Tasmania has announced that it will seek to introduce voluntary euthanasia laws and a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
The Tasmanian Attorney-General Lara Giddings told the State's Parliament yesterday that she would be working with Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim in order to prepare a Private Members Bill with regard to voluntary euthanasia. This would be the second time Tasmania has introduced such a Bill, with McKim's Dying with Dignity Private Members Bill being defeated by a two to one majority in Tasmania's lower house last year.
"I believe we need to examine more closely other countries' approach to Dying with Dignity legislation to come up with a Bill that ensures appropriate safeguards but not make the process so cumbersome that it becomes unworkable," Giddings said.
The Attorney-General also told Parliament that the Government would be progressing towards a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities as part of a general law reform package.
"I want to see a Charter adopted in this state that acts as a statement about the values and principles of the community, and introduces standards to ensure that human rights are a priority for the Government when making laws and decisions," Giddings said.
Victoria and the ACT are the only other Australian regions to have introduced human rights legislation.
Tasmania's move towards a Human Rights Charter has been welcomed by civil liberties groups and academics. Edward Santow, a senior lecturer in law at the University of NSW, told Lawyers Weekly that Tasmania's proposal represents "Australia's best practice".
"The big difference between Tasmania's proposal and what the ACT and Victoria introduced [with regards to a human rights charter] is that Tasmania's Charter would provide special protection to economic, social and cultural rights, and not just political and civil rights," Santow said. "In that sense it is more reformist than Victoria and Tasmania."
The proposed Tasmanian Charter would provide special protection to rights such as health, housing and education.
The New South Wales Charter Group, a coalition of individuals and organisations, has long championed the introduction of a Charter of Rights in NSW. However, the current State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos has previously said such a Charter would be unnecessary.
The move by the Tasmanian Government comes on the back of a report by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute in 2007 which found strong support for a Charter in the community.
In her statement to Parliament, Giddings also said the Government would pursue surrogacy reforms that would aim to offer a legal mechanism to transfer the rights of a birth mother to the intended parents. She also said that a review into offences within the sex industry had shown that sex workers continue to suffer from exploitation.
"Recent events involving child prostitution have highlighted the need to re-examine the current legislation," she said.