Senate debates

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ministerial Statements

Framework for Referenda in Australia

6:01 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I wish to respond to a statement tabled today by Senator Wong on behalf of the Special Minister of State, Senator Ludwig. I make this statement on behalf of the coalition, and in particular the shadow special minister of state, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson. The coalition will closely watch the deliberations and recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the machinery of referendums. In particular, the coalition will want to see spending neutrality for public education, or other programs, to ensure equal weight is given to potential ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases. The coalition is also concerned that the Special Minister of State’s statement in the Senate today could be interpreted as a reflection on the community’s ability to understand the issues involved in previous referendums. The coalition believes that any statement by the government to the effect that only eight referendum proposals have been successful is the result of a defect in the machinery of referendums—as opposed to a clearly expressed community view of proposed constitutional changes—should be subject to rigorous scrutiny. Sensible proposals arising from this inquiry will be supported by the coalition, but we reserve our right and our position until the outcome of the inquiry.