You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Friday, October 24, 2003

UPDATE: I was wrong about this. The "elect two extra members per Legislative Council electorate" deadlock-breaking rule is still in the South Australian Constitution Act [section 41(1)(ii)], even though section 19 of the same Act now says that there is only one single, Statewide electorate for the Upper House. Politically, it's weirdly incongruous -- but all quite legal. Lesson: Check via Google or AUSTLII, even if you are blogging late in the day and running for a bus. Thanks to my colleague John Pyke for setting me to rights on this.


"His [then-Prime Minister Paul Keating's] description
of the Senate as "unrepresentative swill" [...]
exemplif[ies] his indifference to constitutional
niceties and due process".

-- Tony Abbott, The Minimal Monarchy, And Why It Still
Makes Sense for Australia
(South Australia: Wakefield
Press, 1995), pp 109-110.

Yes, folks, there was once a time, once upon a time, long long ago and far far away, when The Oaf Of Allegiance and his party thought it was a good thing for the Senate to block government legislation. When it was a Labor government, you see. Liberal Party governments are so renownedly trustworthy that they don't need an Upper Chamber to keep them in check. You can rely solely on their self-control, and on the threat of the next election.

My confidence -- which, admittedly, wasn't very high to begin with -- in the PM's position paper on Senate reform has suffered the kind of blow that such confidence tends to suffer when a clock strikes thirteen. The following is from Table 10 of the said paper -- "Deadlock Provisions in the State Parliaments" -- in the column for South Australia:

"Section 41 of the Constitution Act 1934 allows the
Governor to dissolve both houses if the upper house
blocks a bill, there is an election for the lower house,
and the upper house blocks the bill again.
Alternatively, the Governor can issue writs for the
election of two additional members for each upper
house electoral district."

Err... There haven't been "upper house electoral district[s]" for the SA Legislative Council since 1973. Since Premier Don Dunstan got his reforms passed, the SA Upper House has been elected at large statewide. I'm assuming the "two extra members elected" deadlock-breaker rule (reminiscent, curiously, of Canada where the Governor-General may appoint additional Senators to break a deadlock) was repealed when SA moved to an 11-member statewide electorate. Don't they have any South Australians working in the OPMC? Wouldn't Senator Nick Minchin have been called in to look over a draft of this Senate-reform paper to make sure it wouldn't disadvantage the Liberal Party?

Given how often John Howard is accused to taking Australia back to the 1950s, it's something of a relief that he and his staffer-chipmunks are "only" thirty years behind the times.

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