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Opposition move to amend referendum bills



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SENATOR FRED CHANEY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE MEDIA RELEASE

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OPPOSITION MOVE TO AMEND REFERENDUM BILLS

The Government's dishonest framing of the first two referendum questions is a deliberate attempt to deceive the Australian people.

It has tried to disguise its real intentions by the use of words which fail to convey the real propositions being put to the people.

If voters are to make an informed decision on these questions they need to have on their ballot papers a fair and accurate description of what the Government is really up to.

We will therefore move in the committee stages of the Senate debate to amend the long titles of the two referendum Bills concerned.

By convention, referendum questions are based on the long titles of the referendum bills. Voters will be asked "Do you approve this proposed alteration" and to respond by ‘ writing "Yes" or "No". The current long titles are blatantly biased in favour of a "Yes" vote.

The long titles suggested by the Coalition clearly bring to the attention of voters all of the relevant issues contained in the two Bills.

If the Government wants fair referendums, it should ask fair questions.

The current and suggested titles for the Bills are set out below.

CONSTITUTION ALTERATION (PARLIAMENTARY TERMS) BILL 1988

Current:

An Act to alter the Constitution to provide for 4-year maximum terms for members of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Coalition Suggestion:

An Act to alter the Constitution to increase the terms of members of the House of Representatives from a maximum of 3 years to a maximum of 4 years, to reduce the terms of Senators from a fixed 6 years to a maximum of 4 years, to

require simultaneous elections for both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, and to abolish the system whereby half the Senators retire every three years.

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CONSTITUTION ALTERATION (FAIR ELECTIONS) BILL 1988

Current:

An Act to alter the Constitution to provide for fair and democratic parliamentary elections throughout Australia.

Coalition Suggestion:

An Act to alter the Constitution to provide that generally for parliamentary elections throughout Australia (but not the Senate and House of Representatives) the number of electors in electorates shall not vary by more than 20 per cent, to confer a Constitutional right to vote at all parliamentary elections within Australia and to provide that each elector shall vote only once at an election.

CANBERRA 26 May 1988

Contact: Keith Kessell (062) 72 6380