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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3071

Senator PETER BAUME(10.00) —As a number of questions may be asked I intervene now to answer those posed by Senator Macklin. First, what we are talking about is how the Parliament might comment upon a redistribution, not a provisional redistribution. I do not want in any way to mislead my colleagues. We have tried to keep the time frame as short as we can, but a redistribution will take place quite infrequently. If there were a redistribution in 1984 there would possibly not be another redistribution until 1991. The intervening period could be as long as that.

The numbers of days and weeks for which we have provided in this amendment are not beyond negotiation if people think the periods specified are too long. If the full time were taken it might add eight weeks to the process. It might require 14 days for the Parliament to come together and I think a further period of six weeks is allowed. It is hoped that the process would take place more quickly, but that is absolutely the longest time it could take to allow the Parliament to make its views known and for the augmented Electoral Commission to respond. I do not want to mislead honourable senators. I think eight weeks could be added, but in terms of the importance of a redistribution and the relative infrequency of redistributions I think that time would be immaterial. In the event that a government was keen to get a redistribution through I think, that time being fixed and relatively brief, it could be worked into its planning.

I think I can answer the other question asked by Senator Macklin. We have written that amendment to permit but not to require the Parliament to meet. The circulation of the documents is designed to alert senators or members of the House of Representatives to the fact that the document is available. That is why we ask that it be circulated. The mechanism for the Houses to meet when Parliament is out of session is contained in a motion which the Senate passes at the end of every session. The motion provides a mechanism by which the Senate may be called together and it requires the support of an absolute majority of senators. Of course, I wondered whether that was necessary but, upon reflection, if we cannot get a majority of senators to support a motion there is no point in bringing the Parliament together. The requirement for recalling the Parliament is that a majority of senators must inform the President, Mr Chairman or whoever is acting in place of the President at the time of their support for that action . So I do not think that the amendment as written imposes any obligation on the Parliament to reconvene and I would be very surprised if it could be construed in that way.