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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1401

Senator BYRNE (QUEENSLAND) - I direct a question to you, Mr President. In view of the impending dissolution of the House of Representatives and the conclusion of the twentyseventh Parliament, is it proposed that the Senate notice paper will be cleared as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives? Will all committees of the Senate - select, standing and other committees - be regarded as functus officio as from that date? If so, what is the authority - constitutional, historical or traditional - for such procedures? In view of the fact that the Senate by its nature and the form of its composition under the Constitution has continuum over and above the term of the House of Representatives, and that the establishment and extension of the committee system of the Senate have brought under the scrutiny of the Senate matters of an important nature and that the investigation of these matters should proceed with a minimum of delay and that in some cases the Senate has required reports by a certain date, will you inform the Senate before the announced date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives whether it is proposed that the business of the Senate, not being business of a legislative character which requires the complementary existence of the House of Representatives, should be permitted to continue? In the event that there are inescapable reasons why the Senate should not continue to operate even in a nonlegislative role pending the calling of the newly elected House of Representatives, will you ascertain whether it is the will of the Senate that Parliament should be called as soon as practicable after the return of the writs for election to the House of Representatives so that the Senate committees can proceed with their processes of investigation and report?

The PRESIDENT - The honourable senator will realise that he has asked a long and complicated question involving deep constitutional issues. I think it is proper that I should make some observations immediately in order to inform honourable senators of the situation as it exists at the moment. Since March this year, when a new circumstance arose as a result of the dissolution of the House of Assembly in Tasmania, I have sent the Clerk of the Senate and one of his deputies to consult the Clerk of the Legislative Council in Tasmania. I will not enlarge on that any more at this stage except to say that the matter is of deep constitutional importance, as the honourable senator has indicated by the scope of his question. The whole matter now is before the Standing Orders Committee which is examining the situation to try to throw some light on the matters which have been raised by the honourable senator. That is a situation which has to be cleared up before the proposed dissolution of the House of Representatives. I should add, however, that I have discussed this matter with the Clerks at some length and the matter of substance is that since 1903 the House of Representatives has been dissolved by proclamation and, in the context of the Senate, the Governor-General's proclamation carries 6 rather mysterious words, namely, 'honourable senators are discharged from attendance'. What the meaning cf the words discharged from attendance' is we must discover before the House is dissolved.

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