Democracy wins over theocracy as Territory rights law finally passes

December 7, 2022
The new territory rights law will allow for VAD laws to be passed. Photo Go Gentle Australia/Facebook

After a 25-year war against democracy by theocrats seeking to derail State and Territorial rights to self-determination, the Restoration of Territory Rights Bill 2022 was finally passed on December 1. It opens the way for the territories to pass voluntary assisted dying laws.

Right up to the last minute, the shrinking band of theocrats tried desperately to derail the Restoration of Territory Rights Bill 2022. This is despite all states having now passed voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws after sustained public demand.

Shayne Higson, CEO of Dying with Dignity NSW, said conservative religious MPs were still trying to derail the bill 48 hours before the vote.

The new law gives the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory back the right to legislate their laws — including for VAD.

The NT first passed VAD laws in 1997, only to have it overturned by the federal government after a campaign spearheaded by religious conservative former MP Kevin Andrews.

“Once again, religious opponents are using dirty tricks to delay or amend the Territory Rights Bill,” Higson said. They were seeking back-door restrictions on the already heavily regulated VAD drugs, with the potential to retrospectively impact supply to the states where VAD is already legal.

“We must defend VAD against these religious MPs who seem to care nothing for the suffering of the people they have been elected to represent,” Higson wrote. She asked supporters to write to their Senators one last time to ensure democracy took its course.

Supporters did just that, knowing it was a debate democracy — and terminally–ill people — could not afford to lose. The 47th Senate’s new secular diversity ensured it was all over bar the shouting.

VAD Media Australia spokesperson Liz Jacka told Green Left the speeches given in the Senate, both for and against, were revealing.

“It was an exciting debate,” Jacka said, “commencing at 5.40pm on December 1, the vote being finalised at 7.50pm.” The Senate voted 42–23 in favour.

Jacka said NT National Jacinta Price spoke against her own Territory’s rights, saying she was “concerned” about its impact on vulnerable First Nations people.

“Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John also gave a very telling address, accusing opponents of ‘weaponising disability’.”

Among others, Labor Senators Patrick Dodson and Katy Gallagher and independent Senator David Pocock spoke in favour.

Former NT Chief Minister Marshall Perron, a long-term VAD advocate, Andrew Denton of Go Gentle Australia and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr were in the gallery to witness the bill become law. The ACT has had VAD laws ready for some time.

For terminally ill people and their families, it is an enormous relief as many advocates have spent their final days fighting for this reform, knowing they would never live to see it.

It should not have taken five attempts over 15 years to overturn an unjust 25-year federal veto of Territories’ rights to legislate.

Now advocates will need to remain vigilant to ensure religious corporations — many enjoying billions in public funding for palliative and aged care, much of which a royal commission showed was sub-standard — are never again allowed to hijack democracy.

The fight then will be to stop religious corporations also hijacking the charitable and not-for-profit tax regime, while gaming the aged care funding system.

God knows the nation needs the money more than they do.

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