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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 350

Senator HARRADINE(11.40) — Mr President, I will be very brief. The matters we are discussing are very important matters indeed, particularly as they relate to the Constitution Alteration (Terms of Senators) Bill. It has been maintained that the proposed simultaneous elections referendum is designed to destabilise the Senate. It is fair for senators to take this opportunity to stand on their dig and to insist upon the observance of Standing Orders. The Standing Orders are very clear. As has been said, standing order 242 states clearly:

Before the Third Reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a Call of the Senate.

Of course, the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) attempted to have that standing order suspended on Tuesday. The Senate stood firmly against that and defeated that attempt. He is now attempting to overcome standing order 283, which requires:

An Order for a Call of the Senate shall be made for any day not earlier than twenty-one days from the day on which such Order shall have been made.

That means that an order must be made for a call of the Senate. I am in a situation now of having to vote against this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. Of course, this motion is in order, but I believe it is not a motion which is capable of being amended by anyone who wants to see the Standing Orders observed. It is capable of amendment by any other senator who does not want to see the Standing Orders observed-in other words, who wants to pick unilaterally a day between now and 21 days hence-but I do not think any senator is in that situation.

Senators fall into two categories: Those who want to see the Standing Orders observed and those who want to see the Standing Orders suspended. Those in the first category, including those who on Tuesday stood against the Standing Orders being suspended in relation to the call of the Senate, are quite clear about the situation. We are dealing with a matter of great importance to the Senate. We will do everything possible to ensure that the Senate Standing Orders are not suspended and we will not allow anyone to ride roughshod over our rights. The call of the Senate is a very important matter.

Senator Gareth Evans —It seems able to be dispensed with on most occasions.

Senator HARRADINE —In my view it is a very important matter. We find in Odgers's Australian Senate Practice that the provision for a call was inserted to:

(i) prevent the rapid passage of a Bill to amend the Constitution and, by the provision that the Call shall not be earlier than twenty-one days from the day on which the Order is made, afford time for reflection and deliberation;

(ii) ensure that all Senators would, through notice of the Call, be advised of the proposed third reading of a Bill to alter the Constitution; and

(iii) afford all Senators, by reason of the duration of notice of the Call, sufficient notice to enable them to be present to cast a vote on the third reading of a Bill, for which an absolute majority of affirmative votes is required.

Those are very important issues. I will deal with them in order. As far as time for reflection and deliberation is concerned, a number of matters were raised in the debate yesterday and today which were not raised in the debate about this matter last year. Some honourable senators who were present during the debate last year are not present now. Is it fair to those honourable senators, in a matter which is of such importance to them and their fixed terms, not to allow them the chance of exercising their rights, as protected by Standing Orders? We are dealing with the fixed terms of senators.

The second matter, of course, is to ensure that all honourable senators are advised of the proposed third reading. I know of one honourable senator, who happens to be in New Zealand, who would certainly desire to have the opportunity to vote in this matter. If Standing Orders are observed that honourable senator will have the opportunity of so rearranging his program as to ensure that he is here for the call of the Senate. That is his right. Otherwise, he will be denied his right to involve himself in the preparation of the No case, and that is another aspect that I think is being overlooked. Under the provisions of the referendum legislation those senators who cast their vote for or against the third reading and those members of the House of Representatives who do the same, are the senators and members who have the right to present to the Australian Electoral Office the official Yes and No cases. By adopting the suspension of Standing Orders procedure this Government is preventing the senator I have in mind from exercising that right and participating in that submission. I come to the final point, that the provision for a call was inserted to:

. . . afford all senators, by reason of the duration of notice of the Call, sufficient notice to enable them to be present to cast a vote . . .

There may be other honourable senators who are not necessarily in that situation but, because of commitments arising from their portfolios or shadow portfolios are somewhere else. I believe that those senators ought to be given consideration. Naturally, the Standing Orders are there for that purpose.

Honourable senators on the other side of the chamber do not want to have the Standing Orders observed; they want them suspended. One must ask why they want them suspended. The reason for that is clear. Senator Evans has done his maths and so have I. If the Standing Orders of the Senate are observed the referendum cannot be placed before the people this year. The Attorney-General knows that as well as I do. The Government has the choice of going to the people this year in an election without a referendum or going next year with a referendum. The Attorney-General knows that. That is what this suspension of Standing Orders is about.

Senator Gareth Evans —That is not even true.

Senator HARRADINE —It is true.

Senator Gareth Evans —We could go in late December.

Senator HARRADINE —Eleven weeks and four days?

Senator Gareth Evans —I have done my arithmetic.

Senator HARRADINE —The Attorney-General has done his arithmetic and so have I. It will be tremendously awkward for the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to have--

Senator Gareth Evans —We could have it in December.

Senator HARRADINE —Oh yes, we could have it on 22 December. That is a great date for an election.

Senator Durack —I don't think he really wants it anyway, Senator. It doesn't matter about the referendum.

Senator HARRADINE —It does not matter about the referendum. The Government might jettison the referendum yet; one never knows. The last point I want to make is that to have a call of the Senate without 21 days notice is a farce. Of course it is a farce.

Senator Gareth Evans —It is a farce that has been repeated on every occasion but one.

Senator HARRADINE —That is the point. Standing order 242, which deals with the call, has been suspended. As I understand it, it has rarely been the case that the 21 days has been interfered with.

Senator Macklin —Has it ever been the case?

Senator HARRADINE —I think it has, but rarely. Most of the suspensions have been in respect of standing order 242. That was attempted on Tuesday and was defeated . It is a farce to have a call of the Senate forthwith. It defeats the whole purpose of the Standing Orders and that is the reason why the Government has moved this motion. I believe that honourable senators ought to stand firm on this matter of upholding the Standing Orders, particularly as it relates to a referendum Bill which affects the stability and independence of the Senate.