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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 319

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.09) —The Government opposes the amendment put forward by the Australian Democrats and the foreshadowed amendment for the reason that the matter the Democrats are trying to remove from the Bill, although arguably outside the immediate focus of the legislation, which is to create a system of simultaneous elections, nonetheless represents a rational and reasonable implementation of what has been the long-understood convention in the determination of long term and short term senators. As such it was a proposal which won the unanimous support of the Australian Constitutional Convention in Hobart in 1976 and was reaffirmed also in Adelaide in 1983 in the context of discussions about conventions of the Constitution, about what should be incorporated in the Constitution and about what sorts of archaic and outmoded features should be removed.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Was that a unanimous vote?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It was a unanimous vote. It was put without dissent. That can be found at page 247 of the transcript of proceedings at the Adelaide convention. It is a perfectly innocuous provision put in there for the sake of abundant caution perhaps and for making clear and articulated that which might not otherwise be so clear. As such it is not doing any harm. I think the point which the Australian Democrats have taken, while understandable, is in some respects, if I can dare say so, fairly pedantic. It is outside the scope of the main thrust of the Bill. It is an opportunity to clean up, to tidy up and make explicit that which has been inexplicit and arguably dangerously inexplicit for a long time. It would not be seen to be the sort of thing which so far as the actual substance is concerned would excite controversy. It is something about which there has been general agreement. As to the mode of implementation and the method of counting whether by resolution of the Senate or by legislation-I suppose reasonable men or women might differ on that-the proposal before us is for this to be capable of being determined by legislation. As such I commend this proposal to the Senate.