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Wednesday, 4 August 2021
Page: 4169

Senator McMAHON (Northern Territory) (15:55): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator McMAHON: I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I have great pleasure in introducing this bill to the Senate as I seek to ensure that Northern Territorians have the same rights as residents of other Australian states. There are three amendments to this bill that will restore the rights of Territorians, and all parts are equal in their importance.

Firstly, this bill will remove limitations that apply to the Northern Territory Parliament pertaining to the acquisition of property. This will align to arrangements already in place for the states and will confer equal powers on the Northern Territory Parliament.

Secondly, in a similar manner, the bill will highlight the current relationship between the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 and Territory law, and will remove the limitations on the ability of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to make laws conferring powers in relation to the hearing and determining of employment disputes.

Finally, amendments in this bill will remove laws that limit the ability of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to legislate for voluntary assisted dying. While this sounds controversial, it must be made absolutely clear that this is not a green light for the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying in the Northern Territory. It simply provides the ability for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to make their own laws regarding the practice, should they choose to do so.

The Northern Territory was the first place in the world to legalise voluntary assisted dying when a private bill by then Chief Minister Marshall Perron came into effect in 1996. For nine months, voluntary assisted dying was legal in the Northern Territory until federal MP Kevin Andrews put forward a bill, passed by the Commonwealth in 1997, that overrode the right of the Northern Territory to legalise assisted dying. This gave a clear message to Territorians, "You are not equal, and your Parliament cannot make its own laws".

While Territorians are unable to access voluntary assisted dying, the states of Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania have already passed laws to allow people to pass away with dignity, and to avoid suffering and pain, through voluntary assisted dying. The South Australian Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill on 24 June 2021. The Queensland Parliament had legislation to allow access to voluntary assisted dying introduced on 25 May 2021, and the New South Wales Parliament is expected to debate recently introduced legislation later this year. There is no reason why the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly should not have the same rights to introduce legislation to be considered to legalise voluntary assisted dying, particularly if other states can.

As previously stated, this bill is not just about voluntary assisted dying. Each amendment is equally important.

Overall, the bill aims to restore the rights of Northern Territorians in line with those held by residents of Australian states across legislation that confers powers on the Commonwealth that the Northern Territory Parliament should be able to govern themselves.

There is no reason why Territorians should not be treated equally by the Commonwealth, and so I proudly introduce this bill on behalf of all Territorians to obtain equality, fairness and legislative liberties in line with those afforded to residents in other parts of our great nation.

Senator McMAHON: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.