Territory Rights - 24/05/2021

24 May 2021

I rise to speak in strong support of the member for Fenner's motion today, and I thank him for bringing this motion to the parliament. I want to acknowledge his long-term advocacy on the issue of territory rights. I also want to acknowledge the long-term advocacy of my other ACT Labor colleagues, the member for Bean, who will speak on this motion, and Senator Katy Gallagher. The other representative of the ACT, of course, is Senator Zed Seselja, and he voted against territory rights.

This is such a simple issue. Why should people who live in territories not have the same rights as everyone else in this country? It seems very clear that our territory parliament should be able to debate issues in the same way our states do. But the Andrews bill of 1997 restricts the rights of the residents of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The fact is that the ACT did not even want self-government. In the 1978 plebiscite, almost 64 per cent of residents rejected proposals for a legislative body or a council body, opting instead to continue under the administration of the federal parliament. But, nonetheless, self-government was forced upon the residents of Canberra in 1988 by this parliament. I in no way want to say that that was not a great thing, because we now have a very mature government that has 32 years of decision-making that aligns with our citizens and represents our community in Canberra.

I am so proud to be a resident of Canberra and of the things that our ACT government has done. We are the first Australian jurisdiction to have 100 per cent renewable energy. We have a net-zero-by-2045 target. We have the second cleanest air of any capital city in the world after Wellington and we were the first jurisdiction to have equal marriage, which then the Abbott government took away before the coalition caught up five years later under Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.


Mr Tim Wilson interjecting—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Member for Goldstein, this is the only warning you're getting.


Ms Payne: It's a perfect example of where our territory should have been able to make decisions for itself, and voluntary assisted dying is another such example. Three states around the country already have laws in place to enable people to have voluntary assisted dying and more states have debates on this coming up this year.

The argument that was made at the time of the Andrews bill was that the territories would be ahead of the states, as the member for Fenner has rightly pointed out. But, instead, we're being held back. In fact, we are being denied the same rights that other people around the country have. I'm very interested to hear the member for Goldstein speak because I would have thought he was all about people having freedoms and equal rights. So I look forward to it. I think there is no reason that people in the ACT should not have the same rights. This is a broader issue than just that around euthanasia. This is about democracy. This is about us having parliaments that can represent us in the ACT and the Northern Territory in the same way as parliaments do in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. As I said, the ACT government is leading the way on many issues, and I would like to see us have the right to lead in other ways as well.

I will touch on voluntary assisted dying, although, as I said, it is not the only thing that this issue is about. Equal marriage would have happened much earlier in the ACT if we'd had the right to legislate so. But, as the member for Fenner has pointed out, at the moment people with a loved one who is dying are faced with incredibly hard decisions. I agree with the member for Berowra that palliative care should be as well funded as possible, and that is an incredibly important issue that we don't talk about enough. But the fact of the matter is that many families are already facing these decisions, and things are happening in very painful ways and in less humane ways than they should. For example, anyone who has had an experience with aged care would know that there is a common question as someone is nearing the end of their life: 'Should we call the ambulance?' You know that they will try to save your loved one. That is a disgusting situation for people to be put in, and it is terrible that people are making these decisions. So I stand as an advocate for territory rights, joining my Labor ACT colleagues in doing so, and I ask that this parliament please deliver us the same rights as other citizens around the country.