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Appointment to the constitutional convention

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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR NICK MINCHIN Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

1 May 1997


Contrary to Opposition claims, there has been full consultation across the political spectrum on the appointment of delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

Along with State Premiers and Territory C hief Ministers that consultation process has included letters to both the Leader of the Federal Opposition, and the Leader of the Australian Democrats.

All were invited by the Prime Minister on 10 April to suggest names o f citizens they would like the Government to consider in making the appointments, with a request that these names be submitted by 2 May.

An entirely separate election process to determine half o f the 152 delegates is expected to commence later this year.

But this process cannot begin until the necessaiy legislation (Constitutional Convention (Election) Bill 1997) is approved by Parliament.

This is expected to occur in the Budget sittings.

Far from being secret, once the legislation is passed there will be a national advertising campaign to seek nominations for candidates interested in running for election.

Even Senator Bolkus, however, would understand that this process cannot occur until the necessary legislation is passed.

In the meantime, he should consult his leader or the Hansard (House o f Representatives, March 26) on the steps taken by the Government so far (see attached summary).

Since the Prime Minister’s announcements on 26 March, suggestions from around the country, including suggestions from M P’s, interested organisations and the public have already been flowing in and I invite Senator Bolkus to add his recommendations to his leader’s list when it is submitted.

The appointed delegates will be announced prior to the closing o f nominations for the election o f delegates to the Convention.

For further information contact M egan Enders in Senator M inchin’s office on (06) 277 7130 COMMONWEALTH




• 152 delegates will attend the Convention, which will meet for up to 10 days in Canberra in December 1997. • Half of the delegates will be elected, and half appointed. • Delegates will receive allowances for travel and accommodation expenses, but no sitting fees.


The Convention will consider whether or not our present Constitution should be changed to a republican form of government. The Convention will examine : • whether or not Australia should become a republic; • which republican model might be put to the electorate to consider against the status quo; and

• the timetable or circumstances in which any change might be considered.

The Coalition had previously contemplated referring other constitutional issues to the Convention, but has decided that on balance this Convention should deal only with the question of a change to a republican form of government. The Government will consider ways in which it can facilitate the sensible consideration of other proposed constitutional changes.


• Balanced and easily understood information on the issues will be prepared and distributed widely before the election of delegates. • The information material will be developed with input from leading groups in the debate, including the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and the Australian Republican

Movement, and w ill: - explain, in plain English, how the existing constitutional system operates; - identify the arguments for and against change; and - present the options (including the option of no change) with comments which will help the

reader to work through the advantages and disadvantages of those alternatives. • Public submissions will be invited to allow the community to inject into the Convention ideas on the issues. This additional information will help to inform delegates of the range of views in the community.


• 76 delegates will be directly elected by the people through a non-compulsory, secret postal ballot to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. • The elected delegates will be divided between the states and territories, broadly in line with the composition the Commonwealth Parliament. New South Wales will have 20 of the elected

delegates, Victoria 16, Queensland 13, Western Australia 9, South Australia 8, Tasmania 6 and the ACT and Northern Territory 2 delegates each.

The Voting System • Voting will be open to all people on the Electoral Roll. • The election will be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. Legislation for the conduct of the election (the Constitutional Convention (Election) Bill 1997) was introduced

into the House of Representatives on 26 March 1997.

• The method of voting is called optional preferential voting, and has been modelled on the system used in Senate elections. Electors will be able to vote for candidates from their state or territory and will be able to vote either : - above-the-line. by marking the number 1 in the box of their preferred group or candidate

on Part A of the Ballot Paper (as in Senate elections). Preferences will be distributed according to preference lists lodged by the groups or candidates (for groups, if no list is lodged, preferences will go to candidates within that group); or - below-the-line. by transcribing the identifying numbers for their preferred candidates into the preference boxes listed on Part B of the Ballot Paper, up to the number of places available (identifying numbers will be allocated to each candidate by a random process). • All eligible electors will be sent a ballot paper and supporting material to assist them in casting their vote. The supporting information will include : - a list of all candidates, and their group or individual names. The list will indicate

identifying numbers for all candidates for the purposes of below-the-line voting; and - short statements about the group or candidates submitted by the candidates.

Eligibility to nominate as a candidate • The election will be open to Australian citizens who are 18 years of age or older and who are entitled to vote. • Each candidate will be required to pay a non-refundable nomination fee of $500. • Sitting Commonwealth, State and Territory parliamentarians will not be able to stand for



Seventy-six delegates will be appointed prior to the election. Forty parliamentarians will be appointed, twenty from the states and territories and twenty from the Commonwealth Parliament. Thirty-six non-parliamentarians will also be appointed.

Parliamentary appointments The Commonwealth parliamentary appointments will be in proportion to the representation of parties in the Parliament, and will include : • 12 government members; and

• 8 non-government members; - 6 members to be chosen by the Leader of the Opposition; - 1 by the Leader of the Australian Democrats; and - 1 Independent chosen at random.

• Each state will be represented by 3 parliamentary delegates. The Premier, opposition leader and one other parliamentarian nominated by the Premier will be invited to attend the Convention.

• Territory Chief Ministers will be invited.

Non-parliamentarian appointments • The thirty-six non-parliamentarians will be appointed having regard to the objective of achieving a broad geographic representation. • Appointments will include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and young people.

Local government will also be represented. • The government will ensure that the appointments reflect a proper balance between men and women.