Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner has launched a bold bid to force the federal government to overturn commonwealth laws blocking the top end from having the freedom to vote on voluntary assisted dying legislation.
Both the NT and the ACT are unable to rule on the controversial issue of euthanasia due to a 1997 private member’s bill introduced by conservative Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, but states can.
But Mr Gunner said the sensitive issue should be a matter for Territorians to debate and vote on, “not Canberra politicians”.
And he’s supported by the NT opposition, who have labelled the suppression of power an “absolute disgrace”.
“We want the federal government to repeal its powers in this area so that Territorians have the opportunity to determine this important issue for themselves,” the chief minister said in a statement.
“I have asked the federal government to repeal its powers over us under the Northern Territory (Self Government) Act, which denies Territorians the right to pass laws that are important to them.
“If this were to occur, we could then begin a process to address this issue, including community and expert consultation, drafting legislation and eventually a conscience vote in the parliament.”
Mr Gunner has written to both Prime Minister Scott Morrison as well the opposition leader and Labor ally Anthony Albanese demanding the federal law be changed.
“Unfortunately nothing can change until Canberra changes its mind,” he said.
“We will continue to raise this issue with the feds whenever we can.”
Euthanasia was legal in the NT between 1996 and 1997 before the federal government stepped in and took the power away from the jurisdiction.
The territory’s opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro confirmed it supports the chief minister’s bid.
“The Country Liberal Party has loudly and consistently championed that this decision must be made by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly,” she said in a statement.
“It is an absolute disgrace the right was taken from us. We strongly believe the Territory’s right to vote on this issue needs to be restored.”
Mr Gunner has called on residents in the NT to support the plea.
“I need Territorians to help me here as well,” the chief minister said.
“Get on the phone or write an email to politicians in Canberra and tell them we want to decide this issue for ourselves. People power can make the difference.”