Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3908 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
The proposal is that the Senate serve its role as a house of review and a states' house, is not compromised by some mechanism which means there has to be a double dissolution, and gives due time and makes due attempts to reach compromises, such as having a bill go back twice over a three-month period. It is very similar to the situation in the United Kingdom-Ms Tucker probably would say that it is a more draconian situation-involving the House of Lords whereby since 1910 it could hold up legislation but ultimately not frustrate it.
Here we have a situation being proposed whereby, after due consideration, after two attempts, perhaps after some further delays and in one instance perhaps even after another election, if there is still a deadlock, everyone in the parliament, in the upper house and lower house, comes together and votes on it. To me, that is not such a bad idea. It is not necessarily going to happen. It is still a fairly significant step and we are probably not going to see it terribly often. But we are not likely to have a situation in our lifetime in which a major government has a majority in the upper house. That may be a very good thing.
The proposals put forward are deserving of debate and deserving of input, but I think that Ms Tucker's motion has a considerable element of self-interest to it. I can understand how a member of a minority party would want to see the status quo maintained. It is a very conservative motion in that respect, calling for basically the status quo to be maintained. Indeed, as a major party, they obviously have a vested interest; similarly with the Democrats. But I really wonder whether, at the end of the day, that is good government and that is really what the Australian people want.
I note Mr Howard has not used intemperate words to describe the Senate, unlike Mr Keating and his use of the term "unrepresentative swill", but it is clear that some problems have arisen there. The Constitution is not set in stone. It was always put forward with a view to being able to be amended by referendum. That is very difficult to do. It is usually necessary for both major parties to agree to such an amendment. But it is not a document set in stone. It is a document that can be amended and I think that it is timely for the Prime Minister to look at that. It is something that is not necessarily going to benefit his government, because he may not be in government all that much longer as governments change. It is something that is deserving of very careful consideration.
We will be voting against Ms Tucker's motion. We think that Mr Cornwell will be putting forward a much better way for this Assembly to contribute to this debate.
MR CORNWELL (12.04): Mr Speaker, I formally move the following amendment:
omit paragraphs (1) to (3), substitute:
"(1) invites members of the Assembly to write to the Prime Minister's consultative group on constitutional change and express their views on the role of the Senate.".
I am grateful, Mr Speaker, that you made your ruling this morning on the use of the word "hypocrisy", because there is a great deal about at the moment in the chamber. Apart from the obvious attack on the Prime Minister, obviously the minor parties here who are