Coalition seeking to override Territory Rights again


In what has now become a disappointing pattern, the Liberals and Nationals have again introduced a bill to attempt to override ACT Government laws, this time to wind back evidence-based drug harm minimisation. 

It follows the Parliament recently removing the Howard-era bill to override the Territory’s ability to legislate for itself on voluntary assisted dying, and the voting down of Matt Canavan’s attempt to override the ACT Government’s decision on the Calvary public hospital. 

The Bill that Senator Cash has introduced today is the “Australian Capital Territory Dangerous Drugs Bill 2023” which is described as a Bill for an Act to modify the operation of the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Act 2022 (ACT).

Greens Senator for NSW and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: 

“It makes a mockery of our system of accountable and democratic Government for the Coalition to keep trying to knock over positive law reforms made by the territories. This is a decision for the people of Canberra and their representatives, not the Federal Opposition.

“Federal Parliament should be watching the ACT closely for ideas on how to implement drug law reforms that are evidence-based and save lives, instead we have more of this tragic politicking from the Coalition. 

“The Coalition are stuck in the 1950s war on drugs with their “dangerous drugs” bill that seeks to undo changes that are harm reduction in action!” 

ACT Greens Leader and Attorney General Shane Rattenbury condemned the Liberal Party’s interference in the decisions of the two-party government of the ACT and its parliament:

“The Federal Opposition has nothing constructive to contribute and no business interfering in matters concerning people of the ACT.

“The ACT Greens are always open and honest about the ways we would seek to minimise drug harm and in this case we’ve supported the legislation through a robust parliamentary process.

“What we’re seeing today is a deliberate attack on Territory rights and a malicious attempt by the Federal Liberal Party to undermine our democratically elected ACT Assembly.

“A Green-led government in the ACT would continue treating substance dependence the same as any other health condition, and we’re grateful today for the support of our Federal Greens colleagues in rejecting this move in the Senate to curb our Territory rights.”

ACT Greens MLA Johnathan Davis, spokesperson on health, said:

“In the ACT we are serious about reducing harm from drugs, and we are ready to try a health approach that is informed by evidence. 

“Most people agree our healthcare system should support people who are experiencing problems with drugs to get well. We should stop punishing people for their drug use, so we can give them healthcare and support when they seek it.

“The reality is there are lots of people in our community who use drugs and lead normal lives. These are our family members, co-workers, and friends. 

“Our reforms went through a robust parliamentary process over the course of a year, and were debated and passed in the Legislative Assembly 12 months ago. 

While they may disagree with the policy, neither the Canberra Liberals nor the Federal Opposition should be stomping on Territory rights just to get the outcome they want.

Media Contacts:
Senator Shoebridge: Kym Chapple - 0433 680 244 

ACT Greens: Kylie Blakemore - 0481 035 764