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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2202


Senator ROBERT RAY —Has the Attorney-General's attention been drawn to Press reports that the Queensland Premier is planning to appoint a pseudo-Liberal to the Senate to replace Senator Martin after she resigns to contest a House of Representatives seat? Are there any constitutional barriers to such a move, and does the Attorney believe that the Queensland Premier is contemplating such a move because the Liberal Party is full of trendies or because the Labor Party is 'ungodly'?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Since the disgraceful behaviour in 1975 of the Queensland Premier in appointing a pseudo-Labor man, Senator Field, to this place, the Constitution was amended in 1977 after the Australian Constitutional Convention resolved to that effect by inserting a new section 15. In the event that Senator Martin does not seek reappointment herself-and judging by the way the colt is running at the moment it is a little premature to be writing the valedictories- an appointment would not be valid unless the person concerned were a member of the Liberal Party. If the person appointed should be expelled from the Liberal Party or otherwise ceases to be a member of it before taking his or her seat in this place, under the Constitution the appointment would be nullified and the vacancy would again be notified to the State Governor. The remedy for any political manoeuvring of the kind that disgraced this place in 1975 is therefore in the hands of the Liberal Party. If the Queensland Premier were to appoint a pseudo-Liberal to any possible Martin vacancy, the appropriate course for the Liberal Party would be to expel that person. If it failed to do so it would have only itself to blame for finding itself in such a position.

As to the last part of Senator Ray's question, I do not know whether Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen shares Mr Sinclair's view that the Liberal Party is full of whimps and trendies, but he certainly seems to think that the Labor Party is full of the ungodly, on the basis, it seems, given this morning's Press reports, of an alleged substantial proportion of our numbers seeking an affirmation rather than an oath at the time of the swearing in of the last Parliament. This is a grotesque claim for a number of reasons. For a start, he has his arithmetic wrong. In fact only a minority of the Labor Party-52 to 53 I think-were affirmed rather than sworn.

But, more importantly, the implication is that everyone who takes the oath is a Christian or otherwise genuinely godly, which is a very large claim to make of most of our colleagues in this Parliament. Secondly, the Premier is implying that only Christians are people of integrity who can be trusted. That is a peculiarly grotesque claim from a man who this morning in the Queensland Parliament, quite apart from on numerous other occasions, was guilty of a grotesque breach of trust and confidence in a statement he made on a piece of legislation.


Senator Chaney —Mr President, I take a point of order. Under the Standing Orders the same protection is given to a member of a State parliament as is given to a member of this place. I think the words which have just been used about circumstances of which I am sure most of us are ignorant-about the Premier's activities in the parliament-are not parliamentary and should be withdrawn.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I have to make a line ball decision, but I ask the Attorney-General to be careful in his language in respect of members of other parliaments.


Senator GARETH EVANS —The Queensland Premier also in his statement totally overlooked the fact that some very genuine Christians decline to take the oath because they take the view that there is a biblical injunction against this. I understand that the injunction in question, as Senator Tate has acknowledged, is in Matthew 5, verses 33-37, which I do not seek to have incorporated in Hansard, but it is there for reference. Sir Joh was heard to say that no Christian should vote for anyone who did not take the oath. I simply make the point that that would put in grave difficulty, among others, Senator Martin, again, who is standing in this election, not to mention the shadow Minister, Mr Ian Macphee, in the other place.

Finally, I make the point, because this is a serious subject, that section 42 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to make an affirmation or an oath when being sworn in, has been in the Constitution since its foundation. It was based on an English Act of 1888 which enabled members of the House of Commons who had conscientious objections to taking the oath to make a solemn affirmation instead. I wind up by saying that the nineteenth century society was infinitely less tolerant of free thought than it is today. If honourable senators want to know just how bigoted that society was and how difficult it was for non-Christian people of integrity then, they will not have to go very far north of the Tweed today to get a demonstration.