Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The power of the Commonwealth Government to override Territory laws - should it be exercized?**

I've argued before in the context of the euthanasia debate that Federal MPs and Senators cannot hide behind notions of self-determination and claim to abrogate their power to prevent a great moral evil, viz euthanasia laws. 

And I've also put the arguments that the NT in particular has all the hallmarks of a failed state (and Norfolk Island it seems is not too far behind), with an inherent power imbalance that positively invites Federal intervention.

The debate on Territorial rights is hotting up though, with some exchanges in the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs.

Why MPs and Senators must exercize their vote

My view is that the case is straightforward: from a catholic perspective, if a legislator has a power to prevent an absolute moral evil, they have a duty to do so. 

Of course, whether they will or not depends on just how much they adhere to their catholic principles: the late King of Belgium abdicated (albeit temporarily) in order to avoid approving abortion legislation; the current King of Spain signed abortion into law there.

Would we really be having this debate if it was on something other than euthanasia?

But the real issue is that though the Greens's bill is couched as about Territory rights, in reality it is about killing people.  Moreover, it is not about legalizing suicide, as some seem to think, but about empowering doctors and nurses to kill people.

If a State tried to pass laws to exterminate all blondes, or some other obvious moral wrong everyone could agree on, would we really be debating State rights?  I think not. 

Indeed, even when States do things that are matters of mere prudential judgment, such as Queensland's Wild Rivers Act, the Federal Parliament sees fit to debate whether that legislation should be overridden, State legislative power notwithstanding.  So why should Territory laws, which the Constitution gives an explicit imprimateur to the Commonwealth to reject, be regarded as sacrosanct?

Any abstention or support for the Territories power to legislate on euthanasia then, is a vote in favour of euthanasia, not a vote for Territory self-determination.

George Williams vs Ken Parish

Yesterday, George Williams put the contrary case in the Sydney Morning Herald.  But he's been taken to task by Ken Parish on the Club Troppo blog for making mere assertions rather than providing an actual argument as to why the power to override Territorial legislation should not be used.

Note that Parish's arguments don't go to euthanasia itself - he supports it - only to the constitutional issues. 

That's perhaps more helpful to the cause of life though, if it might help persuade those concerned about alleged Territory rights! 

Do go over and read the exchanges, including Williams' response to Parish on the blog. 

Williams notes that there are other powers in the Constitution not regularly exercised, and that he believes should not be, such as that of the Queen to reject Australian laws.  Hmm, isn't that actually why many of us believe Australia should become a Republic (or acquire its own local monarch)?  Because those reserve powers can sit there on the books for a long time and then someone can just decide to use them, a la 1975...

***PS There is an appalling pro-euthanasia story in the Adelaide Advertiser today, together with a poll which needs your vote....

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