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Thursday, 17 February 1977
Page: 217

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I rise to join other members of the Parliament who have indicated their support for the measures we are now debating. For many years my Party has advocated simultaneous elections. The Australian Labor Party has not included in its platform all of the things that are included in the 4 proposals now before the Parliament but Labor members have certainly indicated their general support for these kinds of proposals at the Federal Labor Party Caucus level. At the same time, I do not think anyone ought to have any illusions about the reasons the Government has introduced these 4 proposals. The Government has clearly introduced them for an ulterior motive. It is wishing to avoid the necessity of facing an election for the retiring half of the Senate either later this year or early next year. The Government wants to avoid that like the plague because it knows that when that election is held, either late this year or early next year, it will be soundly defeated at the polls. The Government's stocks are now falling almost month by month and will continue to fall as unemployment continues to rise. That, of course, is a reason the Government wants this amendment brought through.

The Government is in a quandary about the retiring half of the Senate. If it has a half Senate election early in the period permitted for this type of election- that is, between July and December- it knows that it will be badly beaten. If the Government postpones the election until later in the first half of next year, which is the latest possible date on which it can hold an election for the retiring half of the Senate, the date for the half Senate election will be brought so close to the date when the House of Representatives is due to go to the electorate that, by virtue of the stupidity of not doing so before, it would be forced to have the House of Representatives go to the electorate at the same time. This would mean that a House of Representatives election would be held before June next year. The result of that election would be absolutely disastrous for the Government. I think that almost any person could lead the Labor Party to victory at the next election. I do not think there is any doubt about that. I think that is how the Government feels about it as well. I believe that much more important than simultaneous elections is the power of the Senate to refuse Supply or to reject money Bills. If that power were taken away there would not be the same need or urgency as there now is for simultaneous elections. I am disappointed that the Government did not include a fifth proposal to define clearly the powers of the Senate to reject Supply and to reject money Bills.

Dr Klugman - You are not surprised.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am not surprised, but I believe that is far more important than all the 4 measures we are talking about put together. In respect of the filling of vacancies, the Government is acting in the way it is now acting for the sole purpose of trying to prevent the election of Senator Brown at the next half Senate election because, as the Constitution now stands, it would be necessary for Victoria to elect 6 senators instead of five. If 6 senators were to be elected in Victoria the chances are that the Australian Labor Party, if it did not win three of the long term vacancies, could not be prevented from winning two of the long term vacancies, with its third seat being the short term vacancy. This proposal means that the Government will be able effectively to prevent the Labor Party from having other than an outside chance of winning a third seat in Victoria because it will alter the Constitution so that the Senator who was appointed by the Victorian Parliament to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Greenwood will now continue to hold office until the expiration of the normal term for which Senator Greenwood would have been entitled to hold office. That is the real reason why the Government is doing what it is.

I would like to hear from the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) how it is proposed to recognise political parties. The honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) indicated some of the circumstances which could arise which could make it extremely difficult for anybody to determine which party was entitled to nominate a person to fill a vacancy. I do not know what would happen in the case of Senator Hall, for example, who was elected to the Parliament representing a party called the Liberal Movement, which has in a sense disbanded and yet in a sense has not. I would think that its leader, Robin Millhouse, would argue that it has not disbanded, it has merely changed its name as the Country Party has so often done. Therefore if there were a vacancy arising as a result of Senator Hall's retirement it would have to be filled by the new Liberal Movement. But would it? Is the proposed alteration to the Constitution quite clear as to who would fill that position?

There is another thing to which I would like to hear the Attorney-General address himself. I will wait till he has finished talking with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) because the debate will be finished before he has a chance to read Hansard, as I have no doubt he usually does. I would like him to address himself to the question of who is to determine the position I have raised. I would like him to address himself also to whether it would be possible to bring in a special Act or to alter the Commonwealth Electoral Act for the purpose of defining these finer points. Would the Parliament be deemed to be exercising powers incidental to the Constitution if it brought in an Act so defining these fine points that have already been raised and which over the passage of years to come will emerge in new forms?

I want to tell the Parliament about another extraordinary political situation that can develop in the recognition of political parties. If the Attorney-General would take this on board as well it would be greatly appreciated by me. The facts are that had Mr Gair, as he then was, and his supporters who assembled in Hobart in 1953 for the Federal Conference of the Labor Party due to be held in Hobart that year decided to call a meeting of their group plus the 6 disputed delegates from Victoria they would have had more delegates than has the group to which I belonged. The Gair group would have had 28 delegates, including its six disputed delegates, and I think we would nave had twenty. Had this group been able to vote with the other undisputed delegates to determine which of the two disputed delegations from Victoria were to be allowed to take their seats then there is still no doubt that the Gair group would have had the numbers to decide in favour of the Victorian group led by McManus and they would have had 22 delegates to our 14.

