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Thursday, 6 May 1993
Page: 249

Senator KERNOT —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I raise the issue of the membership of the Prime Minister's advisory committee on Australia's republican options on which there are at present four members from New South Wales, two from Victoria and one from South Australia. Is balancing State representation an important criterion in the selection of members of this committee? How likely is it that the premiers will take—

Senator Ian Macdonald —But you want to abolish the States.

Senator KERNOT —Yes, but I want everyone to have a say in abolishing the States. How likely is it that the premiers—who are trying to agree on the last two members—will take that into consideration? Will the Government consider appointing a young Australian to the committee—

Senator Robert Ray —How many Queenslanders voted for you in the leadership contest?

Senator KERNOT —Ninety per cent, thank you, Senator Ray.

The PRESIDENT —Order! It is a very interesting debate but I think that Senator Kernot should continue with her question.

Senator KERNOT —Will the Government consider appointing a young Australian to the committee, perhaps in place of the position that the Opposition is failing to take up?

Senator GARETH EVANS —A number of considerations were no doubt taken into account by the Prime Minister in determining the composition of the committee. Most prominent among them would undoubtedly be his judgment about who was best able to make an effective and intelligent contribution to the task of identifying and defining the sorts of conditions on which a republic referendum might go forward. I have no doubt that some attention was paid to the State composition.

  An opportunity, obviously, to redress the imbalance to which Senator Kernot refers will exist with the contributions to be made by the State premiers. I have never purported to understand what goes on inside State premiers' heads and I do not know whether they will take into account the geographical imbalance factor in determining their own representation, but no doubt that will be a consideration.

  Finally, I make the point that the Opposition still has its own opportunity to make a contribution in this respect, both to the work of the committee and to any imbalances that might be perceived to exist in it. I invite the Opposition, in all sincerity, once again, to reconsider its position on that and to make a positive contribution to this important exercise.