The Albanese government has slammed the federal Coalition's attempt to override the territory's drug decriminalisation laws as a "stunt" and ridiculed the tactic to keep ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee in the dark on the plans.
Ms Lee, who only found out on Wednesday afternoon about the move, hit out at her federal counterparts, saying she did not agree with their plans and she was "very concerned" at any attempt to diminish territory rights.
The bill was introduced to the Senate by shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash and is backed by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton who said he was "shocked and dismayed" at the laws.
Ms Lee has written to Mr Dutton and Senator Cash to express concerns at their move. She said, in a statement, she would stand up for territory rights.
"The Canberra Liberals will always stand up for territory rights and I am very concerned about any step to diminish that," she said.
"I do not agree with this action taken by the federal Coalition to seek to overturn legislation that was passed by the ACT Assembly."
At a later press conference, Ms Lee still expressed her concern at her federal counterparts but also took aim at the drug decriminalisation laws.
"The fact is that these are terrible laws and the way to get rid of them is to turf out this rotten Barr-Rattenbury, Labor-Greens government at the ballot box in October 2024," she said.
"It goes to show just how rotten this longstanding Labor-Greens government is that it has had or attracted the attention of a lot of federal members."
Senator Murray Watt, representing the Attorney-General in the Senate, hit back in question time. He said the territory's drug laws are completely the responsibility of a democratically-elected parliament. He also raised the fact the Canberra Liberals did not support the Coalition's move.
"So this stunt from the federal Liberal Party doesn't even have the support of the ACT Liberal Party. Did you pick up the phone and talk to the ACT Liberals before he decided to ask questions about this? Did you pick up the phone and talk to the ACT Liberals before you decided to introduce a stunt of a private senators' bill this morning?" Senator Watt said.
"Your own party doesn't even support what you're doing.
"We know you don't have any ACT Liberals in the Senate anymore. We don't even have a Liberal Party member in the Senate anymore from the ACT."
Meanwhile, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith sought to stoke tensions between Ms Lee and the deputy opposition leader Jeremy Hanson.
Mr Hanson supported a move from the federal Coalition to hold an inquiry into the takeover of Calvary hospital when he was acting opposition leader.
"They've now got a leader who is trying to portray the Canberra Liberals as progressive and a deputy leader who is up in Parliament House, encouraging his federal colleagues to undermine territory rights," she said.
"It is very clear that Ms Lee and Mr Hanson disagree on policy, they disagree on tactics and they fundamentally disagree on the protection of territory rights."
A Canberra Liberals spokesman was asked to respond to the comments and said the Canberra Liberals shadow cabinet was "unanimously in favour of territory rights and this position has not changed".
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr called the Coalition's bill an "assault on territory rights".
ACT Labor senator and Minister Katy Gallagher accused the federal Coalition of attempting to undermine territory rights, saying the ACT's drug laws are solely a "matter for the ACT Assembly".
ACT senator David Pocock questioned whether the Coalition would override voluntary assisted dying laws again if they won back power.
"I'm concerned that Senator Cash seeking to nullify an ACT law and override a democratically elected government is a step on the way to challenging voluntary assisted dying laws, if and when they are legislated," Senator Pocock said.
ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the federal opposition had nothing constructive to contribute.
"What we're seeing today is a deliberate attack on territory rights and a malicious attempt by the Federal Liberal Party to undermine our democratically elected ACT Assembly," he said.
Mr Dutton is determined that overturning ACT drug laws is a fight the Coalition wants to have.
The Opposition Leader said he is listening to the local ACT chief police officer Neil Gaughan, who said he was concerned that people will come from other cities to Canberra to take drugs.
"I don't think any good can come of it," Mr Dutton said. "I've delivered death messages to parents whose kids have died of overdoses. I've been to countless domestic violence incidences where, you know, blokes are as high as a kite, and they commit crimes that they wouldn't otherwise."
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