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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3479

Senator WALTERS(10.50) — Last night I asked Senator Chipp whether he believed that people, when they read the description put forward by the Government that the term of the Parliament be extended from three to four years, would think of a Senate term of eight years. Senator Chipp acknowledged that people would not automatically think from such a description that the senators they elect would have an eight-year term. It does not matter how the elected senators perform or how they work.

Senator Coleman —They do not know that we are here for six years now.

Senator WALTERS —That is a ridiculous statement. How far does the honourable senator want to extend the term? We are here for six years and I think six years is a long term for the people of Australia to elect senators.

Senator Lewis —Senator Coleman says that the people do not know that they give us a term of six years.

Senator WALTERS —They do not know that they give us a term of six years, but if we intend to extend it to eight years people should realise that. It is absolutely ridiculous for the people of Australia to be hoodwinked by not being told. I ask what Senator Evans is frightened of. Is he really frightened to put on the ballot paper that senators are to be elected for a term of eight years? He knows darn well that the people of Australia would not agree to that. So he is not putting it on the ballot paper. I am disappointed that Senator Chipp, having acknowledged that the proposed wording on the ballot paper does not clearly tell people that the term of senators will be extended from six to eight years, will not join us and vote for our amendment. I think we on this side have agreed now to Senator Harradine's amendment, or a combination of it with Senator Lewis's amendment. I do not mind about the precise detail, so long as the eight- year-term for senators is mentioned. I think it is imperative, honest and just for the people of Australia to be told that they are electing senators for eight years. I am willing to come to any compromise to include that eight years on the ballot paper. I ask again why the Attorney-General, Senator Evans, who has been, in my opinion, underhanded in all the matters concerning the referendum, will not come across and put in the description in the Bill the fact that the Senate' s term will be extended to eight years.