The purpose of this measure is to
reduce the number of elections for the Australian Parliament by
providing for the term of service of senators to last, in the
normal case, until the expiry or dissolution of the Second House of
Representatives after its commencement.
Despite its long title, this proposed
law does not expressly require that the times at which Senate
elections are held should coincide with House of Representatives
elections. The relevant provision is clause 3 which merely empowers
the Australian Parliament to legislate concerning the times and
places of elections of senators. Section 9 of the Constitution
which that clause seeks to alter at present empowers the State
Parliament to legislate on those matters.
The bulk of the proposed law is
concerned with the term of service of senators. At present this
matter is dealt with by the last paragraph of section 7 of the
Constitution which provides that The Senators shall be chosen for a
term of six years, and . Clause 2 seeks to omit the quoted words
and clause 4 seeks to substitute a new section 13 providing for the
term of service of senators in all circumstances.
The fundamental proposal (proposed
subsection 13 (1)) is that a senator s term is to last until the
expiry or dissolution of the Second House of Representatives after
he was chosen.
It is also provided, of course, that
a senator s term ceases when the Senate is dissolved.
Proposed subsections 13 (2), (3), (4)
and (5) provide for the rotation of senators. This is the
subject-matter of existing section 13. The existing provision
concerning the division of the senators into two classes following
the first election of senators after Federation is omitted.
There is to be (as at present) a
division of the Senate into two classes following a double
dissolution. The senators in the first class are to have a term
equal to two Houses and those in the second class a term equal to
one House. If there is an even number of senators, both classes are
to be equal. If there is an odd number of
senators, the first class is to contain one more than the
second class. This is more precise than the existing provision.
Proposed subsection 13 (5) deals with
the situation where a senate place becomes vacant after an election
but before a division into classes. In effect the vacancy is to be
ignored for the purpose of the division into classes. Thus a long
or a short term will be assigned for that place by the Senate.
The terms of existing senators will
be altered by proposed subsection 13 (6). The terms of short-term
senators are to expire when the first expiry or dissolution of the
House of Representatives occurs after the proposed law comes into
operation and the terms of long-term senators are to expire when
the second expiry or dissolution of the House of Representatives
occurs after the proposed law comes into operation.
Proposed subsection 13 (7) would
apply immediately only to Senator Lewis who was appointed to fill
the casual vacancy caused by the death of Senator Greenwood. It
would also apply to other senators appointed to fill casual
vacancies before the provision comes into operation. The term for
such senators is to become one expiring at the first expiry or
dissolution of the House of Representatives.
Proposed subsection 13 (8) deals with
the term of the senator elected in place of Senator Lewis.
At present such a senator s term
lasts until the expiration of the term . This provision deems
Senator Greenwood s term to last until the expiry or dissolution of
the Second House of Representatives after the proposed law comes
Clause 5 deals with casual vacancies
in the Senate. This matter is dealt with exhaustively by the
Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977. This
clause is concerned with the term of service of persons appointed
or chosen to fill casual vacancies. The term of a person chosen by
a State Parliament is to end at the next expiry or dissolution of
the House of Representatives and the term of a person appointed by
the Governor-in-Council of a State is to end 14 days after the
beginning of the next session of State Parliament or the next
expiry or dissolution of the House of Representatives, whichever
Sub-clause 5 (c) specifies when an
election is to occur to replace a person chosen or appointed to
fill a casual vacancy: it is to be at the next election of senators
for the State and not at the next Senate or House of
Representatives election whichever first happens as at present.
This Constitution alteration proposal
is the same in substance as that submitted to the people in 1974.
It does not deal with the terms of senators for the territories or
their election. These are provided for in the Act made under
section 122 of the Constitution which was passed at the joint
sitting the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973. That
Act for the first time fixed term of service of a senator by
reference to the expiry or dissolution of the House of
This paper has been prepared to support the work of the
Australian Parliament using information available at the time of
production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position
of the Information and Research Service, nor do they constitute
professional legal opinion.
Published by the Parliamentary Library, 2006.