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Tuesday, 6 April 1965


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) . - There are one or two aspects of the Bill upon which I desire some elucidation at the Committee stage. I regret that I have only perused it in the last half hour, and since the doubts arose in my mind I have not an opportunity to discuss them with the Minister or his advisers. I refer to clause 3 which states -

If the Presiding Officer of either House of the Parliament resigns his office or his seat, he shall, for the purposes of the exercise of any powers or functions by the Presiding Officer of that House under a law of the Commonwealth, be deemed to continue to bc the Presiding Officer of that House (whether or not that House is dissolved after he so resigns) until a Presiding Officer is chosen by thai House.

Let us examine the Constitution and, in doing so, confine our attention to our own House so that it cannot be said that we have reflected on another place. We find that section 17 of the Constitution provides -

The Senate shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a senator to be the President of the Senate; and as often as the office of President becomes vacant the Senate shall again choose a senator to be the President.

The section continues -

The President shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a senator . . .

The Constitution so provides, and with that singular lack of felicity that is the predominant characteristic of drafting here, clause 3 of the Bill contains the following words, whatever their force may be - under a law of the Commonwealth.

We have an expressed direction in this proposed statute that notwithstanding that the President has resigned his seat, he shall be deemed to continue to be the Presiding Officer. The solution of the whole problem may lie in the words " under a law of the Commonwealth." I should like to know whether this is an expression that is actually used so as to exclude the Constitution, but it would seem to me that we avail ourselves nothing in providing in clause 3 of this Bill that the President shall be deemed to continue in office if he resigns, when the Constitution says that the President shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a senator.

Then, if honorable senators look at clause 4 of the Bill they will find that it is provided -

If the President of the Senate ceases to be a senator by reason of the expiration of his term of service, he shall, for the purposes of the exercise of any power or functions by the President of the Senate under a law of the Commonwealth, be deemed to be the President of the Senate (whether or not the Senate is dissolved after he so ceases to be a senator) until a President is chosen by the Senate.

I ask the Minister for Defence and the Committee, to glance at section 19 of the Constitution which says -

A senator may, by writing addressed to the President, or to the Governor-General if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth, resign his place which thereupon shall become vacant.

That is the provision in the Constitution. I ask the Minister: If I wish to resign my seat and the President of the Senate has also resigned, and there is no President, to whom do I address my resignation? Do I address it to the continuing President by virtue of this legislation or to the GovernorGeneral?


Senator Willesee - I think you address it to the Presiding Officer.


Senator WRIGHT - I am obliged to the honorable senator for his opinion. But I cannot give my concurrence with the same facility as the honorable senator expressed his opinion. I raise this matter because we have been chided for sleeping for many years since the House of Commons passed similar legislation. I have no doubt that the reconciliation of this Bill with these provisions of the Constitution has been made transparently plain somewhere, but at the present time, it does seem to me that there may be difficulties in reconciling the terms of the Bill with sections 17 and 19 of the Constitution. Clauses other than those I have just mentioned may be involved.







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