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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 335


Senator MACKLIN(10.08) —I thought we were going to have a very short debate on this matter. Various moves were made yesterday. I understand that some honourable senators are reading the first version of this amendment. The amendment that has now been moved is the sixth version and it has been drafted in consideration of the ruling that the Chair has made; that material should be relevant to the legislation. The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has chosen to make a number of claims about the Australian Democrats. I think it is useful to put on record the fact that it has been excessively difficult to keep up with the Attorney's moves in this matter. Honourable senators will remember that when he was in opposition he championed a fixed term proposal. He promised it to the people and when he became Attorney-General he introduced relevant legislation into this place. Then, however, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) decided that he did not want to give away any powers that previous Prime Ministers had had, so he told the Attorney to drop that proposal and adopt the Fraser electoral reform proposals for simultaneous elections and four-year terms. When the Prime Minister could not get lavish amounts of money to spend on one side of the argument and not the other he decided that the Attorney-General should drop those proposals and come up with only the simultaneous elections proposal.

As Senator Gareth Evans has been reminding us of various events of the past, let me refer him back to a statement he made in March 1983, when he said that the Australian Labor Party would have no bar of a simultaneous elections proposal without a fixed term. Those are his words; I have quoted them often. I repeat: He said that the Australian Labor Party would have no bar of a simultaneous elections proposal without a fixed term. If he wants us to try to keep up with that type of somersault, I am afraid we do not have enough time or energy for that type of gymnastic. This proposal indeed had to be changed as a result of the Committee's decision yesterday. The Committee changed the short title to 'terms of senators'. It is, therefore, much more appropriate to move around the points that were previously in the long title to highlight the original item; that is, the terms of senators. Senator Durack's amendment reads:

. . . to change the terms of senators so that they are no longer of fixed duration--

that is precisely what this Bill does-

and to provide that Senate elections and House of Representatives elections are always held on the same day.

This is the consequence of actually removing the fixed terms. It seems to us that the Attorney could accept that motion because that much more accurately reflects the Bill as it will be put to the people. Do not forget that the important point about the long title of the Bill is not just that it is an esoteric discussion in titling Bills; the importance of this long title is that it is the title that appears on the ballot paper. It is the item on which the elector is asked to agree or to disagree. So the long title is a particularly important piece of work. I think it has been useful in the last day or so that a great deal of attention has been given to making sure that the item that appears on the ballot paper is as accurate a reflection as is possible of what the Bill does. I believe that this now must be accepted as an accurate reflection of precisely what the Bill does. Hence, it will have our support.