The Gair group did not do that, but the result was avoided only because the Federal Executive of the Labor Party had taken the precaution to settle the question of the disputed Victorian delegates before the conference was called together. Had the Federal Executive not done so the result would have been entirely different. Had Gair decided to crash through- and not crash- who then would have decided which person should have been nominated to fill a Labor vacancy in, say, South Australia whose branch of the Federal party was in a minority? I suggest that the people who would have decided that would have been the people who controlled the Federal apparatus. That is something that needs to be looked at.

I remember in 1948 Dr Evatt, who was then the Federal Attorney-General, giving an opinion to the Federal Executive of the Labor Party to the effect that there were real legal difficulties in the recognition of political parties and he counselled us against even attempting to resolve them. I know one of the problems that he mentionedI remember it clearly- was that if you are able to devise a way of giving legal recognition to a political party the party would almost inevitably assume corporate powers and corporate responsibilities and could be sued in a way that it cannot now be sued and could be held to be liable even for some of the actions of its own members and executive.

I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) announce his present admiration for Mr Justice Murphy. I can say that my support for the learned judge goes back far beyond 1968, when he moved to exclude Mr Harradine from the Federal Executive of the Labor Party. So I can say that it is with a great deal of joy that I join the Leader of the Opposition in expressing admiration for Mr Justice Murphy.

Mr Graham - Why did he threaten to resign at that time?


Mr Graham - Mr Whitlam.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -You ask him. I turn now to the matter of people in the Territories having the right to vote. If a majority of States narrowly favoured a change the majority against it in the Territories would then be in a position to defeat the will of the 4 States. Let us imagine that 4 States each decided by a very narrow majority in favour of a change and that the 'yes' vote majority throughout the 6 States has only a few hundred- a few thousand if you like- an equal number to that margin plus one would be enough for the voters in the Australian Capital Territory to set aside the majority decision in a majority of States.

The other thing I would like to know is: What would be the position if the Northern Territory is given statehood? I know that under the Constitution statehood can have attached to it whatever conditions the Parliament decides. But it cannot be taken for granted that that means that the Parliament has unlimited powers to decide what kinds of conditions attach. Any citizen of the Northern Territory- and certainly the AttorneyGeneral could appeal to the High Court against any decision of this Parliament regarding conditions that it may attach to Northern Territory statehood which the Northern Territory itself believed was arguable against in the High Court. There is no guarantee that the High Court would not uphold that appeal. I would be much happier to hear the Attorney-General say that, in the event of the Northern Territory being given statehood, that statehood would be on the same conditions as is applicable to the original States. At least if that were done there would be some advantage in that we would then only need to have a majority of four out of 7 States rather than a majority of four out of 6 States, providing always that the total number of people in the Commonwealth favoured the change.

One thing about the change concerning simultaneous elections that I like is that it will have a disciplinary effect on the Senate. The Senate will be in a position of knowing that, each time it refuses Supply or whenever it behaves in a way that causes the Government of the day to deem it proper to have an election, the retiring half of the Senate will have to face an election as well. As it is, as one honourable member opposite pointed out, the senators are as free as the breeze, providing they do not have grounds for a double dissolution hanging over their heads, to send the House of Representatives to the country every year if they want to, because the GovernorGeneral has now established the precedent that whenever the Senate refuses Supply to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives does not voluntarily go to the electorate, it is his duty to dismiss the Prime Minister, to appoint the Leader of the Opposition as caretaker Prime Minister and to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Just as Mr Whitlam sacked you.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -That was done under the same section of the Constitution.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) -You would not go.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In fact it was the then Prime Minister's recommendation to the Governor-General that he use that section, a section which he did not know about until then, to dismiss me that led to the Governor-General's using it against the then Prime Minister exactly 5 months and 5 days later. I hope that this legislation will be the forerunner of similar exercises. I hope that regular constitutional conventions will be held and that parties will be sensible enough to reach agreement on the need for changes to the present Constitution, because unless this is done the parliamentary system will not survive.

When the Attorney-General is replying in respect of the recognition of political parties I would like him to indicate what would be the position of Senator Townley in the event of his retirement. He came into the Senate as an Independent senator. He subsequently joined the Liberal Party. Does the Attorney-General believe that a correct interpretation of the proposed amendment would give the Liberal Party the right to nominate his successor? If not, would the Parliament of Tasmania have the right to appoint as a successor to Senator Townley a representative from the party which had the largest number of votes at the election at which Senator Townley was elected? I thank the AttorneyGeneral for listening to me so attentively and I will listen just as attentively to him when he replies.

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