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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 2430

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate) -The Australian Country Party agrees with the provision of this Bill that will give electors in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the right to vote on proposals to alter the Constitution. It is obvious that every qualified person should have a say in whether the Constitution is altered, regardless of where in Australia he or she lives. But my Party is opposed to the proposal contained in this Bill that the Constitution can be changed, given an overall majority of electors, with agreement on a 50-50 basis between the States. I believe it is very likely that the people of Australia will want to give voting rights to the territories but that many electors will have grave doubts about altering the majority of States clauses.

The Bill we have before us does not permit us to vote for one proposal and not the other. We must vote for both or neither. One wonders why the Government would put forward a proposition that clearly invites defeat. It cannot be that the Australian Labor Party is half-hearted about its desire to alter the constitution. As I have said in debate on another Bill, Labor is proposing a multiplicity of constitution changes- so many that we cannot doubt it is serious.

We must look elsewhere for the reason why this tug-o-war Bill has been brought forward in this form. I see 2 possible reasons, each consistent with Labor style. The first is deceit, in that the Government hopes the electors will see the issue merely as one in which they are asked to give voting power to the Territories, and disregard the other proposal. The other possible reason, of course, is that the Government may reckon its chances of getting Constitution alteration proposals past the States are enhanced if the required majority of States is aligned with the number of Labor State governments. As we know, there are 3 Labor State governments at the moment, and a three-three 'majority' of the States is what the government's amendment to the constitution proposes. I submit there cannot be a valid reason for seeking the change. A majority is a majority. It is not three out of six. For that reason the Australian Country Party will support the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers).

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