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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- I rise to make a further contribution at the request of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). He asked me to consider three matters upon the interpretation of clause 4 of this bill, of section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and of section 47 of the Constitution.

His first point was that section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act does not deal with questions of disputed returns. That is true enough; it does not. Previous sections of the act deal with them and require them to be dealt with by the High Court. At the moment I do not see the relevance of the argument, because what we object to is that a question respecting the qualification of a member of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea can be determined in either of two ways. It can be determined either by the council itself - that is, by the official and nonofficial members of the council - or by the Supreme Court of the Territory.

The Minister made a comparison when he spoke on this clause and, since he made it, I feel bound to correct it. The comparison is made with section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. There, a question of the qualification of a member of this House or of another place may be decided in one way only - by the High Court, which is the Court of Disputed Returns, or, if the High Court so decides, by the Supreme Court of a State. There is no option in either House of this Parliament to determine how such matters shall be decided. The Legislative Council of the Territory can decide it in either of two ways; we can decide it in one way only, if it is to be decided at all. We say that it is proper to decide it in that one, impartial way which has sufficed for this Parliament since 1918 and which nobody seems inclined to alter, so far as either House of this Parliament is concerned.

The Minister asked me to consider a second point. It is the extraordinary one that in section 47 of the Constitution there is no reference to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. This is a consideration which surprises me, because the Constitution, in the very nature of things, makes reference to no act of this Parliament. This Parliament did not come into existence, and accordingly no acts could be passed by this Parliament, until after the Constitution came into existence. I am therefore not surprised that the Constitution does not refer to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

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