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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2827

Senator MACKLIN(9.38) —In respect of the second amendment which has been circulated by the Australian Democrats, I move:

(2) Page 10, paragraph 11(1)(k), at the beginning of the paragraph, insert: ``on its own initiative or''.

This amendment refers to a different topic-to the powers of the Commission. I refer honour- able senators basically to page 10 of the old Bill before it was amended extensively where under paragraph 11(1)(j) one finds `on its own initiative or when requested by a Minister', under (k)`when requested by the Minister' and under (m) `on its own initiative or when requested by the Minister'. Depending upon how one interprets those various powers-I must admit that they have been interpreted variously under the powers granted to the current Commission-it would seem to be more appropriate that under (k) there should be `on its own initiative or' placed in front of `when requested by the Minister'.

I do not think it is any secret that I have been very interested in the Human Rights Commission looking at the particular subject of electoral laws around Australia. I remind the chamber of a document that has been previously read in the chamber, which is a letter to the then Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Don Chipp, on 12 March this year from the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, in which amongst other things he said:

I am pleased to repeat the Attorney's commitment of that day. Specifically I confirm that the Government will ask the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to inquire into existing State electoral laws. Should the Commission find that Queensland's electoral distribution contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and should the Queensland Government not agree to reform that distribution, the Commonwealth will legislate pursuant to its external affairs power.

That is a significant proposition with regard to the operation of the Commission. I seek from the Minister reiteration that it is the continuing intention of the Government to so do.