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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2773

Senator MACKLIN(4.13) —In the framing of the amendment I have moved on behalf of the Australian Democrats, we sought to construct it in such a way as to stay as close as we could to the statutory requirements which have already been imposed upon the Commonwealth Electoral Commission in relation to what it may do by way of promoting public awareness. Although I think the propositions put forward by Senator Harradine are certainly cautionary, I have not been persuaded that one ought to move from the wording presented in the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill and to add to that so as to create additional or more restrictive obligations upon the Electoral Commission. I am confident that the Electoral Commission will be able to distinguish, and will indeed be most cautious in its activities as it is in all other activities in this area. As Senator Harradine has already said, it lies at the hub of the operation of our democracy.

One can look back at the fact that the Electoral Commission has always been held in high regard in relation to the activities it has conducted on elections and other matters, even indeed in matters arising out of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Surely that must give one confidence that, if the Electoral Commission can walk through that particular minefield and emerge unscathed, it can very well go into referenda with full flags flying and have no difficulty at all. I imagine that the Electoral Commission will rely on quite senior legal advice in the framing of any advertisements or any information pamphlets that it may wish to put out, or any other type of information on education programs it may wish to mount in relation to an election. I have full confidence that the Commission will pursue its activities in the tradition and spirit in which the Australian Electoral Office pursued its activities. I see no reason to go further than the principal Act governing its statutory requirements and hence would feel that our amendment adequately covers that.