The ACT and Northern Territory governments have accused the federal government of breaching international laws over its refusal to allow them to decide whether euthanasia should be legalised.
The territories are stepping up their campaign to roll back laws that block them from making legislation on the controversial issue, saying residents are being refused the basic democratic rights the rest of the country enjoys.
Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne and NT Attorney-General Selena Uibo have written a joint letter to Attorney-General Christian Porter, suggesting the federal government's laws are inconsistent with Australia's human rights obligations.
The letter was also sent to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and assistant Minister for Territories Nola Marino.
They noted that by the middle of 2021, all states in Australia would have either passed legislation to enable voluntary assisted dying or have a bill before their parliament to do so.
"This starkly demonstrates the inequitable position of the ACT and the NT," the letter read.
"That this situation continues to persist is not only untenable, but it is inconsistent with Australia's international human rights obligations."
Specifically, the ministers said the laws were in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party.
It guarantees citizens the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
"By prohibiting the citizens of the ACT and the NT from deciding for themselves, through their elected representatives, whether to legislate in the areas of voluntary assisted dying, the legislative restrictions placed on the NT and ACT ... may limit this right," the letter said.
The territories have had no ability to make legislation on voluntary assisted dying since the so called Andrews Bill passed in 1997, in response to the Northern Territory passing laws to allow it in 1995.
"Regardless of one's views on voluntary assisted dying, there should not be any controversy in allowing the ACT and NT to decide for themselves whether to introduce such legislation, and to allow citizens of the ACT and NT an equal opportunity to legislate on this matter if their communities desire," the letter said.
There is bipartisan support to roll back the Andrews Bill in the Northern Territory, but the Canberra Liberals have not taken part in any campaign to restore territory rights.
Leader Elizabeth Lee personally supports the ACT having the right to legislate on euthanasia, but has not, while leader, publicly called for the federal government to act.
ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja in 2018 voted against a bill that would have restored the territories' rights to legislate on the issue.
Ms Cheyne said it was simply embarrassing that the federal government allowed a situation to persist which limits some residents' human rights in its own country.
"It is untenable and indefensible," she said.
"This is a simple legislative change for the federal government to propose and enact which would cost nothing.
"But it would mean so much to ACT and NT residents - and right a wrong that has persisted for decades."
Meanwhile, member for Fenner Andrew Leigh will move a motion in federal parliament calling on the Morrison government to revoke the Andrews Bill.
"You look back to 1997 and both the ACT and the NT were relatively young jurisdictions. That is certainly no longer true," he said.
"No other state had passed euthanasia laws at the time.
"The world has moved on, but the Andrews Bill hasn't. I think it's important to just keep up the pressure so that the NT and the ACT have the same powers that the states have.
"It could be done very quickly if the Morrison government would only let the issue be debated in Parliament."
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