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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 245

Senator PETER RAE(12.25) —In 1977 a proposal of this sort was put to the people. As is appropriate under the Constitution both a Yes case and a No case were circulated to every voter. On page 2 of the No case that was circulated, which is the first page of real material, the front page is a summary, we find:

Simultaneous Elections 'an Exercise in Deception'.

The No case goes on to set out, in a number of pages, the extent to which it is an exercise in deception. I would like particularly to quote the-

Senator Robert Ray —Who wrote this?

Senator PETER RAE —It was written on behalf of the group of senators who opposed the referendum. I was one of that group and one of the co-authors. I can claim consistency in relation to this matter having voted against it in 1973, in 1974, twice in 1975, and in 1977. And I will be voting against it again in 1984.

Senator Robert Ray —And in 1988.

Senator PETER RAE —And any other time that it is ever put up. As to the deception and the real intent of this Bill, I would like to quote none other than the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button. On 22 February 1977 he is quoted in Hansard at page 261 and 262 as saying:

Of course, the real importance and significance of this proposal from our point of view in the Opposition-

that is, the Australian Labor Party-

is that it does what many of its critics say it will do. It limits the significance and influence of the Senate . . .

Senator Robert Ray —Hear, hear!

Senator PETER RAE —I thank the honourable senator for his interjection. That is what he would like to see. I take it that he agrees with his Leader's comments.

Senator Robert Ray —Always.

Senator PETER RAE —So what we have now is further confirmation that the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill is deceptive. It is not about simultaneous elections; it is about limiting the power of the Senate. Senator Robert Ray has just confirmed what Senator Button said in 1977. I will read again what Senator Button said:

Of course, the real importance and significance of this proposal from our point of view in the Opposition-

I interpose that at that time it was the Australian Labor Party-

is that it does what many of its critics say it will do. It limits the significance and influence of the Senate . . . we do have a very strong view that the powers of the Senate should be delimited at every opportunity. These are the basic reasons why we will be supporting the legislation. In saying that we are being consistent with everything we have said before.

Senator Robert Ray has confirmed that and that is what he is saying now that the Bill is a deception, that the Bill is not for the purpose of simultaneous elections but for limiting the powers of the Senate. I am glad to have confirmation that not only was that the opinion of the present Leader of the Government in the Senate in 1977 but it is the opinion of the Government today.

Senator Robert Ray —I must say I don't represent the Government necessarily.

Senator PETER RAE —I thought the honourable senator said 'we'. I thought he was speaking on behalf of the Government.

Senator Withers —There is more power on the back benches than on those front benches.

Senator PETER RAE —I thank Senator Withers for his interjection. I believe that a number of people have aptly and appropriately summarised what this Bill is all about. I do not want to quote them in detail. Let me just quote what the late Sir Phillip Lynch said when the matter was debated in the House of Representatives in 1974:

. . . its adoption would impair the proper functioning of our bicameral system of government. Tying the Senate to the House of Representatives in the manner proposed by the Bill would weaken its independence . . . in short the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill is not simply unnecessary but also is cunningly deceptive in its intent.

'Cunningly deceptive in its intent' were the words used by the late Sir Phillip Lynch in 1974 when he was discussing this matter.

Senator Gareth Evans —What did he say in 1977? What did they all say in 1983?

Senator PETER RAE —The Bill has been voted on by the Liberal Party of Australia once in 1973, once in 1974, and twice in 1975. It was voted against on each of those occasions by the then members of the Liberal Party.

Senator Robert Ray —What about 1977?

Senator PETER RAE —In 1977 there was a split vote, as is well known, and as history records.

Senator Robert Ray —Who won?

Senator PETER RAE —We won; we, the minority who opposed it, won.

Senator Robert Ray —Who won in the Liberal Party?

Senator PETER RAE —We did. We won the referendum; I thought that was winning it.

Senator Gareth Evans —Get on with it.

Senator PETER RAE —There were interjections to which I was responding. I thought the Attorney-General would be interested to know the answers to them.

Senator Robert Ray —It is interesting to note the inconsistency of your Party.

Senator PETER RAE —There is a lot more consistency in relation to our Party than there has been in relation to a number of the promises that have been made by this Government and dishonoured, one after another, from the day that it took office. If we want to talk about consistency and debate that, let us spend a little time giving some examples of the inconsistencies and all the rest of the promises that were made about what the Government would do.

Senator Gareth Evans —It is a joy to watch your consistency!

Senator PETER RAE —I have had a consistent attitude to this, Senator Evans, throughout the whole time. I am speaking for myself at the moment. Conceivably a government could go back to the people time and again forcing election after election until it won control of the Senate. It could keep doing so until it destroyed the watch dog and turned it into a rubber stamp stacked with its own unquestioning supporters. That-I refer back to what Senator Button said-is the desire of this Government. There would be a substantial transfer of power away from the States, represented as they are by the Senate, to the Executive Government of the day particularly the Prime Minister of the day and the powers which he has. So it is an effective step towards the destruction of democracy as we have known it in its bicameral form in Australia. That is the intention, admitted by Senator Button in 1977 and confirmed by Senator Robert Ray today. In support of Senator Durack's amendment, what better proof could we have than the voices of the people who are putting the proposal up themselves that it is a deception, and intended to be a deception, and that it is intended to break down the power of the Senate.