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Tuesday, 17 November 1964

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) .-I regret the delay which has occurred in this matter. I address myself now to the motion of dissent from the President's ruling. I have indicated already that the Opposition believes that the matter which has been raised gravely concerns the Senate. I refer to what will happen if the casual vacancy caused by the death of Senator Vincent is not filled at the election of senators to be held in Western Australia on 5th December. You have ruled, Mr. President, that this is not a proper matter for discussion by the Senate. That ruling really alarms me, because this is a matter that goes to the very constitution of this House. It concerns the filling of our membership and the representation of a particular State.

It is important to the Senate that there should be proper consideration of the matter at this stage. The Electoral Act provides that after the issue of the writs, nominations cannot be called for seven days and that the poll shall take place not sooner than seven days after the closing of nominations. That allows a period of 14 days. I point out that the nominations for this election closed at noon on 9th November. Some hours later on that very day, Senator Vincent died. At that stage there were almost four weeks -

Senator Anderson - The Leader of the Opposition appears to be discussing the substantive motion now. Is that in order?

Senator McKENNA - I am pointing out why the Senate is interested in this matter and why it is one of urgency.

Senator HENTY (TASMANIA) - That is not the issue before the Chair now.

Senator McKENNA - I am dissenting from the President's ruling that a discussion of this matter is not in order.

Senator Henty - The Leader of the Opposition should not debate the substantive motion at this stage, but that is what he is doing.

Senator McKENNA - I shall conclude the point I was making. The importance of this matter to the Senate is that there is still time to fill the casual vacancy at the election on 5th December. The President has ruledthat only the Parliament of Western Australia has power to fix the time and place for the election of senators for that State. But that does not mean that we cannot discuss in this place matters that are connected with that election. It is not proposed, pursuant to anything that is before the Senate at the moment, that any laws be made, That is the point I impress on the Senate. I am disposed to leave the matter at that stage for the present.

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