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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3638


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! I ask honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House to be silent so that the right honourable member who is addressing the chamber may be heard.


Mr MCMAHON - I must repeat the long title of the Bill. It says:

A Bill for an Act to facilitate alterations to the Constitution and to allow Electors in Territories, as well as Electors in the States, to vote at Referendums on Proposed Laws to alter the Constitution.

As you will know, Sir, and as I believe all honourable members will know, the long title is critically important in referendum proposals because it is the long title that people will see on their ballot paper. Consequently, it should honestly and accurately reflect the substance of the Bill. Therefore I believe that we must consider the long title and ask ourselves whether the words 'to facilitate alterations to the Constitution' are a correct or false description of 2 relevant parts of the Bill. I repeat that they are important so far as the actual voter is concerned. These are the reasons for believing that the words false description apply not only to the rejection of clause 2 (c) but relate also to the long title of the Bill.

If these 2 changes" are not made - one has already been rejected- then clause 2 (c) will obviously be an attempt to whittle away the federal system and the powers of the State governments. It will take away powers that are now vested in the sovereign States and will attempt to vest them in the Commonwealth. Every honourable member who has a conscience will have to admit that proper consideration has not been given to the meaning of the words and to the consequences of the proposed changes. I am prepared to say that there would not be half a dozen honourable members who would have a clue as to the meaning. The Government is doing this to prevent proper public discussion in what is, after all, the senior and most representative Parliament in the Commonwealth. If we look at the long title of the Bill we will see that it docs not truly reflect the meaning of the Bill. In other words, it is a false presentation, and that presentation should be altered not only in the interests of accuracy and justice but also to permit the Australian people to know exactly what is contemplated.

The Opposition wants to omit the words 'To facilitate alterations to the Constitution' and to substitute the words 'To reduce the number of States required to approve proposed laws to alter the Constitution'. Yet nowhere in the long title is there a reference to that fact. Consequently, every honourable member with a conscience should be prepared to admit that the long title is false, is capable of misunderstanding and is, therefore, deceptive. For those reasons I formally move:

Omit the words 'To facilitate alterations to the Constitution', substitute the following words:

To reduce the Number of States required to approve proposed laws to alter the Constitution.'

The title will then go on to say: 'and to allow Electors in the States, to vote at Referendums on Proposed Laws to alter the Constitution'.







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