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Australia parliament debates bill limiting federal power to veto territorial laws

[JURIST] The Australian Senate [official website] on Thursday debated a proposed bill [PDF text] to remove power from the federal executive to overturn laws passed by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) [official website] federal district. The new bill was proposed after Australia Governor-General Michael Jeffrey [official website] allowed the federal government to effectively veto [JURIST report] the controversial Civil Unions Bill 2006 [text], which the ACT legislature passed in June. If passed, the proposed legislation will sharply restrict the Governor-General's executive authority to disallow regional legislation, but will not impact the federal Parliament's constitutional authority to override laws of the territories. Under a provision [text] in the ACT Self-Government Act of 1988, the federal government may disallow any ACT enactment within six months. The Australian Senate narrowly voted down a motion to disallow [JURIST report] Jeffrey's move in June.

The federal government's override of the ACT same-sex civil unions law, which would have placed civil unions on equal legal footing with marriage, was only the second time the federal government has used its override power. The government also vetoed a 1997 euthanasia law in the Northern Territory. Though several Australian senators disagreed with Jeffrey's decision to veto the civil unions law, many believe the power to override territory laws is necessary to correct "unacceptable" legislation passed by the territories and have indicated that they will not support the proposed legislation. The Canberra Times has more.

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