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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 319

Senator DURACK(10.12) —I am sorry that I had to go out of the Senate and did not hear the full flavour of the debate on the amendment of the Australian Democrats to the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. I regret very much that I did not hear what Senator Macklin had to say. I understand that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) will support this amendment.

Senator Gareth Evans —No.

Senator DURACK —No?

Senator Gareth Evans —We will support the Bill as it stands.

Senator DURACK —I see. The Government will support the Bill. I thought the Attorney-General was in his usual co-operative frame of mind! I now know where we are. The view of the Opposition is that it supports the principle of sub- clause 4 of proposed new section 13 of the Bill. This is so because we believe that the right course for this Senate to follow is the convention established over the years that the seniority of senators is determined by their order of election. Although that may not have been perfectly clearly stated in the drafting where sub-clause (4) (a) states:

(a) the Senate shall cause the names of those senators to be placed on a list in order of their relative success at the election, beginning with the name of the most successful senator;

In fact that to me means what in fact has occurred under the convention that we have all observed in this chamber since, as far as I know, Federation. As I understand it some hidden meanings are possible in the phrase 'relative success' . In order to determine that, sub-clause (5) and sub-clause (6) enable those hidden depths to be expressed as a result of an Act of Parliament. The purpose of the Democrats and their amendment is to enable these hidden depths to be exposed by some mysterious process in the Senate. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition does not support either sub-clause (5) or sub-clause (6). We would prefer that the matter be left in its traditional form. I think that perhaps the drafting of sub-clause (4) could be improved to make it perfectly clear that the order of seniority should be determined by the senator's order of election. Without having to make that amendment I think that certainly the wording of sub-clause (4) is good enough to achieve that purpose. We are opposed to sub-clause (5). In fact, we would want to leave out sub-clause (5) and sub- clause (6). I think in order to do so I have actually to move to leave out sub- clause (5) and then support the Democrats who want to leave out sub-clause (6).

The CHAIRMAN —Senator Durack, you cannot actually do that at the moment as there is another amendment before the Chair which has to be resolved first. You might subsequently move, by leave, to resolve the matter one way or the other.