Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Euthanasia bill to go before Parliament

MALCOLM Turnbull has reportedly agreed to allow Coalition MPs to have a free vote on a bill that would allow Australian territories to pass their own voluntary euthanasia laws.

The Australian reports the Prime Minister has struck the deal with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, who is pushing to overturn 20-year-old laws which ban the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory from making their own assisted suicide laws.

Senators are set to decide today whether they will allow debate on the bill.

If they agree, the bill will likely be debated when Parliament resumes in August.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reportedly given quiet assurance in regards to the free vote. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reportedly given quiet assurance in regards to the free vote. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas

The renewed push to allow the territories to make their own assisted suicide laws comes after the Victorian Parliament passed its own voluntary euthanasia laws.

"I have a personal assurance from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that if the Senate agrees to provide time for debate, his party will allow a free vote," Senator Leyonhjelm told The Australian.

"Further, if my bill passes in the Senate, he will also allow it to be debated and voted on in the House of Representatives.

"My bill addresses two issues: territory rights and the right to die. I am a firm believer in both.

"As a Liberal Democrat I ­believe in the right of individuals to end their lives painlessly at a time of their choosing, as do the majority of Australians. The Commonwealth should mind its own business on this issue and remove legal impediments to states and territories establishing their own euthanasia legislation."

Bleary eyed MPs in Victoria debating voluntary euthanasia laws throughout the night during a marathon session of State Parliament in October last year. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Bleary eyed MPs in Victoria debating voluntary euthanasia laws throughout the night during a marathon session of State Parliament in October last year. Picture: Nicole Garmston

Senator Leyonhjelm told the publication he expected the issue to spark a conservative backlash, similar to that seen during the same-sex marriage debate.

But he believed that attitudes on assisted dying had changed so much over the past 20 years that a majority of MPs in both houses would back the reform.

"I think there is a good chance it will become a vigorous debate," he said but acknowledged there were still many MPs "who don't want to see any change".

The ban on territories making their own assisted suicide laws was introduced under the Howard Government in 1997, and was led by Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews.



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