Laws banning the ACT and NT from making voluntary euthanasia laws are "untenable" and amount to discrimination against citizens of the two territories, a veteran Labor senator has said.
Victorian Labor backbencher Kim Carr used his contribution to a parliamentary report to declare the Opposition strongly supported the rights of the territories to pass their own assisted dying legislation.
His comments come despite Labor having yet to commit to a formal position on the contentious subject, even though leader Anthony Albanese and many of his colleagues - including ACT Senator Katy Gallagher - personally support a repeal of the 1997 laws which ban the territories from legislating on assisted dying.
The parliamentary committee examining Country Liberal Senator Sam McMahon's bill to restore the NT's rights to legislate on voluntary assisted dying handed down its report on Tuesday, making no recommendations.
The Liberal-chaired committee noted arguments on both sides of the debate but refused to rule on the appropriateness of Federal Parliament blocking the territories from making assisted dying laws.
It also declined to make a recommendation on whether the ACT should be included in the bill, as legal experts advocated for in their submissions to the inquiry. Senator McMahon chose to exclude the ACT after her government colleague and euthanasia opponent Zed Seselja signaled that he wouldn't support it.
MORE OUR RIGHT TO DECIDE CAMPAIGN
Senator Carr was far more definitive in his minority report.
The Rudd and Gillard-era minister said Senator McMahon's bill shouldn't be supported in its current form because it was poorly drafted, with the provisions relating to voluntary assisted dying and land acquisitions lacking "coherence".
However, Senator Carr laid out strong arguments in favour of repealing the highly controversial bill which Liberal Kevin Andrews spearheaded through the Federal Parliament in 1997.
He recognised that his party had long dealt with euthanasia as a conscience issue, but argued the bill before him would not itself legalise assisted dying in the NT. Rather, it was intended to grant territorians the same rights as the states to debate the issue - a policy he said Labor "strongly supports".
The statement appears to be at odds with Labor's official position, which is that it doesn't yet have one on the subject. The party has historically allowed a conscience vote on legislation to restore territory rights, and Mr Albanese has indicated he would favour that approach in the future.
But Senator Carr's statement appears to suggest the party as a whole supports the rights of the territories to make their own laws.
A number of Labor senators voted against David Leyonhjelm's 2018 bill to repeal the Andrews law, including Don Farrell, Pat Dodson and Deb O'Neill.
The Canberra Times has sought comment Labor about the party's official position on territory rights.
In his report, Senator Carr described the ban on the two territories as an ongoing discrimination against the peoples of the NT and the ACT which was "unacceptable" to Labor. All states bar NSW have passed assisted dying laws since 2017.
Senator Carr said that if laws were passed in NSW, terminally ill patients in the ACT and NT would have "no choice" but to move interstate if they wanted to access assisted dying.
"In many cases, relocating would only increase the stress that dying people and their families would already be suffering at the end of their lives," he said.
Senator Carr said the ACT should be included in any legislation which restored the rights of the NT to make euthanasia laws.
"It must be acknowledged that voluntary assisted dying [VAD] laws are a challenging and highly personal subject for many Australians, but regardless of where individuals stand on the merits of euthanasia and the specifics of any VAD policies, it is untenable that Australians living in the NT Territory and the ACT should be prevented from debating an issue which has been or is being debated in every Australian state," he said.
"Labor strongly supports the rights of territorians to make their own choices about VAD laws."
The Canberra Times has been calling for the Andrews Bill to be repealed as part of its Our Right to Decide campaign.
Greens senators Larissa Waters and Lidia Thorpe used their contribution to the report to recommend Senator McMahon's bill be expanded to include the ACT.
"There is no compelling rationale for citizens of the NT and the ACT to be denied the opportunity to engage in similar debates [about voluntary assisted dying], particularly in light of the NT having led the way two decades ago," the pair wrote.
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