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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1609

Mr TUCKEY(12.32) —I have to say in response to some of the comments of the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) that I thought it was remarkable that he was able to tell the House and the people of Australia that the reason for this premature election was the fact that when the Australian Labor Party got into power its members found that, in their opinion, the financial arrangements within Australia were not as they had been told. It is grossly wrong to say that to the Australian people when we have heard the Treasurer (Mr Keating) saying that all that has changed. That is no reason at all. Therefore, it should be rejected. The fact is that we are dealing with straight opportunism . The principal reasons for this election are the sorts of things that one might read in the Bulletin.

In relation to the matters that have been debated this morning, I stress again that the referendum situation is one that can only guarantee more elections. I can agree with the Special Minister of State that Prime Ministers do not change. The main difference in this area between Malcolm Fraser and Robert J. L. Hawke is that one is a tall man and one is a short man; otherwise, they are both political opportunists, and the next Prime Minister of this country will be one too. When one reaches the level of political opportunism of the Special Minister of State, one really and truly must realise how many elections the particular synchronisation proposal will produce.

The writers of our Constitution were very wise men. No doubt many of them, too, had Irish backgrounds. They were well able to realise the types of efforts that would be made by various politicians of the future, and they wrote a Constitution to protect the people of Australia. Of every attempt that has been made to change it, not one has been made in the interests of the people; they have been made for the convenience of politicians. The particular politicians who want to be convenienced now are the members of the Government. It is totally dishonest for the Parliament to go to the Australian people.

It is interesting that in this cognate debate we have talked about misleading advertising. I sincerely hope that that will not be touched upon in terms of suggesting to the people, in some advertisement or statement, that the synchronisation proposal will reduce the number of elections, because that is patently untrue. The proposal removes the only inhibition that exists on a Prime Minister of today or of the future--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! We are debating the third reading of the Bill. I ask the honourable member for O'Connor to return to it.

Mr TUCKEY —That is right; it has been a cognate debate.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member is ranging a bit far and wide in his remarks.

Mr TUCKEY —I was unable to check the position as I rushed into the chamber after hearing the Special Minister of State. Perhaps you will advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, which of the Bills we are now dealing with at the third reading stage. I shall be quite happy to rise again on the third reading of the specific Bill to which I am referring.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —We are dealing with the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill.

Mr TUCKEY —That is exactly what I thought I was talking about; the referendum.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member was ranging a bit far.

Mr TUCKEY —I shall stick with the referendum legislation, because that is exactly what I thought I was coming up here for. I repeat: The reality is that this will be a referendum for more elections. Anyone who says differently is a political fool who does not understand, and who lacks the pragmatism to understand, that every time Prime Ministers of the future see an opportunistic reason for having an election, knowing that they no longer have the inhibition of throwing the elections of the two Houses out of kilter, they will be just that more inclined to have an election.

Government members interjecting-

Mr TUCKEY —Anyone who cannot understand that and who wants to interject on that point has no political knowledge at all.

Mr Hand —We said: 'That's right'.

Mr TUCKEY —Honourable members should be able to represent themselves to their electorates as being a bit smarter than that. That is the situation. I make only side reference to the political advertising factor. It would be challengeable under the legislation for anyone to suggest to voters that they would have fewer elections if they supported the proposal to have synchronisation.

I also support the other members who have pointed out the huge and terrible burden that the proposal will place on the small States that have very low representation. There will be a three-hour time difference in the election this year between Western Australia and the eastern States. As has occurred in the past, we could have a situation in which the Government of Australia is known before the ballot boxes in Western Australia have been opened. That is of great concern to Western Australians. They know, as did our forefathers who negotiated our entry into the Federation, that protection had to be granted to the small States. It was granted through the way in which the Constitution was written. I am pretty sure that Western Australians, Tasmanians and South Australians are concerned.

It is amazing that the Special Minister of State, who carries the trust of South Australians in his electorate, is prepared to sell out his people in this fashion. It is a sell-out of the people of the smaller States, particularly on the part of the man who is putting this proposal through, because those people are clearly disadvantaged by any pressure that the Prime Minister can put upon the Senate. As has always been agreed, the Senate is undoubtedly the protector of the smaller States. It was designed under the Constitution for that purpose. It is funny that one of the principal interjectors earlier was a member for the small State of South Australia. Such people have betrayed the trust that has been placed in them by these proposals.

I can see that you are concerned, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the debate should be closed, so I shall conclude my comments. However, I feel deeply about this matter. I feel that those people who have been prepared to support and promote this proposal are to be condemned.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.