Australia CLP senator Sam McMahon drafts bill to allow NT to vote on voluntary euthanasia

00:33  04 august  2021
00:33  04 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a woman sitting at a table using a laptop: Senator Sam McMahon says her bill is  © Provided by ABC NEWS Senator Sam McMahon says her bill is "not a euthanasia bill". (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

CLP senator Sam McMahon has drafted a new bill that may allow the Northern Territory to make its own voluntary euthanasia laws.

"The plan is going to be to introduce a motion to introduce [the bill]. That motion is going to be going ahead this week and then it will be introduced at a later date when there is a slot for private senators' bills," she said.

Senator McMahon, who sits with the Nationals, hoped the bill would be read later this year.

In 1995, the NT became the first place in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

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Four terminally ill people used it to die before it was overridden by the Commonwealth in 1997.

Neither the NT nor the Australian Capital Territory currently has the power to legalise assisted dying.

Senator McMahon said her bill was "not a euthanasia bill" or "an assisted dying bill".

"This bill is purely to allow the Northern Territory government, should it ever decide to introduce laws around the topic, the right to," she said.

"This has been a long time coming."

'Lot of support' for draft bill

Senator McMahon said she had been canvassing her colleagues for support and would circulate the final draft later this week.

Based off early conversations, Senator McMahon said the bill had a "lot of support" but would need a majority of votes in the Senate to pass to the House of Representatives.

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"[There's] certainly greater than 50 per cent support for it," she said of the Senate colleagues she had spoken with.

"I have had some who were initially resistant to the idea who have re-thought their position.

"It's still going to be a matter of convincing enough of my colleagues."

Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy, the NT's only other representative in the upper house, said Senator McMahon had contacted her about the bill and they had a "brief discussion" about it.

"I have received a copy of the bill, but still need to have a closer look at the detail," Senator McCarthy said.

"I will reserve comment until I have done so."

However, Senator McCarthy said she was an "advocate and supporter" of the NT's right to make its own laws and the "ultimate goal" for the Northern Territory should be statehood.

"It is absurd that the NT and the ACT cannot make laws for their own jurisdictions, and that Northern Territory legislation can be overridden at the whim of the federal government with no consideration paid to the best interests of local people," she said.

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Senator McMahon's bill, if passed, would still need to be supported in the lower house.

ACT left out of the new bill

If passed, Senator McMahon's bill would allow the NT to make its own laws on the subject, but would not alter the ACT's position.

Senator McMahon said she opted to leave the southern territory out of her private senator's bill after speaking with ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who voiced his opposition.

"Without unanimous support from my ACT colleagues I felt that it was better to just make [the bill] about the Northern Territory," she said.

In 2018, Senator Seselja voted against a different bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, which aimed to restore the rights of territories to legislate on assisted dying.

Two years prior, the Labor member for the Darwin-based seat of Solomon, Luke Gosling, introduced his own private member's bill to give the NT the power to vote on voluntary euthanasia.

That bill lapsed as the parliamentary term ended.

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This is interesting!