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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3326

Mr STEELE HALL(9.43) —I had nearly finished my remarks on these amendments. I am bemused to some degree by the seemimgly constant reference by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) to the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia as an organisation submitted to the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform the matter of the list system and supported the list system for the Senate. The honourable member would recognise that this was done on the basis that it was second best to the existing system of going through the whole voting procedure. Another thing the honourable member should understand-I take it that it is very difficult for him to understand it because of his position in and membership of the Australian Labor Party-is that that is not the policy of the parliamentary Liberal Party and would not be put into effect in this House by the parliamentary Party, which is a quite different view from that put to the Committee by the Federal secretariat of the Liberal Party organisation.

Dr Klugman —That is your problem.

Mr STEELE HALL —It is not my problem. It is the advantage and one of the great strengths of the Liberal Party. One of the great problems of the Labor Party is demonstrated for all to see now as the Party fights for the dominance which its rules say it should have over the parliamentary Party. That is so evident in the argument about uranium in the community today. There can be no greater evidence of the strains and convulsions of a party which is bound by those restrictive rules which say that the lay party shall direct the parliamentary Party in matters of policy. That does not apply to the Liberal Party. I would like the honourable member for Prospect to understand that when he raises issues, as he has done several times about the list system, in regard to the parliamentary Party's view.

I finish my remarks by saying that we on this side are lost when considering the logic which supports a three-sided recommendation which can be ticked in one box and come into effect arbitrarily for the allocation of preferences and the 33 1/3 per cent ration. There is no sense or justice in that. The Government, in allowing this to proceed, is setting up a system whereby Senate seats might very well be thrown simply on this draw of votes at 33 1/3 per cent, which could be quite regardless of the intention of the voter in choosing the convenience of the list system.

Many of the other amendments are sensible and some are very sensible. The modifying of the formality of the Senate vote in order to embody the view that a serious attempt should be made by electors to number ballot papers correctly I think is very sensible and goes part of the way towards meeting the objective of the amendment I moved in this place on behalf of the coalition. It was aimed at ensuring that votes were serious attempts by the voter and that one could not simply vote 1 and repeat all the rest of the numbers in 4s or any other number of choice. There has to be a serious attempt to vote. I think that amendment is very valuable. The Senate has been very wise to discipline the Government in this matter and to make sure that, as is now embodied in this amendment, no one can really vote in a Senate election and not make a serious attempt to vote. Errors will be accepted, but under this amendment provision, they must truly be errors and not an attempt to make an ass of the voting system.

The other amendments, such as those to proscribe advertisements containing representation on a ballot paper and so on are quite sensible. Having looked at them, I find that I have drawn attention to the one or two which I feel are quite undesirable. However, having regard to the reality of the situation, this Bill has been through extensive debate and amendment in this House, and I thank the Government for those few but significant amendments which it accepted from this side of the House when it progressed through this debate. The Bill has now been further amended. As I said tonight, at least two of these amendments go a long way towards implementing the amendments I moved. Others have been found necessary because of the overall scrutiny of the Bill. Given that several of the provisions ought not to be in the legislation but that the Government will carry the legislation because of its strength in this House, we will not oppose it. I would like those remarks to stand as an Opposition view. They will stand for the future when we are returned to Government and can amend this Act to remove some of the more undesirable parts of it.