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Scott Morrison refusing to allow ACT, NT to legalise assisted dying

Scott Morrison has drawn a line on a more empathetic and consultative approach to his leadership by refusing to allow the ACT and Northern Territory the right to legalise voluntary assisted dying.

Labor has pledged to prioritise a parliamentary debate on the issue if it wins government after Saturday’s federal election.

“That’s not our policy,” the prime minister told reporters in northern Tasmania on Thursday.

“There are differences between territories and states and that is under our constitution and we’re not proposing any changes.”

The former Howard coalition government overrode euthanasia laws passed by the NT Assembly 25 years ago.

Since then state parliaments around Australia – with the exception of NSW which is debating legislation – have approved laws allowing voluntary assisted dying.

Mr Morrison, during a sweep through the marginal seats of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, also remained non-committal about legislating 10 days of paid domestic violence leave just days after the Fair Work Commission sided with unions to back the push for millions of workers.

“We will consider all of those matters in a proper way and we have supported that in terms of unpaid leave and we’ve legislated for that,” he said.

The prime minister has attempted to soften his image, – admitting he can be a bit of a “bulldozer” – and vowed to be more empathetic and consultative if the coalition government is re-elected.

But Mr Morrison has also framed his bulldozer persona as a positive, saying he had been strong during the pandemic and in facing up to international threats such as China. 

“You do need strength in this job and that will continue,” he said.

“When you’re in the middle of the pandemic, you just got to make decisions and you have to push through and that’s been very necessary and that’s something I’ve always had the ability to do.

“What I’m looking forward to is being able to move into a new period where we can be more engaging and inclusive and bring more people with us.”

Touting a strong economy, Mr Morrison lent on low unemployment and lower inflation compared to other nations – despite it being at a two-decade high in Australia – as comfort for Australians doing it tough. 

“People being in jobs is the most important thing that economy needs. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have choices,” he said when asked what comfort a lowering unemployment rate provided to people whose real wages were going backwards.

“Australians … can have confidence that when they leave school, they can get a job, or when they do their training as an apprentice there’s a job for them.”

Later on Thursday, Mr Morrison is heading to Perth where Labor is hopeful of picking up the coalition seats of Swan, Pearce and Hasluck.

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