The divisive Greens Party have opened up a new campaign on euthanasia, this time dressed up in the cloak of 'states rights'. Although on this occasion it is a territory (whose citizens don’t want it to be a state) that the Greens are demanding states rights for. Confused? Well so are Bob Brown and the Greens Party.
Under our Constitution, there is a sensible separation of powers between the states and Commonwealth. Sometimes these separations become blurred with the Commonwealth playing a stronger role in influencing state policy than it should, but there are limits as defined in the Australian Constitution. This is not the case in regard to the two territories. Whilst they have self government, they do not have the status of states in our Constitution and thus Federal Parliament can make laws that more directly apply to them.
This was the case when the Northern Territory introduced euthanasia laws in 1996. Three people used these laws to end their own life before euthanasia was once again made illegal by an amendment in Federal Parliament to the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978. The reason (there may be others) that the Commonwealth could do this was simply because the Northern Territory was not a state and thus isn't afforded the same constitutional rights as the states.
Given the constant assertion by the pro-euthanasia lobby that public support for euthanasia is 'around 80 per cent', it was surprising that the Northern Territorians subsequently rejected a referendum to make them a state just two years later. A ‘yes’ vote in this case would have given Territorians the right to re-enact their euthanasia laws - yet it was decisively rejected.
This suggests to me that euthanasia is scarcely a vote changer for many people and the apparent public support for it is directly related to the question they are asked to respond to. Experience demonstrates that how polling questions are phrased can influence the outcome markedly and pro-euthanasia campaigners are skilled at manipulating such outcomes.
I also note that when a Voluntary Euthanasia Party runs at state elections, the vote is a tiny fraction of the claimed public support, suggesting a tiny minority of people actually consider this a priority matter.
For the Greens though, few things (except perhaps gay marriage, higher taxes and an Australian republic) are as important for them. This is another example of the Greens having their policy priorities all wrong. This was exposed to me when I sought to introduce a Private Senator’s Bill to implement measures that would protect disadvantaged children from horrific child abuse by Australians taking foreign sex tours and the Greens wouldn't allow it to even be debated.
Now the Greens want the Federal Parliament to overturn the amendment moved in 1996. Surely if the Territorians themselves felt so strongly about euthanasia or having the same rights as a state, they would have voted for statehood just two years later?
As they didn't, it would appear that Bob Brown and his band of radical reformers are more interested in this issue than the Territorians themselves and is another case of the Greens having the wrong priorities. Now why doesn’t that surprise me?
Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and a Senator for South Australia. This article is courtesy of his personal blog which can be found at http://www.corybernardi.com.