Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3924

Senator JESSOP(6.34) —I wish to make one or two comments following what the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) said earlier in the debate. One thing that annoyed those of us who voted against one or more of the proposals was the arrogance with which the Attorney-General approached the matter of constitutional change.

Senator Chaney —It even annoyed those of us who voted for it.

Senator JESSOP —Exactly. He referred to those of us who voted against the proposals as the parliamentary rump. He said that the overwhelming majority of the Parliament was in favour of the propositions that he so vehemently put forward. I can assure the Attorney-General that many people in the Opposition parties who tacitly went along with the Yes proposition assured me that they would campaign very strongly against the proposals. There are some of us who recognise the importance of the ability of people in this place to say no to the propositions put forward so arrogantly by the now discredited Attorney-General. Not everyone in the community realises that unless someone in the Parliament goes against the proposition there would be no opportunity to present the No case. That would make the Attorney-General's life very much happier.

I was incensed, when I read of the Attorney-General launching the Yes campaign in Sydney and subsequently in Canberra, to learn that $1.25m had already been appropriated-I like to think it was misappropriated-from the Advance to the Minister for Finance, that Advance supposedly being for urgent and unforeseen purposes. Those of us who listened to, and studied, the Governor-General's Speech in April know that these propositions were foreshadowed, that the Government had in mind bringing down legislation for constitutional change, so there is no way in which the appropriation of $1.25m for the exclusive promotion of the Yes case would be an urgent and unforeseen matter.

Senator Gareth Evans —But the dates were not settled; be fair.

Senator JESSOP —I am being very fair to the Attorney-General but he has a paranoid attitude to constitutional change. He became so obsessed with it that he wanted to snow the electorate by appropriating taxpayers' funds for an exclusive additional provision with which to put before the people the Yes case. He had the confounded impertinence-actually I thought it was quite amusing-to say that the Government was getting a little bit cold on the idea of conducting the referenda because-perhaps I had better quote what, according to today's Australian, he said on the subject because it made interesting reading:

Senator Evans said State Labor premiers and the Labor Party machine in the States had been unable to step in to bridge the gap that would have been left by the defeat of the extra funding.

He went on to say that the Queensland Premier intended to conduct a campaign against the proposals. I think he insinuated that the Premier intended spending Queensland's money on it. That has never been his intention. Certainly he will campaign, as he should, being the Premier of a small State, when the States House is placed under some threat by propositions advanced by this Labor Government. I am very pleased to say that the Liberal Party and the National Party Opposition in the Parliament recognise the unfairness of what is proposed and, with urging from those of us who supported the No campaign, have offered the amendment that we are now discussing. I think it is a very fair amendment. Certainly the Australian Democrats realise its fairness. I am really amazed that the Attorney-General can suggest that a mere rump of members and senators is involved. I believe that 21 members of the Senate and House of Representatives certainly do not constitute a Parliamentary rump. One must also regard the Liberal Party organisation in Western Australia as being substantially against the propositions. The Liberal Party in Queensland is totally opposed to them, as is, of course, the Party in Tasmania. I suggest that the majority of Liberal Party and Country Party supporters in South Australia would be equally opposed. I just wanted to put on record my appreciation, with that of my colleagues who are vehemently opposed to these propositions.

I might say that I started by being opposed mainly to the simultaneous elections question, because it is a furphy. The question involves not having simultaneous elections-one can have them anyway-but half the Senate being dissolved by the will of the Prime Minister, whether he happens to be a Labor Prime Minister or a Liberal Prime Minister. That is what simultaneous elections- that deceptive title-are all about. It is a matter of the Prime Minister of the day being able to dissolve half the Senate at a time which is electorally favourable to him in order to gain control of the upper House. That is what it is all about. I object to that. I objected to politicising the judiciary by asking its advice on laws before they pass through this Parliament. The Chief Justice and all the judges-even Justice Murphy-are opposed to that. It is politicising the High Court of Australia. I am very much opposed to that.

I have talked quietly about the interchange of powers. I have had my doubts. I am now totally opposed to that. I am also totally opposed to the proposition of four-year parliaments. The style of address to the electors is: 'Do you believe we ought to have four-year parliaments?'. That is great, but the Government does not mention the eight-year term for senators. The Government wants to put a snare and delusion before the electors of Australia-even on the outmoded provisions. It might be trite to say that every country's Constitution is an historical document and that there is no harm in leaving it as such. People without a history and a heritage are people without a future, so I am opposed to that. Honourable senators opposite can call me a troglodyte if they want to. None of the propositions would make an iota of difference to the running of this country. The sooner we kick out this Government the better. The sooner we get back a Liberal-National Party government the better. I repeat: None of the propositions would make an iota of difference to the running of this country.

I am glad to see that we have persuaded the Government not to proceed with the referendum. Senator Durack said quite correctly that this business is the responsibility of the Government and the Government should not try to hive off that responsiblity to anybody else. I suggest that the Attorney-General is largely responsible for the whole fiasco and charade that has been carried on over the last few weeks.