rights for our territory, and I'm very pleased that they can join us today. I hope that this time our federal parliament will do this for our citizens of the ACT.

Voluntary assisted dying is an issue with strong views on either side of the discussion and implications for many. It is a debate that we really need to have and we should be allowed to have. This bill would enable us to do that. This parliament has tried many times to do this over the years. As well as my Labor colleagues, I want to acknowledge Senators Lyn Allison, Bob Brown, Richard Di Natale and David Leyonhjelm, who have moved bills like this in the past. I'm proud that all representatives of the ACT in the federal parliament support territory rights, including Senator David Pocock, and I welcome his advocacy and support on this issue. I also want to acknowledge the support of our territories minister, Kristy McBain, on this important issue and of our leadership for allowing this important debate in the parliament, particularly in the very first sittings of the new Albanese Labor government.

I want to urge members of this parliament to please support this private member's bill. Those in the states may not have had cause to think about this much before, but, for Canberrans and Northern Territorians, this is personal and this is urgent. This is an incredibly important debate that we are not allowed to have, simply because of where we live. It is well past time that we had the same rights as those across our borders to debate this issue. I do deeply respect the views on either side of the discussion. I know that many of my colleagues I've spoken to may not support voluntary assisted dying but they do support our right to have the debate. As the member for Solomon has said, it's not our responsibility in the federal parliament to decide on that issue itself, but we should give the right to all Australians to have an equal right to the discussion.

Again, I urge my colleagues to please support this. Let this be the time that we write this historic wrong. Let this be the time that we deliver equal rights to Australians living in Canberra and living in the Northern Territory to discuss voluntary assisted dying. I do this on behalf of all the constituents who have raised this passionately with me, who feel that we are second-class citizens in Australia in 2022. I again urge our federal parliament to please deliver us the same rights.