By the end of this year, it is highly likely that all Australian states will have legislated for voluntary assisted dying.
Following Victoria passing the historic legislation in 2017, the other states have followed suit.
Laws have also passed in Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia and Queensland and NSW are on track to debate bills later this year.
It's not surprising that states are pursuing this, and successfully: surveys repeatedly reflect that around 85 per cent of Australians support the legalisation of VAD to allow for better choice at the end of life.
While the states press on, the territories are noticeably absent from this important debate. It's not for a lack of want.
Rather, it's because we're subject to decades-old federal legislation which bans us.
This ban (known as the 'Andrews legislation' for Kevin Andrews who introduced the bill as a private member in the mid-1990s) operates by inserting restrictions into the ACT and Northern Territory's Self-Government Acts so that our parliaments cannot legislate for voluntary assisted dying.
Removing the ban is a simple legislative amendment that costs the federal government nothing.
But, as long as it persists, voluntary assisted dying can never be an option in the ACT or the NT.
It is particularly important to note that the NT was the first jurisdiction to legislate for voluntary assisted dying when the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1995.
As more and more states legislate for voluntary assisted dying, the persistence of this situation is increasingly untenable and indefensible.
But it's more than that: it's an assault on territory citizens' democratic rights; on our human rights.
No matter where a citizen lives in our country, they should have the same democratic rights as any other citizen.
This isn't just our opinion, but underlined in Australia's international human rights obligations.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party, 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 area of voluntary assisted dying, the federal government may be limiting this human right.
Individuals are entitled to enjoy their human rights without distinction or discrimination of any kind-yet ACT and NT citizens are being denied their right to participate based on being residents of a Territory.
In early March, we wrote to the federal Attorney-General, the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories and the Deputy Prime Minister raising these concerns.
To date, we still have not received a response from any federal minister. While we've waited for a response, Tasmania and South Australia passed their laws, and Queensland introduced theirs.
While we've waited for a response, we continue to read in the media from unnamed federal ministers' spokespersons that the federal government has "no plans" to resolve this situation."
Respectfully, we ask, how can ensuring the human rights of its own Australian citizens not be the federal government's priority?
While we've waited for a response, we've learned that outgoing Northern Territory CLP Senator Sam McMahon plans to introduce a bill with the aim of restoring this right for the Northern Territory.
Senator McMahon has-incomprehensibly-specifically excluded the ACT from the bill at the urging of her ACT Liberal counterpart, Senator Zed Seselja, because he disagrees with voluntary assisted dying.
Regardless of one's views on voluntary assisted dying, there should not be any controversy in seeking equal democratic rights.
In arguing for ACT citizens to be left out, Senator Seselja has abandoned his own constituency and actively undermined the publicly stated position of the local Canberra Liberals.
While we've waited for a response, individuals and families have been devastated by the inability to make decisions about their own lives.
The ACT and NT governments remain firmly united on this senseless situation needing to be resolved for our citizens as a priority.
Enough is enough.
It is time for the federal government to finally show leadership on this issue. It is time for them to right a wrong that has persisted for decades. It is time to restore our territory rights.
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