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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3517


Senator MISSEN(3.03) —I was, I think, in the middle of a sentence when the debate was adjourned to enable the rapid passage of another Bill through the Parliament. I have just a few other things to say about Senator Walters's amendment. I think I should go back for a moment to the Government's draft and refer to one other matter I have raised. I said that I believe the Government's draft is inaccurate not only because of the use of the words 'more easily' but also because it deals with obtaining from the High Court its views on certain constitutional questions. That also is inaccurate because the Bill deals with questions arising from the application of section 45 of the Constitution. Those questions could not properly be described as constitutional questions. Everything, of course, is done under the Constitution. However, these questions are not concerned with the validity or otherwise of such acts. The legislation will also deal with matters arising out of treaties. Of course, the description of constitutional questions is so vague. I thought that this was the thing that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) said the Government wanted to get away from. In fact, I think the legislation becomes vaguer by the use of this language.

Before the debate was adjourned, I was dealing with Senator Walters's amendment which I think, likewise, is an incorrect description of the Bill. It is a long one. I, of course, urge that what we ought to do is get back to the long title which, though called long title, merely says: 'An Act to alter the Constitution so as to confer an advisory jurisdiction on the High Court'. Senator Harradine's proposed amendment, which is in the same words, contains a description even shorter than that. I believe he may not move his amendment. I hope that one could take over that amendment because I think it ought to be put to a vote before the Committee. I think that Senator Harradine's amendment is better. I think the public knows what is meant by advisory opinions or advisory powers. That has been discussed.


Senator Gareth Evans —You are living in a world of your own. What does ' jurisdiction' mean to most people?


Senator MISSEN —I agree that I am living in a world of my own. I am living in a world of reason which has deserted very much this chamber in the last few days. I am content to live in that rather than in the world in which many other people are living. However, I believe it is well worth trying to get accuracy into the question which is to be put before the people. I do not think that the wording will make a great deal of difference because people will be reading documents and hearing arguments and they will know generally what is involved. I do not think, therefore, that the wording of the question is of tremendous importance. It is rather more important to ensure that a proposal is not criticised because it does not accurately describe the position.

Senator Walters's rather lengthy amendment proposes to give power to the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory to seek advice from the High Court as to the full extent of their powers under the Constitution. That clearly is not true. It is not an accurate description of the Bill at all. The Bill, the title of which includes the words 'advisory jurisdiction of the High Court', is not concerned with the full extent of the power of the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory. It will probably, if used, be used very often sparingly in regard to certain parts of their powers and whether certain parts of a Bill have constitutional validity or not. The legislation certainly does not involve the full extent of their powers. I appeal to any honourable senators of reason to let us have it simple, let us stick as far as possible to the long title and let us not go into either the drafts of the Government or Senator Walters, both of which are quite inaccurate.


Senator Walters —Mr Chairman, I was just wondering whether you could tell us how you are going to deal with the amendments. Will you be putting my amendment and then Senator Harradine's amendment? Does Senator Missen have an amendment?


Senator MISSEN —No, I will seek leave to take over Senator Harradine's if he does not move his.


The CHAIRMAN —There is no need for Senator Missen to seek leave. If Senator Harradine, for any reason, does not move his amendment, Senator Missen is perfectly entitled to move a similar amendment. The sequence will be that I will put Senator Walters's amendment. If that fails, I will give Senator Harradine the opportunity to move his amendment. The question is: 'That the amendment moved by Senator Walters to proposed new clause 28A be agreed to'.

Amendment negatived.


The CHAIRMAN —Senator Harradine, do you wish to pursue your amendment?