18:12, June 27 35 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-27 18:12:08
Senate to debate repealing euthanasia ban in Australian territories

The Senate is to debate a private member’s bill to repeal the 1997 ban on Australia’s territories being able to legalise euthanasia – prompting Tony Abbott to fire a broadside at Malcolm Turnbull about a lack of due process.

The Liberal Democratic party senator David Leyonhjelm, with the backing of Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers including Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch, Brian Burston and Tim Storer, passed a motion on Wednesday to proceed with his private member’s bill on 14 August.

The Leyonhjelm bill will take priority in the Senate until it is voted on.

Leyonhjelm said he had a guarantee from Turnbull that Liberals would be given a free vote on the proposal, and it would proceed for consideration in the lower house.

But Abbott told 2GB any such undertakings should have gone to the party room: “I am a little worried about secret deals and I am a little worried that undertakings might have been made which weren’t brought to the party room and the prime minister likes to talk about due process – I am very concerned about lack of due process.”

He said he was concerned the “party room doesn’t get an adequate chance to discuss controversial policies because we are distracted by long and sometimes only marginally relevant debates about the minutiae about particular bits of legislation, instead of having the chance of political discussion right up front in every party room, as was the practice under John Howard, under Brendan Nelson, under Malcolm Turnbull, the first time round, and then under me”.

“So, look, this is a due process issue, should our negotiators be able to make secret deals with Senate crossbenchers when, frankly, on something vital for the future for our country and our government, they are not prepared to take their own backbench into their confidence.”

An Abbott ally, the Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, also raised objections: “I trust news reports that the government traded the issue of state-promoted suicide in exchange for support of other legislation in Senate negotiations is incorrect.”

It has been Coalition policy for two decades that euthanasia bills will be decided by conscience votes.

Leyonhjelm has confirmed that his support for reviving the Australian Building and Construction Commission was traded for the government allowing his bill to be debated.

In 1996 the Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia, but the federal government overrode the law in 1997.

Several states in recent years have seen parliamentary debates about legalising euthanasia. Victoria is the first Australian state to pass a euthanasia law, which will come into effect in 2019.

with Australian Associated Press

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