Transcripts → 2022


Radio Interview - ABC Canberra Mornings

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women


Date: Thursday, 24 November 2022

Territory rights

ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Senator Katy Gallagher is the Finance Minister of Australia, ACT Labor Senator - she's just stepped out of the chamber having provided a contribution to speeding this process up in this parliamentary sitting. Senator Gallagher, we do really appreciate your time on Mornings.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER: It's nice to talk to you too, Adam. Thank you.

SHIRLEY: What have you put forward in the last 15 minutes or so and what is the impact of that?

GALLAGHER: So we had about an hour, just over an hour's debate on the Territory Rights Bill this morning. And as foreshadowed, and as reported, we thought we would use that time up and then have longer next Thursday night to finish the Bill. And things moved pretty quickly this morning. So some people who were going to talk on the Bill didn't turn up. Sometimes you've got to be nimble on your feet in the Senate. And in the end, we got to the second reading vote, which I don't think anyone had expected would happen this quickly. But it was a good result. And I think it gives the first indication, really, of how everybody is going to vote. It's a conscience vote for everybody in the chamber. And the second reading vote passed 41 to 25, which is just amazing.

SHIRLEY: Just amazing from your perspective. Does that indicate that the support in the Senate is currently there to clear territory rights?

GALLAGHER: I would think so. I mean we can't, you know, celebrate the passage of this Bill until the end of the third reading stage. So we've gone into what's called the committee stage now where people can ask questions of the proponent of the Bill  - which was me standing there answering questions. And then we go to a third reading, which is the final vote, but it would be very unusual that you would see the vote at second reading change very much at all at the third reading stage. So it gives, it's a first indication that there is a majority of support for this Bill to pass.

SHIRLEY: Do I detect the hint of excitement in your voice, Senator Gallagher?

GALLAGHER: Well, it's just... yes, yes. It's been a long journey this one. I think I wrote my first letter when I was Chief Minister to a former government about 11 years ago, 10 or 11 years ago, asking for this process to overturn the Bill. It's been before the Senate a couple of times and lost, and then the Prime Minister made a commitment in the election campaign to support the passage of a bill through the House of Representatives, which we've delivered on. So it's Luke Gosling and Alicia Payne, their Bill, and it came to the Senate. So this is really the first time we've been able to get a vote in both chambers of the Parliament, which is what we need to pass the Bill. So the Prime Minister's commitment was essential. Alicia got on the case, helped draft the Bill and now it's come to the Senate. And that's a big change from the last time the Senate had a vote on this, which was in about, I can't recall the exact year, would have been about 2017 or 18. And it went down by one vote. So having a vote where we've got 16 votes more in favour of it than those opposed is a really big change in the makeup of the Senate. And I should, Adam, acknowledge the contribution of Senator Pocock here.

SHIRLEY: One of his key election platforms, to be fair.

GALLAGHER: Yeah and it's the first time in a long time there's two senators from the ACT that have voted in favour of this Bill, which I think is a big achievement. And, you know, we should acknowledge that and the role he's played in getting it to this point.

SHIRLEY: Senator Katy Gallagher, for the steps now and how long it might take - things can be fluid, as you've already said, but what is your anticipation of the procedure, which then might lead to a final vote at some stage today?

GALLAGHER: It won't come back on today, unfortunately, but the motion, as Manager of Government Business I organised a motion which passed the Senate two days ago, which sets up next week, which is the final sitting week of the year. And as part of that motion, it was agreed that we sit on Thursday night until this Bill is resolved. So it will be resolved at some point on Thursday night or early Friday morning. And you know, we're not going to gag it. We're going to let everyone have their say but we will have a vote before the Parliament rises. But I think getting the indication at the second reading stage of how people are feeling in terms of their support or otherwise for the Bill gives you the best indication. And certainly the best real chance we've got of repealing this Bill from 1997 that removed the rights of the territories to debate laws about voluntary assisted dying. So it is a very significant vote in the Senate today.

SHIRLEY: I mean, what sort of response might there be from those who don't support this, and whether they might attempt to change what seems to be unfolding in the support for the territories to have self-determination I'll call it?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think you know, for those that don't support this Bill, they'll have the opportunity to move amendments or make their arguments and that's an important part of the process. I mean, nobody wants to shorten or remove people's right to have a say, so I think there's no doubt there'll be work done over the next week for the no side to, you know, continue to try and secure the outcome they want. But I think getting a Second Reading vote of this size is a really important indication. You know, and for me, it's a very humbling and important moment for the ACT because what we have to understand is whilst every other state has introduced laws that govern voluntary assisted dying, the Northern Territory and the ACT are currently not allowed to even debate it, let alone pass it - and this would fix that. And the Federal Parliament's role in it is just that, should the territories have a right to have a say? And then it's over to the democratically elected Parliaments of the ACT and the Northern Territory to debate those matters for themselves. But the Federal Parliament has been the big stumbling block and this removes that barrier. And it is as it should be - people of the ACT should have the same rights as people living in Queanbeyan. And at the moment, we don't have that and that's why this Bill is so important.

SHIRLEY: So your best guess as to when the final vote could happen at this stage?

GALLAGHER: I would say next Thursday night sometime, we would move to debate it in the early evening. And depending on how long that the final stage of the Bill goes through committee, it could be a matter of hours. It could be, you know, anything, but it's just unpredictable because senators can contribute in that stage for quite considerable --

SHIRLEY: As long as they can talk nearly, yeah.

GALLAGHER: Yeah. But we have resolved, the Senate has already resolved that we will sit until that Bill is done. So we are going to sit - if that means sitting into the early hours of Friday morning or into Friday, then that will happen.

SHIRLEY: Senator Gallagher, I know a busy morning, I appreciate your time updating us on what is a significant change, potentially acceleration, in the territory having the right to govern for itself. Thanks for your time today.

GALLAGHER: Thanks for having me on Adam. Appreciate it.


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