Sunday Territorian 7 Mar 2021
Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT
Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.
News Corp Australia
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
News Corp Australia
SUNDAY MARCH 7 2021 OPINION 17 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA interest in the functioning of our democracy. They should be encouraged to add their support for an end to the unjustified second class status of Territorians. One example is the Citizens for Democratic Renewal democracy2025.gov.au If individual MPs like Jackie Lambie and Pauline Hanson can use their political prowess to extract concessions from the political powerbrokers in Canberra, how come nine federal members and two Chief Ministers cant get to first base? There seems no real urgency among todays Territory MPs, all of whom claim to be supporters (of restoring powers) and no doubt are. But where is the action? MARSHALL PERRON IS THE FORMER NT CHIEF MINISTER WHOSE GOVERNMENT INTRODUCED THE NTS EUTHANASIA LAWS IN 1996 IN OCTOBER 2001, the High Court handed down a judgment which was a great disappointment for traditional owners of the Croker Island (Minjilang) region of the Northern Territory. The traditional owners (TOs) had been hoping for recognition in Australian law that they had exclusive native title over seas beyond the low water mark of land which had been granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (ALRA). The High Courts finding of only nonexclusive native title meant that there was a disconnect between Australian law and how the TOs viewed the world. Their aspirations to establish commercial fishing and aquaculture industries in the claimed waters, as a pathway to future economic self-sufficiency, were essentially left stranded. The TOs nevertheless accepted the outcome, and resolved to move on and adapt to the circumstances. They understood that the Territory is part of the Australian legal system, and as Aboriginal Territorians they have learned to be patient. Then, in July 2008, the High Court handed down another judgment. This one was very welcome to TOs of ALRA coastal land. It was the final stage in what was known as the Blue Mud Bay case. The court found that fishing in the Territory was governed by the NT Fisheries Act, but that when it came to ALRA land, outsiders who were authorised under the Fisheries Act to fish still had to get permission if they wanted to fish in tidal waters inside the low water mark. Access to ALRA land (and waters) is normally arranged by applying for a permit under a piece of legislation which is separate from, but complementary to ALRA. When the Northern Land Council and TOs refer to a permit, they are talking about a process where a person provides information, gets checked out, and may or may not get approved to enter the area nominated in the permit application. A permit is very different from the Blue Mud Bay registration process which has now been put in place to allow access to large sections of the Top End coastline. Top End TO groups have understood the importance to fishers of having access to tidal waters. They are not dismissive of the concerns of amateur fishers group AFANT, fishing tour operators, and commercial fishing businesses. But they want change. Over the past year, the NLC and the NT government have been looking closely at how Aboriginal people can become participants and stakeholders in commercial fishing and aquaculture industries in their traditional sea country. This was the vision of the Croker Island TOs. It is a step towards securing mutually respectful access arrangements. MARION SCRYMGOUR IS THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL Display of patience paying off MARION SCRYMGOUR CLAIMS of discrimination in one form or another blare from the TV every night. Race, religion, sex and age are the common themes. Territorians can add another discrimination on the grounds of geography. Any Australian adult citizen who chooses to reside within the borders of the Northern Territory immediately reduces their democratic status. By withdrawing powers that had been transferred to the territories at self government, the federal parliament effectively divided Australian citizens into two classes on the grounds of where they live. The 660,000 who choose to live in the Territories (more people than live in Tasmania) cannot elect representatives to legislate on their behalf on end-of-life issues the way citizens living in the states can. In 1997 when the federal parliament voted narrowly to overturn the first voluntary euthanasia law and withdraw the Legislative Assemblys power to pass such a law again, it might have been considered the Territory had overstepped the line. At that time, no other parliament in the world had legalised voluntary euthanasia. History now shows the Territory was simply leading the pack. Today, 22 jurisdictions around the world with a population of 364 million have legalised medical assistance to die. This includes Victoria, Western Australia, and New Zealand. Tasmania will join the group within a month. SA is currently debating a bill, and Queenslanders will have their debate later this year. There simply is no longer a case for the NT and ACT to be denied the ability to decide for themselves if they want to legalise voluntary assisted dying (VAD.) Even the strongest campaigner against legalising VAD, Professor of Law at the Australian Catholic University and Jesuit priest, Father Frank Brennan, conceded during Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee hearings in 2008 that when a state passed an assisted dying law, the territories should be allowed to do the same. In terms of political morality, I am readily conceding that point, Brennan said. If, for example, NSW were to legislate tomorrow for euthanasia then I would say that in terms of political morality the territories should be given the power to make equivalent type laws. In the 23 years since the Territory law was quashed, an unknown number of people who would have used it have endured unnecessary suffering and an undignified death. Others are in that situation today and more will be in the future. Yet our representatives seem impotent to do anything about it. Between the NT and the ACT there are five members of the House of Representatives and four Senators. Add in two Chief Ministers with a bunch of lawyers, speech writers, political advisers and press officers already on the payroll and you have a formidable army to target the problem if only they would work together. The case is strong. Not one of the 126 Senators and MHRs who voted for the Euthanasia Laws Bill in 1997 were electorally responsible to Territorians. Outsiders could also be called upon to help. Across Australia there are a number of institutions, organisations and influential individuals that have a particular Right to die is not an issue of state MARSHALL PERRON Its high time our politicians work together to overturn the federal governments overreach into the affairs of the territories, former chief minister Marshall Perron writes. Pictured clockwise from top left: NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner; ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr; NT MPs Warren Snowdon and Luke Gosling; and NT Senators Malarndirri McCarthy and Sam McMahon.