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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 339


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(10.32) —I would go further than my colleague, Senator Hill, and say that the Bill is designed for political expediency. The proposal is about giving the Prime Minister a right to have an election at any time he chooses, without having to fear a subsequent half Senate election. If I were drafting the Bill's title, I would use the words: 'An Act to provide that the Senate shall have its election on the same date as the House of Representatives.'

The Prime Minister's consideration will not be when he can win a half Senate election but when he can win a House of Representatives election. Any consideration of the date of the election will be based purely on when the Prime Minister can win a House of Representatives election. Subsequently, the Senate will be dragged along and forced to have an election on the same day as the House of Representatives. The Senate and House of Representatives will no longer be divorced but will be inextricably tied together. The Senate's fortunes will be tied to the fortunes of the government of the day. The Senate will no longer be an independent chamber representing the various States; rather, it will be the poor relation of the House of Representatives, and the convulsions, machinations and intrigue that go on in the House of Representatives will flow in and reflect upon the Senate. Of course, the legislation will remove absolutely the Senate's power. The Senate will no longer be a House of review, be independent or be a place for a second contemplation of legislation. It will simply be an appendage. The Senate will be very much influenced by the machinations of the House of Representatives.

For the life of me, I cannot see why, in the event that a Prime Minister lost the confidence of the House of Representatives, honourable senators should suddenly be influenced by that determination. If this referendum proposal succeeds, that is what will happen. The Senate's fate and term will rest upon the Prime Minister's fate and term. That action is so far removed from the spirit of the intention of the founding fathers as to destroy and prostitute the premise of the Senate that one almost wonders why the Government does not charge headlong into bringing about its total abolition. As we all know that is a deep- down, strongly--


Senator Mason —They would if they could.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Senator Evans is on record as saying that he would do away with this place. In fact, he shows his commitment by seeking to remove himself from the Senate, even if he cannot remove the chamber itself.


Senator Mason —By the way, how is he going on that?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I understand that the Left is getting the numbers very quickly.


Senator Gareth Evans —Is this anything to do with the long title, Senator?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes, it all has to do with the long title.


Senator Robert Ray —We won't go into how you got the numbers in Western Australia.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I can count--


The CHAIRMAN —Order!


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Thank you, Mr Chairman.


Senator Robert Ray —You must be good.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Damn good. The Senate should be above and divorced from the determinations of the House of Representatives. The founding fathers gave the Senate a fixed term for very good reasons.


Senator Robert Ray —Founding father garbage.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —The reason was--


Senator Mason —I would answer that interjection, if I were you.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I heard just some blubbering on my left; I did not hear a word that the honourable senator said.


Senator Mason —He said that it was garbage.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Crichton-Browne will address the Committee.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes, Mr Chairman. I hope that it is recorded in Hansard that Senator Robert Ray of the Australian Labor Party said that the founding fathers were full of garbage. I can well remember what some of the founding fathers from Victoria said about the Senate. Some of them were setting in cement their views of the Senate's role and capacity to stop supply.

If the proposal succeeds, the Senate will be subjected to duress, influence and threat. The provision of fixed term parliaments was made for very good reasons- continuity and so that individual senators could feel able to make determinations without concern for their short term careers or worry about pressure and duress from the House of Representatives. The long title amendment proposed by Senator Durack reflects much more accurately the Bill's contents. I believe in part that what the Chairman said in his definition provided to us yesterday by Senator Evans was as devious as his earlier attempts to confuse the public. The measure does not go as far as I would like, but it is a fair reflection of the Bill's contents. I believe that the more accurately the Bill's title reflects it contents, the more likely it is that the constitutional amendment will fail.