Labor leader Anthony Albanese has doubled down on his criticism of ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja, labelling his blocking of efforts to restore the democratic rights of territorians over voluntary euthanasia as "just extraordinary".
Mr Albanese used off-the-cuff remarks as part of a speech to the ACT Labor Party's annual conference to reaffirm his preference for a conscience vote on the issue of whether the ACT can have the power to legalise euthanasia.
But Senator Seselja hit back at the Labor Party, saying Mr Albanese was taking aim at some of his own parliamentary colleagues at the same time as him.
"Each-way-Albo is not pro-territory rights. He voted to overturn Northern Territory laws in the past. He is simply pro-euthanasia and a hypocrite," Senator Seselja said in a statement on Saturday.
"In taking a cheap shot at me, Albanese is also attacking his seven Labor colleagues who exercised their conscience vote in the same way I did."
Both the ACT and the Northern Territory have been unable to determine their own laws on voluntary assisted dying since Federal Parliament in 1997, led by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, overturned briefly existing voluntary euthanasia laws in the NT.
A 2018 bill to restore territory rights was defeated in the Senate, 36 votes to 34. Seven Labor senators voted against the bill.
NT Country Liberal Sam McMahon has proposed a new bill to allow the NT parliament to make its own laws. It was to have been for both territories, but Senator McMahon revealed that she excluded the ACT from her draft bill after Senator Seselja indicated he wouldn't support it.
Mr Albanese told the ACT Labor conference he respected people had different views on the issue of voluntary euthanasia, which he described as a conscience issue by definition.
He said voluntary assisted dying was "one of the most significant and difficult issues people might face for themselves or members of their family".
Mr Albanese said on this basis he supported a conscience vote on the issue.
"I'm a strong supporter of conscience votes in our great party. And I have been so across a range of issues, consistently and I will continue to be so," he said.
"And as leader, I think we should have more, not less, conscience votes - that's my view and I put it very strongly."
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in his speech to the conference, held at the Australian National University, that now was the time for territory rights to be restored.
"One of our community's biggest frustrations is not being able to make decisions for ourselves on some of the most fundamental issues," Mr Barr said.
"The absolute absurdity of the Andrews Bill, which prevents the territories from dealing with end-of-life issues, a law that fundamentally devalues the rights of ACT residents, and our capability to make laws when it comes to voluntary assisted dying simply must go. The time is now."
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Mr Barr said it was a key democratic right that the ACT parliament should be able to make a decision on voluntary euthanasia.
"Regardless of your view on voluntary assisted dying, the importance of that decision being able to be made by the territory parliament, like the other states are able to do, is just so fundamental to democratic rights," he said.
Mr Barr moved a motion with NT Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Mansion at Labor's national conference in 2018 calling for a binding vote to repeal the Andrews Bill that would have retained a conscience vote on the matter of voluntary euthanasia, but it was defeated.
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