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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 345

Senator JESSOP(11.06) —I join this debate briefly to repeat my constant opposition to enshrining in the Constitution the matter of simultaneous elections. To say that it will reduce the number of elections is absurd and deceptive. At present it is possible for any Prime Minister to call an election when he likes.

Senator Gareth Evans —The present terms of the long title, either in the original Bill or in the terms proposed by Senator Walters, do not talk in terms of reducing the number of elections. Senator Jessop is seeking to canvass the whole subject matter of the Bill rather than the specific matter of the long title that is before us. I ask you to rule accordingly.

Senator Walters —Could I speak to the point of order?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Colston) —I will rule on the point of order. I was listening carefully to Senator Jessop's remarks and was about to suggest that we are looking at an amendment to the title. I would ask Senator Jessop to keep his remarks closely aligned to the words of the amendment. In that way I think we shall be able to resolve the matter.

Senator JESSOP —I am disappointed that a similar ruling was not made by a previous occupant of the chair. I heard Senator Robert Ray and other senators range widely on this matter and thought that, with your indulgence, I could briefly make my point without delaying the Committee.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I would remind Senator Jessop that I was not in the chair a short time ago.

Senator JESSOP —The point is that I am put at a distinct disadvantage because of your astute chairmanship. I thought I would have been allowed the same latitude as Senator Robert Ray and others. I support the amendment moved by the Opposition which states:

Leave out 'to ensure that Senate elections and House of Representatives elections are always held on the same day, and to adjust the terms of senators accordingly', insert 'to change the terms of senators so that they are no longer of fixed duration and to provide that Senate elections and House of Representatives elections are always held on the same day'.

There is a reason why senators have fixed terms. It was designed and should be maintained to give the Senate independence over the House of Representatives because we are a States' House. The object is to prevent the Canberra government having absolute power. A proposal that would threaten that, in my view, would allow any Prime Minister to weaken the Senate by threatening early elections whenever he liked.

Senator Robert Ray —Why did your Party support it in 1977?

Senator JESSOP —I did not.

Senator Robert Ray —You did not have the numbers in the Party.

Senator JESSOP —That is fairly important, is it not? Nevertheless the attempt by the government of the day failed because the proponents of the No case were successful in the smaller States that are vitally concerned in this matter. I support the Opposition's amendment and hope the Committee will see fit to carry it.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack's amendment) be left out .