ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay has hit out at claims the ACT would rush to legalise voluntary assisted dying, if restrictions on the territories making laws on the issue were eased.
The Senate will next month debate whether to restore the ACT and Northern Territory's rights to legislate on voluntary euthanasia, after the Commonwealth revoked them more than 20 years ago.
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm struck a deal with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2016 that he would support the revival of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, in exchange for upper and lower house Coalition politicians having a free vote on the bill.
Senator Leyonhjelm said the deal was one of his "liberty offsets" for supporting the restrictive watchdog, although Liberal MPs have said their colleagues were always given a free vote on matters of conscience.
Katter party Senator Fraser Anning accused the ACT's "socialist" government of making it clear it would move quickly to legalise euthanasia if the restriction was removed.
He described the legalisation of assisted dying as a "direct attack on the sanctity of life" and urged the Senate to reject any move that would enable the "state-sponsored killing of the most vulnerable in society".
However Mr Ramsay told an ACT parliamentary hearing on Thursday the territory government had not actively considered legalising voluntary assisted dying.
"It is not a matter the government has reached any particular view on and has not had active conversations about primarily because we have no legislative authority to consider to pass laws in that matter anyway," Mr Ramsay told the end-of-life choices committee.
"We do not always agree with what other jurisdictions do and we certainly do not automatically follow any other jurisdiction so it doesn't make sense for it to be argued by our federal counterparts or by others that if the ACT was given the authority to legislate that we would necessarily go in any particular direction, that’s simply not the case."
Mr Ramsay said the restriction on the territories had created two classes of citizens in Australia.
“I think one of the most fundamental rights we have as a society is to determine the ways in which we live, the ways in which our society operates," Mr Ramsay said.
"For that right to be denied to the ACT citizens speaks of two classes of Australian citizens when it comes to democracy, two classes of jurisdictions, two classes of governments.
"All 400,000 citizens of the ACT are affected by this because our society is treated by the Commonwealth parliament as a second level jurisdiction and that impacts on the way that all of us live."
Former ACT health minister Michael Moore also told the hearing it was bizarre the territories could not legislate on euthanasia when the states could.
Mr Moore chaired an inquiry on assisted dying in 1993 and wrote the Voluntary and Natural Death Bill, which was withdrawn when the Andrews Bill was introduced.
He said the ACT should have a referendum on whether it should have the right to make laws on euthanasia. Mr Moore previously proposed running a referendum on the issue in tandem with the 1998 election.
"I think the way to test it is through a referendum that is something that should send a very clear message to the federal parliament that the general people of the ACT feel that they should have the right," Mr Moore said.
"You gave us a set of powers, withdrawn some and this is something that 80 per cent, 90 per cent of the territorians consider an anathema."
The inquiry continues.
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