X-Message-Number: 6791
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 1996 08:55:37 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Australia update

The following is adapted from a report by Lynda Cracknell:

The Northern Territory's voluntary euthanasia law has survived another
challenge.  A bill to repeal the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in the
Northern Territory Parliament was defeated at about 3:30 am August 22 by a
vote of 14 to 11.  Shane Stone, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and
a leading opponent of the original Act, upheld his promise and voted against
repeal.  Voters for the repeal included Mike Reid (Treasurer) and Denis Burke
(Attorney General and Health Minister).

The next challenge to the law is expected to occur when Kevin Andrews, a
member of the national Australian Parliament, introduces a bill which is
designed to negate the Northern Territory law.  Andrews announced on radio
August 22 that he would be introducing his bill into the Australian federal
parliament on 9 September.

His draft bill, which apparently is not publicly available, reportedly uses
powers under the constitution to override the laws of Australian
territories. It would nullify any present or future territory law which
permitted the termination of life.  Because the Northern Territory is not a
sovereign state (like New South Wales or Victoria, for example) but a
territory of the Commonwealth that has been granted conditional
self-government, the Commonwealth Parliament retains the right to over-ride
any legislation passed by the Northern Territory Parliament.  This power has
never been exercised during the past 18 years of self-government.

Many people are suggesting that if the Andrews bill is passed, it would
nullify not only the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (which permits active
voluntary euthanasia), but also the Natural Death Act of 1988 (passive
voluntary euthanasia), and territory laws relating to abortion.

The picture is further clouded by the fact that the Northern Territory is
making a strong bid for Statehood.  While this has the almost universal
support of other Australian States, it is feared that federal government
support may be conditional upon the territory accepting an exclusion of
law-making power in respect to voluntary euthanasia.  Otherwise any action
taken by the federal parliament now to negate the Territory's existing
voluntary euthanasia law would cease to have effect if the Territory becomes
a State.

The Northern Territory law went into effect July 1 and was upheld by the
Northern Territory Supreme Court July 24, but remains unutilized.  It is the
first such law to go into effect anywhere in the world.

 <David Brandt-Erichsen>

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