NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Terri M. KelleherNews Weekly
Greens set Labor's agenda on euthanasia, same-sex marriage
, October 1, 2011
Bob Brown and the Greens are using two bills in the Senate to advance euthanasia and other radical legislation, and the Gillard Labor Government is dancing to their tune.
In August, the Senate passed Senator Brown’s Territories Self-Government Legislation Amendment (Disallowance and Amendment of Laws) Bill 2011.
The bill, passed with the unanimous support of Greens and Labor senators, aims to remove the power of ministerial veto of legislation passed by the ACT and Northern Territories. Instead it will require that territory legislation can only be blocked by a majority vote in both houses of federal parliament.
Senator Brown’s bill now goes to the House of Representatives to be voted on.
Clearly there is a purpose behind such a bill. That purpose becomes apparent with a further bill of Senator Brown’s, which is yet to be debated, the Restoring Territories Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia) Bill 2010. This second bill aims to remove the Commonwealth prohibition on the territories enacting laws to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide.
In 1997, following the NT’s legalisation of euthanasia, the federal government passed the Commonwealth Euthanasia Laws Act 1997. Known as the “Andrews Bill”, after Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews who initiated the legislation, it effectively prevented any territory from introducing euthanasia legislation.
Senator Brown has attempted, on a number of occasions, to once again introduce euthanasia into Australia by way of the territories.
As Kevin Andrews warned 14 years ago about the NT’s move to legalise euthanasia, this action would affect all Australians and also be the way in which similar legislation might be enacted in the states.
It is feared that the consequences of Senator Brown’s two recent bills could go beyond allowing euthanasia. It is possible the bills could enable the Territories to pass legislation on other radical social issues such as legalising same-sex marriage.
These laws could then only be overridden by majority votes in both the House of Representatives and Senate, or be subject to major High Court challenges.
The Labor Party caucus had originally adopted a party position to support the Greens’ Territories Self-Government Legislation, but changed its position when concerns were raised in Labor’s own ranks that the bill would be used to introduce same-sex marriage legislation.
Caucus reversed its position yet again, this time supporting the bill after a Senate committee recommended it be passed.
Labor supported the bill on an assurance from the Greens that it was only about democratic rights for Territorians. An article in the Melbourne Age newspaper reported ACT Greens’ convener, Meredith Hunter, as saying that the party had no plans to change the Territory’s current civil unions law, that marriage was a federal issue.
This proved to be a hollow assurance.
Queensland Liberal Senator George Brandis moved an amendment that the Territories would not be allowed to pass any law that was inconsistent with any law of the Commonwealth and specifically any law “inconsistent with the Marriage Act 1961”.
The amendment failed. In debate, Senator Brown argued that the Greens would not support the amendment because it would prohibit the Territories legislating in relation to marriage.
Liberal Senators George Brandis and Mathias Cormann asked the obvious question: why would Bob Brown oppose the amendment when he had offered assurances that the bill was not about legislating same sex marriage?
Brown’s unamended bill will now go to a vote of the House of Representatives. Opponents of same-sex marriage are hoping the Brandis amendment will be moved there as well.
If Labor and the two NSW rural independent MPs, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, do the Greens’ bidding and pass Brown’s Territories Self-Government Legislation, it will open the way for the Labor/Greens-dominated 17-member ACT Assembly to enact a highly controversial same-sex marriage bill.
It would then take a federal act to be passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to overturn any such territory legislation.
Then if Bob Brown’s euthanasia bill was passed, the ACT and NT could introduce euthanasia.
Since 2007, euthanasia and same-sex marriage relationships legislation has been introduced in various state parliaments, usually at the behest of the Greens.
In the latest move, Tasmanian Labor Premier Lara Giddings, with support from the island-state’s Greens’ leader Nick McKim, intends to introduce yet another euthanasia bill next year. Labor is supporting McKim’s motion, calling on the federal Parliament to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage.
Terri M. Kelleher is Victorian president of the Australian Family Association.