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Tuesday, 4 December 1973

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - The Government opposes the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). The reasons have been given- that this matter ought to be determined by the people according to the provisions of the existing Constitution. If they choose to alter it that is their entitlement, and the paragraph ought not be deleted from the Bill. As to the matter that Senator Wright put, he asked as I understand it, that if this alteration were made, would that then affect the proposition, say, in relation to a proposal to alter the limits of a State, or diminish the proportionate representation of a State in either House of the Parliament; whether this provision, if carried, would alter the special requirements that it shall not become law unless a majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law. I cannot say that I have given full consideration to that proposition but, on the face of it, I would think that it would not alter the situation applying under the paragraph in section 128 which begins:

No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State. . .

That would be unaffected by this proposed alteration to the Constitution. This proposed alteration simply deals with the preceding paragraph which commences: 'And if in a majority of the States'. The proposal relates to that. It is not referable to the last paragraph. The words 'in a majority of the States' do not appear in the last paragraph. On the face of it I do not see that the specific provisions of the last paragraph would be affected by this alteration. This would simply say that in the other matters, which are outside the scope of that last paragraph, where it provided that in a majority of the States a majority of the electors voting was required it would now be only a majority of voters in at least half of the States.

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