Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Julia Gillard is "happy to discuss" a proposal by Greens leader, Bob Brown to reverse a Northern Territory legislation that prohibits euthanasia. But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it should not be treated as a pressing concern.
Senator Brown said: "While this bill is about territory rights, a huge majority of Australians support voluntary euthanasia and it is time for federal Parliament to openly debate the issue", according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.
A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said the Prime Minister was ''happy to discuss Senator Brown's proposal'' in their regular meetings. The next meeting is expected in about a week.
''The Labor Party has previously allowed MPs to express their views on this issue with a conscience vote and if, as a result of these discussions, a conscience vote is called for, there is no reason why MPs would not be afforded this opportunity again,'' Ms Gillard's spokeswoman said.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said instead of euthanasia, the government needed to concentrate on other issues. ''I'm not denying the concerns that people have in this area but I think that we need a Parliament which focuses on bread and butter concerns,'' he said.
Asked if he would support a conscience vote on euthanasia, Mr Abbott said this was the normal procedure for such matters, but it would have to be discussed with the shadow cabinet.
In 1995 the Northern Territory Government passed voluntarily euthanasia laws, but the Federal Government overturned them two years later.
Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, who introduced the legislation in 1996 that led to the current ban, says he will fight against the move to overturn the ban, ABC reports.
Mr Andrews says there is not wide-spread public support for euthanasia.
"I don't think attitudes have changed at all," he said.
"In fact what we've seen in the decade or so since is attempts at various state levels to introduce euthanasia legislation and they've been rejected every time."
PM open to debate on legalising euthanasia (Sydney Morning Herald)
Euthanasia ban not a pressing concern: Abbott (ABC News)
Images from the Australian Parliament House Members pages