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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3489

Senator HARRADINE(12.09) — It is most interesting, as Senator Missen has said, that there is obviously a long-standing agreement between the Australian Democrats and the Government in regard to the wording to be put to the people. No matter what honourable senators say in this chamber the situation will not change, apart from the adoption of a simple suggestion which again does not reflect what is contained in the Bill. The Bill to which we are referring is the Constitution Alteration (Inter-change of Powers) Bill 1983. Let us say that the Commonwealth Government wished to cede its powers to the States in relation to the collection of sales tax. Although the States may not want those powers the Commonwealth, under this proposal, could do that.

That is not a voluntary act on the part of the States. It is not an interchange of power. An interchange of gifts denotes sending and accepting; it is in the nature of offering and accepting. That is what 'voluntary' means. In fact, the Commonwealth, if it so desires, can cede its powers in respect of certain issues -though certainly not on foreign affairs and such matters-to the States, whether the States like it or not. Senator Missen has made the point that, if anything, in this particular matter there may be a question concerning the title of the Bill. Unfortunately we did not discuss the title of the Bill, but it does not reflect-

Senator Gareth Evans —It is just not descriptive.

Senator HARRADINE —It does not reflect what the Commonwealth could do under this proposal, if accepted.

Senator Crichton-Browne —It is more accurate than what is here, though.

Senator HARRADINE —I believe that what Senator Walters is putting forward is more accurate than all of them. It is a question of unilateral transfer.