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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1555


Senator MACKLIN —by leave-The Government's response to the second report of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform is very rapid, which augurs well for the new Special Minister of State (Senator Tate) if he is able to deal with things so rapidly. I also note that he gave notice today of the introduction of legislation with regard to this matter. It must also be one of the most rapid introductions of a Bill. I wonder whether it is in draft form yet or whether, if it is not, somebody has had some heavy pressure placed on him to get it into the Parliament.

I am pleased with the acceptance by the Government of the recommendations of the Committee. In almost every one of the Committee's recommendations it came finally to a consensus. Without a doubt other propositions would have been pushed, particularly by the majority of the Committee members-the Labor Party members-if they had had their way. I pay tribute to them in that on almost every occasion they sought to come to a position which could be generally agreed to by all political parties and by all members of the Committee. I think that is the reason that this Committee has worked so well to date and has been able to engage in a fairly massive overhaul of the Australian Electoral Act. I pay tribute to Senator Robert Ray for his chairing of the Committee and for a lot of the work he has done in trying to make sure that there is general agreement about these matters. Ultimately if there is a general agreement the hope is that the Electoral Act will not become a matter of purely partisan objections; it will be the basis upon which we all agree to construct our democracy. I think that is to the good, and the Electoral Act has progressed enormously in the last few years.

I am also pleased that in a sense the Minister has picked up my minority report and has not accepted the majority report with regard to the electoral roll and the matter of the voters' dates of birth, gender and occupations. That is also gratifying. It probably reflects that in general the population did not care terribly much for that aspect of the Committee's report. That was one of the few items in the report that received adverse media comment. Again, I think it shows that the Government is responsive in this regard to these matters and has tried to take a very responsible view by steering a middle course and not trying to push as strongly as it might in terms of its priorities in relation to its political party's policies and what it believes may advantage it most. I hope that this demonstration that has gone on in the last few years will be followed in future and that the Electoral Act will be seen as something that is not of partisan concern but of concern to all political parties to make sure that at the Federal level we have the most fair, equitable and democratic system that can be devised.