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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 928

Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(7.28) —I wish to indicate on behalf of the Government that we will support the motion put forward by the Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Haines) because we believe it is very important to have this affirmation of a convention which I believe underlies and underpins the wording of the Constitution in relation to the understanding that a casual vacancy should be filled by the member of the political party duly nominated by that party to fill that place.

Senator Durack —You are a constitutional lawyer. Tell us what a constitutional convention is.

Senator TATE —A convention is an understanding in a civilised political society such as the Australian democracy which helps to supplement some of the written words in a document such as the Constitution.

Senator Durack —How long does it take?

Senator TATE —A convention can arise immediately there is a civilised group of politicians who are prepared to abide by those things which make our democracy habitable, and not a divisive, confrontationist arena, which is the only situation in which Mr Gray can operate. I am pleased that the Senate has an opportunity to pass this motion, because I suspect that in the end the matter is not justiciable. It is not a matter in which the High Court of Australia would want to get involved. I do not see how it could order a chamber of a State Parliament to vote for a particular person, so I think it has to be resolved at the constitutional level, supplemented by the political level, represented by a vote of this chamber. That is about all I have time to indicate at this moment.