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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8530

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (18:35): This bill, the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2018, will remove the constraints that the Commonwealth government shamefully placed on the legislative powers of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in 1997 at the behest of one of our current sitting members. This bill restores the democratic rights of citizens in the territories by removing a constraint on the legislative authority of their elected representatives which does not exist anywhere else in Australia or for any other Australians. The bill recognises that territorians deserve the same democratic freedoms as other Australians. This bill will ensure that the parliaments of both the Northern Territory and the ACT and the people they represent can interrogate the issues in a time and manner of their choosing with the benefit of recent legislative work in the area—that is, the rights of the terminally ill.

I want to acknowledge the work and the contributions which have been made by my colleagues the member for Canberra, the member for Fenner and the member for Solomon in this place and my mate Senator Malarndirri McCarthy in the Senate. Shamefully, the Senate refused to restore these rights to Australians living in the territories of the ACT and the Northern Territory.

This bill is not about euthanasia, as some want it to be. It's about the rights of the territories and the rights of territory citizens. Why are we treated as second-class citizens? Why is it justifiable for the Victorian parliament to pass assisted dying legislation last year in 2017 without interference from the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth simply can't interfere in that bill, but, because the Commonwealth has the power under the constitution to determine ultimately what passes for legislation in the legislatures of both the Northern Territory and the ACT, it sought to override the will of the people expressed in the parliament of the Northern Territory over euthanasia legislation now 20 years ago? That was shameful. It can't do it for any other Australians, but our Senate colleagues—some of them on my own side—had the gall very recently to hide behind the euthanasia debate as a mechanism to oppose this legislation. Well, that was shameful.

We territorians should have the same rights as every other Australian. We territorians should elect, and do elect, our own territory governments. Who we elect is our responsibility. The laws they pass are ultimately our responsibilities. But what we're seeing now, as a result of opposition of the legislation in the Senate, is a desire by this parliament to continue the stupidity of a colonial regime which says, 'We, the masters in Canberra, can override the rights of territorians, whether they live in the ACT or the Northern Territory.' I put it to you: it is plain wrong. It is morally wrong. It's unjustifiable. That doesn't stop territorians debating issues to do with euthanasia and other issues, and to choose to make their own decisions, nor does it prevent people in this place having a debate about euthanasia and deciding what their position is on euthanasia. But that's not what this bill is about. This bill is purely and simply about making sure that the people of the Northern Territory and the ACT have the same rights—the same rights—as every other Australian.

We're held captive because of a constitutional arrangement of over a century ago. It's time to actually understand that we live now in 2018—2018 is our opportunity. Our opportunity is to make sure that every Australian is treated equally under the law and before the law, with the right to make laws of their own in their own jurisdictions, whether they are in the ACT, the Northern Territory or Victoria—where it has already been done—without any interference from the Commonwealth.

I don't think there is an argument here. I would just say to those people who have hidden behind euthanasia to vote against this legislation in the Senate: wise up and understand that every Australian deserves the same rights as you have in this place. If you're representing the ACT here, you don't have the same rights as someone from New South Wales. That is wrong. I should have the same rights as every other Australian. (Time expired)