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Monday, 7 February 1994
Page: 467


Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (4.58 p.m.) —In speaking to the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 1993, I would like to go through the current situation so far as redistribution committees are concerned. Following the announcement of a redistribution, the redistribution committee is appointed. For each state, the members of the committee are the Electoral Commissioner, an officer from the Australian Electoral Office, the surveyor-general and the auditor-general. Today we are talking about only the position of surveyor-general.

  I take Senator Campbell's point. Indeed, we spent quite a long time in our party room looking very carefully at this legislation to make sure there could not be any blatant political appointments to what is a very important committee. When we get down to reading the precise wording of the legislation it can be seen that it is quite specific. The Australian Democrats do not believe it can be used to put someone who could perhaps best be described as a party hack into what is a very important committee position.

  The legislation specifies that the person appointed must have the function of the office, the same as—or substantially the same as—or include the functions that would be performed by a surveyor-general for a state. So whilst acknowledging the concerns that Senator Campbell has, we will not be supporting the amendments, even though it would be a relatively easy process to come back here for South Australia, then Tasmania and then maybe New South Wales.

  There is also the possibility that the Queensland or Western Australian governments could change their minds again and redo what is now being done. I think we now have five Liberal governments and one Labor government. I do not know whether any will change, but no doubt over the next few years there will be some changes. They could very well decide again to redefine the position.

  The Democrats finally came down on the side of the legislation as it is written rather than asking for further detail and further explanation. Having made those comments, I would just like to say that we have no problems with the rest of the bill. It is quite a small piece of legislation, though quite an important one when it comes to the definition of this particular position.