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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 333

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(9.52) —I apologise to Senator Durack if I have misrepresented his position. I was relying on what was a fairly amiable conversation before the Parliament started this morning. It has suddenly turned into some sort of feeding frenzy of indignation 25 minutes later. Maybe I misconstrued his state of mind and approach. The point is that I never took the view that it could not be done. Of course it can technically be done. Anything can be technically done with the magnificent resources and expertise at my disposal in the Department.

Senator Walters —Then do it.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I point out to Senator Walters that the difficulty is that it can be done at the expense of cluttering the Constitution with something like four or five pages of detailed provisions, because we simply cannot use language such as 'quotas' and 'in order of detemination of electoral success by reference to quotas rather than primary votes' without getting into definitions of quotas and without getting into the process of who determines what they are. The whole thing is also premised on an assumption about the continuing application of proportional representation which no doubt will be the case. It is a question of whether we want to put all that into the Constitution or whether we want to leave the Constitution basically designed to deal with matters of large general principle rather than machinery detail. It is sometimes impossible to avoid the machinery detail when putting in provisions, as we had to after the travesty of 1975 to deal with the election of replacement senators in the case of casual vacancies. There was no alternative but to do it that way then. But there is an alternative now, that is, to state the principles in general terms and to leave the detail for elsewhere. As an indication of what would be involved, for the record I refer honourable senators to sub-sections 135 (5) to (28) inclusive of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as amended by the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Act which we passed last year. That is a pretty close example, on my advice from the draftsman, of the kind of machinery detail which would be involved were we to try to come to grips in the text of this Bill with the mechanical detail involved.

I repeat: I apologise if I misrepresented Senator Durack's position. I was hoping simply to short-circuit debate by I thought giving a fair summary of his position as at 9 o'clock this morning. I am sorry if that is not so. It seems that in the end result, everybody having put his position on the record, we can now determine this matter and proceed to the next clause.

Amendment agreed to.