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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr WHITLAM - It is not relevant to our objection. There is no need to introduce extraneous matter.

Mr Hasluck - Read the whole clause.

Mr Edmonds - Never mind about him.

Mr WHITLAM - I am always willing to oblige in these matters, but I should have thought that the Minister could read the whole clause himself. The portion to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred and to which the Minister inaccurately referred, is in these terms -

A question respecting the qualification of a member of the Legislative Council . . . may be determined by the Council or may be referred by resolution of the Council to the Supreme Court, which shall thereupon hear and determine the question.

If the words " may be determined by the Council " were omitted, the provision would be similar to the procedure which has applied since 1918 in both Houses of this Parliament. We want the words " may be determined by the Council" omitted for the reason which the Minister gave, that is that the procedure in the Legislative Council should be similar to the procedure which is followed in this Parliament.

Mr Hasluck - Does the honorable member deny that this Parliament has the option to decide that matter itself or to refer the matter to the court?

Mr WHITLAM - Yes, I do deny that. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act any question of qualification which arises-

Mr Freeth - Who passed that act?

Mr WHITLAM - It was first passed in 1918, and I think that a government of the honorable member's political persuasion was then in power.

Mr Freeth - Does not this Parliament decide the matter?

Mr WHITLAM - Indeed ! I am not disputing that. Under the Constitution, this Parliament can repeal this section. But what I am pointing out is that the Minister has given a reason for this new section in the Territory act which does not apply to this Parliament. If he believes that the same procedure should apply to the Legislative Council of the Territory as applies to both Houses of this Parliament, he should have the same section in each measure. It is completely within the option of this Parliament to have what section it wants in the Territory act and what section it wants in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Mr Hasluck - I suggest that, under section 203 as it exists, this Parliament already has the option either to decide the matter itself or refer it to the court.

Mr WHITLAM - Well, with respect, I say that it has not. The Minister will notice that all the phrases which I have read from clause 4 of the bill occur in section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act except the words " may be determined by the Council ". Those are the words in the bill under consideration, but they are not contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We say that they are obnoxious and anomalous and for that reason we ask that they be omitted. It is true, as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) said, that this Parliament can alter the Commonwealth Electoral Act, but it has never seen fit to alter it in this regard in 40 years. We merely say that if we have followed that procedure for so long, why should not the Territory follow that procedure also?

Mr Hasluck - I suggest that the Territory council procedure is the same as the procedure of this Parliament.

Mr WHITLAM - It is plain that the Minister is stubborn and will not see reason. However, on this occasion, seeing that I have the right of reply, I have the last opportunity to put the facts. There are six or seven words in the present bill which are not in the Commonwealth act. If the Minister will agree to their omission, we shall be happy to acquiesce in the passage of clause 4.

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