Chief calls for right-to-die laws in NT

CHIEF Minister Michael Gunner says developments in Victoria and New South Wales demand the Federal Government allow the Territory to implement voluntary euthanasia laws.

Mr Gunner has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the Commonwealth must alter its position in respect to the amendment to the Territory's Self-Government Act which has prevented the NT from introducing euthanasia laws.

"Accordingly, the Commonwealth is requested to take steps to return legislative capacity to the Territory's Legislative Assembly to allow it to make laws in respect to voluntary euthanasia, by repealing s 50A and allowing Territorians the ability to determine their own position on this important matter," Mr Gunner wrote.

Mr Gunner's letter follows voluntary euthanasia laws passing in Victoria's Upper House.

The new laws will give terminally ill patients suffering intolerable pain the right to choose a doctor-assisted death from 2019. New South Wales introduced a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to its Legislative Council in September.

"As you may also be aware the Northern Territory enacted its Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1995," Mr Gunner said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

"That Act provided for voluntary euthanasia and was found by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory to be within the law making capacity of the Territory's Legislative Assembly.

"The operation of that Act, and the Legislative Assembly's powers to legislate in respect to voluntary euthanasia, were subsequently curtailed by an amendment to the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978.

"The Commonwealth inserted s 50A into the Self-Government Act which removed the ability of the Legislative Assembly to make such laws.

"At the time the Territory was the only Australian jurisdiction to have enacted such legislation."

Mr Gunner said that he thought there was never a better time for the Territory to be given back its right to die powers.

"Given what is happening elsewhere I don't think we can be denied it," he said.