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Citizen Initiated Referendum Bill 2013

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2010-2011-2012-2013

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITIZEN INITIATED REFERENDUM BILL 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator John Madigan, DLP Senator for Victoria)



CITIZEN INITIATED REFERENDUM BILL 2013

 

 

 

OUTLINE

The Citizen Initiated Referendum Bill 2013 enables the citizens of Australia to initiate the introduction of legislation into Parliament that provides for the holding of a referendum to alter the Constitution.

 

The cores of the Democratic principle are that it is each citizen’s right (and duty) to participate in the political system and each citizen’s right to be heard. This Bill takes a small, long overdue, step along that path. The concept of citizens being able to initiate a referendum has been contemplated for many decades, including prior to Australia’s Federation in 1901. Charles Cameron Kingston (1850-1908), who was born in South Australia, was a lawyer and colonial politician and described as “a radical democrat and a man committed to the federation of the colonies”. He took the idea of citizen initiated referendum to the first constitutional convention in Sydney which was held in March/April of 1891.

 

The likes of Kingston have promoted citizen initiated referendums, not to take away from the strong, robust democracy we have today, but rather, to add to it. Democracy is a system which allows the people to have an equal and fair say in the governing of their society. This is a definition with great breadth and depth and allows for many layers of accessibility and transparency to be included in the overall structure of what makes our political system precious. This Bill leads the challenge in contemporary Australia to advance the Australian democratic system and will empower the people to construct a more vibrant, transparent and accountable democratic Australia.

 

This Bill expands and strengthens Australia’s democracy in an extremely tempered fashion. Once an Elector’s application for a referendum to take place has been approved by the Electoral Commission, the application will be written into a Bill, which will then be introduced into Parliament by the Minister. Once the Bill passes one or both Houses of Parliament, as required by section 128 of the Constitution, the Governor-General will then be able to issue a writ for a referendum to take place. This Bill allows for full compliance with the current requirements in the Constitution for undertaking a referendum to amend the Constitution.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

The Bill has limited financial impact. The proposals contained in the Bill are expected to be met by existing Electoral Commission (EC) funds, and revenue raised through the application fee required to be paid by persons who lodge a proposal to initiate a referendum.



 

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

CITIZEN INITIATED REFERENDUM BILL 2013

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

When assessing the functions of this Bill against the spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ICCPR ), it is clear that the Bill enhances and promotes the requirement in Article 1 that:

All people have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Closing the gap between the people of Australia and their most important legal document, the Constitution, which rules them, enhances democracy and allows for a more transparent, dynamic and free Australia assists in attaining the requirement in Article 1 of the ICCPR that all Australian citizens are able to freely participate in their political system. For this reason, this Bill is compatible with Human Rights.

 

Human rights implications

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it enhances human rights.

 

 

Senator J Madigan



 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Part 1

Clause 1: Short title

This clause provides that the Bill, when passed, may be cited as the Citizen Initiated Referendum Act 2013

Clause 2: Commencement

This clause provides that the Bill will commence on the day it receives Royal Assent.

Clause 3: Guide to the Act

This clause outlines the criteria for a Citizen Initiated Referendum to take place by outlining that:

a)       electors must register to amend the Constitution with the Electoral Commission; and

b)       the Electoral Commission must review the application to determine whether the proposal relates to amending the Constitution; and

c)       if the application is relevant, that the Elector must submit a document to the Electoral Commission containing the signatures of at least 1% of all Australian Electors; and

d)      at least 3% of those signatures must be checked randomly by the Electoral Commission to confirm their validity; and

e)       the Minister is responsible for introducing a Bill into Parliament to initiate the legislation to have a referendum to consider a proposal to amend the Constitution, should the Electoral Commission confirm that the necessary criterion has been fulfilled; and

f)        the first Saturday of October in 2016 and every fourth year afterward will be the day for a referendum to take place.

Clause 4: Object of this Act

The object of this Act is to enable Australian citizens to initiate a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution.

Clause 5: Definitions

This section outlines the various definitions in the Bill.

 

 

 

Part 2

Clause 6: Application to register proposal for referendum

This section states that an elector must apply to the Electoral Commission to apply to initiate legislation into Parliament which would provide for a referendum to amend the constitution. It also mentions that the application fee must not be excessive and in certain circumstances, the Electoral Commission may refund the fee.

Clause 7: Electoral Commissioner to examine proposal for referendum

This section outlines that within 1 month of receiving an application, that the Electoral Commissioner must decide whether to register the proposal as valid.

Clause 8: Registration of proposal for referendum

This section stipulates that the Electoral Commissioner must respond to proposals for referendum in a considered and reasonable way.

Clause 9: Notice of decision

This clause states that the Electoral Commissioner must inform the applicant within 7 days of the decision.

Clause 10: Meaning of qualifying requirements and qualifying day

This section outlines the requirements of the applicant to qualify for being able to successfully initiate the process. It states that a document containing the signatures of at least 1% of all Australian electors must be submitted by the qualifying day.

Clause 11: Electoral Commissioner to verify that qualifying requirements have been satisfied

This section outlines how the Electoral Commission must ensure that the application is valid and that the signatures have been obtained correctly by verifying, by random sampling, that at least 3% of the signatures have been validly obtained.

Clause 12: Minister to arrange for introduction of proposed law

Within 4 months after a proposal for a referendum is verified under section 11, the Minister must cause a Bill that will alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal to be introduced into the Parliament. Both houses of Parliament will then have an opportunity to debate the proposal and to vote on whether the Bill to initiate a referendum will be passed and sent to the Governor-General for Royal Assent.

Part 3

Clause 13: Application of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984

The current Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 applies to this part of the Bill.



 

Clause 14: Writ for referendum

This clause provides that a proposal to amend the Constitution must be passed by an absolute majority of one House, or both Houses of the Parliament, in order for the question to be put to a referendum (in accordance with the requirements of section 128 of the Constitution)

This clause provides that if the Parliament passes a Bill to initiate a referendum that the legislation is to be presented to the Governor-General and that the Governor-General may then issue a writ so that the proposal to amend the Constitution is placed before the Australian people by way of referendum.

Part 4

Clause 15: Delegation by Electoral Commissioner

This is a provision allowing the Electoral Commissioner to delegate all or any of the functions of the Electoral Commissioner to the Deputy Electoral Commissioner.

Clause 16: Regulations

This section outlines that the Governor-General may make regulations to ensure the necessary or convenient functioning of the Act.