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Turnbull cold on euthanasia push

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared his strong opposition to giving territories back the right to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

Next week the Senate is set to debate legislation lifting the ban on NT and ACT controlling their own euthanasia laws.

The prime minister has confirmed his coalition colleagues in the upper house will be given a conscience vote on the issue.

“Members of the government, of the coalition, whether they’re ministers or not, will be able to vote with their conscience,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio in Alice Springs on Wednesday.

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm’s private bill to restore the ACT and NT’s ability to legislate on euthanasia is set to be debated in the upper house on Tuesday.

Senator Leyonhjelm traded his vote for re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission in exchange for a debate and vote on his bill.

However, Mr Turnbull insists no such deal was made.

He says the crossbench senator only asked the government to allow a vote on whether the issue could be debated in the Senate.

“We did not do that. The vote to bring it onto the notice paper was carried despite opposition from government members,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.

Senator Leyonhjelm believes the bill will be allowed to proceed to the lower house, but Mr Turnbull insists he gave no such guarantee.

“There’ll be a conscience vote in the Senate but whether it comes on for a conscience vote in the lower house is a matter that we’ll have to consider,” the prime minister said.

“If the vote came on, if I was a senator, I would be voting against it.”

Asked about his views on the issue, Health Minister Greg Hunt said he supported the right for people to refuse treatment, but did not support euthanasia.

“I don’t support euthanasia in Australia for the very simple message that it sends to older Australians about how they’re valued,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“But I respect that everybody can, and should, be entitled to different views on this.”

Former NT chief minister Marshall Perron was due to address the National Press Club on Wednesday to make the case for allowing territories to enact assisted dying legislation, but the speech was cancelled.

Mr Perron, a former Country Liberal Party leader, made the NT the first jurisdiction to legalise voluntary euthanasia in 1995.

But the federal government overruled the territories’ rights with its own laws in 1997.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to upper house MPs calling on them to support Senator Leyonhjelm’s bill.

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