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An alternate approach to resolving deadlocks.

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An alternate approach to resolving deadlocks

Senator Brian Harradine responded to the discussion paper Resolving Deadlocks: A Discussion Paper on Section 57 of the Australian Constitution, released by the Prime Minister today, by rejecting claims the Senate was “a permanent veto on the legislative agenda of the government of the day” and he proposed an alternate approach.

“The reform debate has focused on claims that the Senate is obstructionist and unrepresentative. Those claims just don’t stand up”, Senator Harradine said.

“Despite the Government’s difficulty getting a number of high-profile bills through the Senate, the fact remains that the Senate has passed over 95 per cent of the Government’s bills since the last election.

“The Senate gives a voice to the people of the smaller states, helping to balance their relative lack of representation in the House of Representatives. The system of proportional representation used to elect the Senate also accurately reflects people’s votes, giving those who vote for independents and minor parties a voice. They have great difficulty getting that voice through the House of Representatives.

“But I do think there are opportunities to improve the constitutional arrangements defining our Parliament without damaging the Senate. The aim of any constitutional changes should be to achieve better democratic decision-making following a predictable and orderly system.

“The system I propose would have fixed three year terms for the House of Representatives, with half Senate elections every election.

“A Government could hold a joint sitting of Parliament after a fixed term election to vote on legislation which had: • originally been detailed in the Government’s election manifesto; • subsequently been introduced to Parliament within the first year of the Government’s three

year term; • been rejected twice under the current requirements for a trigger; • been put to the people again at the next election.

“This is an option which provides minimal changes to our Parliamentary system, but has a number of advantages.

“It extends the average length of time between elections, giving Governments more time to implement their programs. Over my 28 years in the Senate there have been elections approximately every two and a half years. It would also remove some of the uncertainty surrounding one of the most fundamental aspects of the political process - when we will have an election”, said Senator Harradine.

Brian Harradine is an independent senator for Tasmania, the longest serving independent senator since Federation and the longest serving senator in the current Parliament.

8 October 2003

Senator Brian Harradine, Tel. 02 6277 3735