In August, the Restoring Territory Rights Bill passed the House of Representatives. Last night, also the Australian Senate passed the Restoring Territory Rights Bill! With this step, a 25-year ban on the Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) debating their own Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws is overturned.
Back in 1995, the NT bravely passed the world’s first compassionate euthanasia law. However, when the Commonwealth heard this, a small group of well-organised, anti-choice politicians set about overruling the NT’s law and gagging both territories on the issue.
The 25-year fight to restore Territory Rights has been one of the most vexing for end-of-life choice in Australia, but also one of the most rewarding. Politicians from across the political divide – not all of whom support VAD – have come together to respect the democratic rights of 700,000 Territorians.
Since the Lower House already backed the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 99 votes to 37, it now becomes law. However, Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) is not yet legal in the NT and ACT. Their Legislative Assemblies must now debate whether to pass their own laws, as every state has had the opportunity to do. This is a long-overdue but significant step towards compassionate, end-of-life choice for all Australians. Every Australian state has now passed a VAD law; now the NT and ACT have the choice to do the same.