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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 240


Senator MACKLIN(11.56) —Senator Durack has moved an amendment to leave out the words 'simultaneous elections' in the Constitution Alteration ( Simultaneous Elections) Bill and to insert the words 'terms of senators'. Of course, the history of this is that when the Liberal Party of Australia wished to put this notion to the electorate it put it as 'simultaneous elections'. The Liberals sought to do what the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) is now seeking to do; that is, to use the phrase that will evoke the largest amount of support from the electorate. The Liberals conducted a political operation and that is being followed by the Attorney. I am not quite sure from what Senator Walters said whether she claimed the words were deceptive.


Senator Martin —She did.


Senator MACKLIN —She did; fine. Whether the use of the phrase 'simultaneous elections' is deceptive can be decided only on the basis of the actual Bill itself. If our proceedings were being broadcast now I am not sure the people would understand what was going on. We are talking about the part of the Bill called the short title. The short title ought to reflect the Bill itself. I think the best way to understand the Government's view of the bill might be to turn to the explanatory memorandum circulated by the Attorney-General. The explanatory memorandum describes clause 2 of the Bill as:

The description of senators' terms as being for 6 years is deleted and replaced . . . by a term consisting of the two Houses of Representatives terms.

That means that the Bill seeks to do something in relation to the terms of senators. The Bill seeks to change that section of Part II, headed 'The Senate', of Chapter I of the Constitution which deals with the terms of senators. Clause 3 of the Bill deals with section 9 of the Constitution, which relates to the times and places of the elections of senators. Clause 4 of the Bill deals with the issue of writs for senators and senators' terms. Clause 5 deals with disagreement between the Houses. On that basis, if one were seeking in an impartial way to find the best short title for the Bill I think, on balance, one would have to decide that this Bill deals with alterations to the Constitution affecting the terms of senators. The effect of altering the terms of senators is to achieve the desired result of the Government, and of the Liberal Party when that Party put the proposition forward; that is, to have simultaneous elections. The Bill itself, however, does not deal with the second issue. It deals with the first issue. It is a Constitution alteration Bill. While I accept the proposition put by the Attorney that the previous Liberal Government also ran this line, it seems to me that if one is trying to make a decision based on the actual Bill one surely has to make a decision in favour of the amendment moved by Senator Durack.


Senator Gareth Evans —I take a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman. Are we debating the long title or the short title of the Bill at the moment?


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Townley) —The short title.


Senator Gareth Evans —The long title comes first, does it not?


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —It comes last.


Senator Gareth Evans —But it comes first in the order of events.