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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 321


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.23) —For the sake of clarification I say that all the Australian Constitutional Convention has decided is to put in something in the language of proposed new sub-section (4) using the language of relative success. What has occurred to people is that the words 'relative success' are potentially ambiguous because it is not just a matter of counting out in terms of the number of votes one receives but also how those votes are counted and the particular quota which is applied. This is the problem that was identified by the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform on a bipartisan basis. The words 'relative success' are themselves ambiguous. Relative success and the method by which it is determined can be resolved by resolution of the Senate as it has been up until now or we can go a step further and enshrine it in legislation.

I think that if we start playing around with the notion of relative success which is contained in proposed new sub-section (4), all we are going to do at this late hour is introduce new complexities into what is by now a reasonably well understood-albeit not by me-situation as to what relative success means and what the different alternatives are. So either way we are not going all the way in this particular constitutional provision to spell it out. We are merely creating a procedure by which it may be determined. The only argument is whether that procedure is resolution of the Senate or legislation. I can appreciate the point that Senator Durack is making but I think it would require more drafting, thought and time than we are capable of putting into it at this late stage of the proceedings.