Transcript: Senator Andrew Bragg interview with Adam Steer and Fiona Poole, ABC Radio Darwin

Adam: Last week, you were very, very, very angry at a certain Federal Liberal Senator from Tasmania. In fact, I was speaking to people over the weekend that said, "Adam, I stayed in the car. I was supposed to be going to work, and I just had to yell and yell and yell at the radio. "The long serving. Who am I talking about? What am I talking about? The long serving conservative Senator Eric Abetz, when he said this about the Northern Territory in context of whether parliament, Northern Territory Parliament should have the right to be able to legislate its own euthanasia laws. It's amongst other laws, but the right to even choose whether it wants to debate those laws. This is what the conservative Senator told me last week that got you yelling. 

Eric Abetz Flashback: Territorians were given the opportunity in 1998 to decide whether or not they wanted to become a fully fledged state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and they rejected that by Democratic vote. And so accordingly, any powers that a territory has is courtesy of the federal parliament. And so the federal parliament has a right to be able to say with its constitutional powers those matters on which a territory can legislate. 

Adam: Now, our switchboard went crazy. The text line went crazy. Everybody wanted something to say following the Senator's interview, it seems not everyone in the Liberal Party agrees with his view. Andrew Bragg is a New South Wales Senator. Senator Bragg, good morning and welcome to ABC Radio Darwin. Do Senator Abetz's comments go against the libertarian philosophy of the Liberal Party?

Andrew: Well, good morning, Adam. I mean, I think the issue in question here is whether or not the Northern Territory has self-government. And I would say that it does have self-government and that if it wants to enact laws in that jurisdiction, that it should be able to do that under a democratic mandate. 

Fiona Poole:  Hmm. So what was Eric Abetz doing there, do you think? Was he grabbing a headline, ruffling feathers deliberately? 

Andrew: Well, I mean, I think, I won't play the man here. I think the issue is an important one. I mean, obviously, you know, as Territorians this issue of euthanasia has been around for some two, two and a half decades. And I think the proposition on the table is that the territory would be able to enact its own law if Senator McMahon's bill was passed. And I think that's perfectly reasonable. I mean, the other states, other jurisdictions are moving in this direction. And I think it would be a quite unfair situation if the Territory has no real pathway to enact laws which eventually will be passed in other parts of Australia. 

Fiona Poole:  Hmm. Let's go back to the euthanasia laws. Isn't  Eric Abetz 'viewpoint about his religious beliefs? You know, should they be important in this discussion? 

Andrew: Well, I mean, as you know, Australia is a secular country and we make laws for Australians. Now there are certain protections which are afforded to religious institutions, but we're talking here about a secular law largely, which I think will be increasingly commonplace across Australia and so at the end of the day, if the protections can be put in place, I think it is a perfectly reasonable concept. And I guess my concern is that the Territories could effectively be left outside because their pathway to getting a reasonable assisted dying bill or law is effectively shut down because of the current arrangements. 

Adam: You've been speaking, obviously, to your Liberal Party colleagues, both in the House and in the Senate. What's the feeling that you're getting from your side of politics about the support for this Bill of Rights to allow us to be able to choose? 

Andrew: Well, I mean, it wouldn't be a Bill of Rights. I mean, it would be effectively saying that the Territory has had self-government and therefore, as a result of that self-government, it can legislate in the policy areas where the states are able to legislate. For example, if New South Wales, which is a state I represent, is having a debate about euthanasia. This is something that is resolved at the state level. The problem with the current arrangements are that the Territories have self-government. If the political parties in the Territories go to an election and win a mandate on assisted dying. And they can't actually enact that policy because there is a prohibition in place, because the federal parliament hasn't really entrusted the territories to be self-governing. So I just think, look, it's very iliberal. And, you know, certainly we shouldn't be doing things which are illiberal. Now, I understand that these are matters of deep conscience and typically these things would be dealt with through a conscience vote. So I don't want to speak for anyone else. But I would say that my view is quite simple, that we should be affording the same rights and privileges to citizens in the Territories. 

Adam: What's the feeling, though, you get about Senator McMahon’s bill, as far as you can see... 

Andrew: We haven't seen it.

Adam: Did you think it would pass Parliament, though? 

Andrew: We haven't seen the bill yet. And again, I'd say this is a conscience vote. So there will be, there'll be views put. You know, it'll be very hard for me to make a guess effectively at this juncture. 

Adam: OK, so it's so it's a wait and see. Senator, good to talk to you this morning. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

Andrew: All the best, see you. 

Adam: There's Andrew Bragg, who is a New South Wales senator. What do you make of that? Oh four eight seven double nine one zero five seven. 

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