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Referendum a costly and unnecessary diversion



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P R E S S R E L E A S E

THE SENATE

11/83

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STATEMENT BY THE DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL, SENATOR PETER DURACK, Q.C.

REFERENDUM A COSTLY AND UNNECESSARY DIVERSION

The Commonwealth Government's August referendum

amounts to a costly diversion which cannot be justified in

terms of the urgency of the proposals to be put to the people.

At a time when the Government should be giving its full attention to the state of the economy and is expressing concern at the size of the deficit, it is planning to spend an extra $21 million on the referendum.

"The fact is that the referendum proposal is

aimed at making life easier for politicians, particularly

those now in power in Canberra," Senator Durack told the Senate today.

"It will.provide no benefit to the people of Australia as a whole.

"The real reasons for the Government proceeding

with such unnecessary haste have little to do with the merits of the proposed constitutional changes.

"The Prime Minister clearly wants to get the fixed term parliament proposal through so that he will have

a more convenient election timetable in the immediate future.

"Mr Hawke would no doubt like to be able to

postpone the half-Senate election due by June 1985 until the end of that year.

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"The real reason for the referendum appears

to relate to the self image of the Attorney-General, Senator Evans, who sees himself as a great constitutional

reformer.

"As someone who promised so much and who has

delivered so little, he is now dragging the government

and the people of Australia through this unnecessary

exercise in an effort to soothe his damaged ego.

"The Opposition opposes the fixed term parliament proposal because the concept cannot be accommodated within the Australian system of government.

"The commonly-expressed view that so-called fixed terms would mean less frequent elections is ill-

founded. If the Evans' bill is supported it could well

mean more elections.

"It provides that a government coming to office after a deadlock would only serve out the balance of its

predecessor's term.

"Because in practical political terms there will

often be differences between houses controlled by different parties and the only way to ultimately resolve the conflict is by an election, the Government's proposal may well

result in more rather than fewer elections since the terms to be served would always be shorter than the normal

maximum."

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CANBERRA 19 MAY 1983

10/1983