ACT News

Shane Rattenbury launches new euthanasia petition to pressure Tony Abbott government

In a last-ditch attempt to kickstart debate about the ban on the ACT legislating about euthanasia, Greens minister Shane Rattenbury has launched a new petition seeking change from the Abbott government.

Mr Rattenbury said he expected thousands of people would sign to support the repeal of laws passed in 1997, known as the Andrews Bill, which stop the ACT and the Northern Territory from making laws related to voluntary euthanasia. 

Shane Rattenbury:  The ACT Greens minister wants the territory to be able to legislate on euthenasia.
Shane Rattenbury: The ACT Greens minister wants the territory to be able to legislate on euthenasia. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Greens volunteers began collecting signatures in the city on Monday. 

The petition follows an Assembly vote in September asking Prime Minister Tony Abbott to end the ban created during the Howard government. 

Mr Rattenbury said ACT voters were being treated as "second-class citizens" by undemocratic laws that were made possible by the difference in state and territory powers included in the Australian constitution. 

The petition calls on the federal government to re-establish the right of the ACT Legislative Assembly to legislate on euthanasia.


Volunteers will visit Canberra shopping centres in coming months to collect signatures.

"This petition is an opportunity for Canberra residents to raise their voice on the issue, to sign up in numbers," he said. "As a community we can raise our voice to the federal government and say its time these laws were overturned." 

In September, the Assembly voted to write to Mr Abbott asking him to overturn the Andrews Bill, named for Minister Kevin Andrews. The move was pushed by Mr Rattenbury, who was supported by Labor.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson accused Mr Rattenbury of trying to turn Canberra into "the death capital of Australia" and Liberal members voted against the bill.

Mr Abbott's office was approached for comment on Monday but did not provide a response.

Last year, he said Liberal Party members would be allowed to vote with their conscience on a euthanasia bill, despite his own opposition.

If the federal Parliament took the unlikely step of ending the current ban, Mr Rattenbury said the Assembly would need to consider if there was community support for a voluntary euthanasia scheme in the ACT. 

"We do need to separate the two issues: in the first instance, the ACT should have its rights restored on this matter then we can work out if we want to have the actual substantive policy discussion," he said. 

Mr Rattenbury said he would use his role as the Greens only Assembly member to advocate for social issues that other political parties ignored, including medical marijuana and voluntary euthanasia. 

Health Minister Simon Corbell said the Assembly should be allowed to determine the territory's fate on the issue.

"The states can debate euthanasia now but the territories can't ... that bar should be lifted and we should be treated the same as the states and be allowed to decide whether or not it is an issue we need to debate and consider for our community."

Mr Corbell said he supported euthanasia access in principle but was cautious over its use. 

Former chief minister Katy Gallagher and Labor backbencher Mary Porter have previously called for changes to euthanasia law.