Constitutional change? Regional assemblies or parliament?

A recent address by the first Aboriginal minister for Aboriginal Australians to the National Press Club on possibly finding "common ground" for constutional reform was momentus. It got a lot of people thinking about new ideas, for the first time.

The following notes of "possible constitutional change" attempt to raise ideas & assist in the possibilities of broader debate, not to influence the outcome.

It is prepared in response to:

If we are looking at "referendum for change(s) to the constitution", all sorts of changes become a real possibility.

I have outlined just one of them, below.

Keep an open mind, you might find new ideas begin to emerge.

I have taken Part Two of the Constitution & made changes that "seek to give proper representation of Indigenous Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Parliament".

It naturally gives "the voters for Proper Representation" a voice, as the Senate is the "House Of Review" for all legislation, and for all actions of governance at the federal level.

Change = Insert Change = Remove,

Part II - The Senate

7. The Senate

The Senate shall be composed of senators for each Region, directly chosen by the people of the Region, voting until the Parliament otherwise provides as one electorate.

For the purpose of voting for the Senate, there shall be 31 regions, whose boundaries on land are based on the flow of water, and whose boundaries at sea reflect the May 2012 Proclamation of the Australian Continental Shelf Limits, as follows:



No


Region


Capital


River System


Geographic definition


1


Van Dieman


Darwin


ABCDEF Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/van-dieman


2


East Arnhem


Nhulunbuy


Aligator Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/east-arnhem


3


Mataranka


Katherine


Roper Edith Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/mataranka


4


Borroloola


Mornington Island


Robinson McArthur Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/borroloola


5


Wurung


Mt Isa


Leichhardt Albert Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/wurung


6


Carpentaria


Cloncurry


Norman Flinders Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/carpenteria


7


Keer-Weer


Weipa


Keer Weer Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/keer-weer


8


Cook


Cooktown


Endeavour Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/cook


9


Mareeba


Cairns


Herbert Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/mareeba


10


Charters


Townsville


Belyando Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/charters


11


Capricorn


Rockhampton


MIBM Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/capricorn


12


Boonah


Brisbane


Brisbane Bremer Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/boonah


13


Casino


Lismore


Clarence Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/ilmurra


14


New England


Armidale


Manning McLeay Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/casino


15


Sandy Hollow


Newcastle


Hunter Valley Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/sandy-hollow


16


Narrabeen


Sydney


Hawkesbury Nepean Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/narrabeen


17


Cape Howe


Merimbula


Bega Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/cape-howe


18


Portland


Launceston


Tamar Esk Meander Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/portland


19


SE Cape


Hobart


Derwent Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/se-cape


20


Sandy Cove


Devonport


Mersey Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/sandy-cove


21


Wonthaggi


Melbourne


Yarra Barwon Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/wonthaggi


22


Menindee


Adelaide


Murray-Darling Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/menindee


23


Uluru Central


Alice Springs


Sandover Eyre Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/ulluru-central


24


Great Australian Bight


Kalgoorlie–Boulder


Officer Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/great-australian-bight


25


Nyabing


Albany


Kalgan Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/nyabing


26


Kwinana


Perth


Swan Margaret Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/kwinana


27


Meekatharra


Geraldton


Lyons Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/meekatharra


28


Murujuga


Carnarvon


Gascoyne Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/murujuga


29


Marapikurrinya


Karratha


Yule Shaw Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/marapikurrinya


30


Fitzroy Crossing


Broome


Fitzroy Fraser Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/fitzroy-crossing


31


Wyndham


Kununurra


Victoria Ord Basin


https://www.bloggerme.com.au/states/wyndham

 

To comply with Part II of the Constitution, each Region shall have a Council that looks after the whole of the River System and the Continental Shelf of that Region and each Council of a Region shall elect a Lord Mayor.

But until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of the State of Queensland, if that State be an Original State, may make laws dividing the State into divisions and determining the number of senators to be chosen for each division, and in the absence of such provision the State shall be one electorate.

Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be three senators for each Original Region. The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each Region,5 but so that equal representation of the several Original Regions shall be maintained and that no Original Region shall have less than three senators.

The senators shall be chosen for a term of six years, and the names of the senators chosen for each Region shall be certified by each regional Lord Mayor to the Governor-General.

8. Qualification of electors

The qualification of electors of the first two senators shall be in each Region that which is prescribed by this Constitution, or by the Parliament, as the qualification for electors of members of the House of Representatives; but in the choosing of the first two senators each elector shall vote only once. In the choosing of the third senator the qualification of the electors shall be determined by the parliament to be all of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples living in that region.

9. Method of election of senators

The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the Regions. Subject to any such law, the Council of each Region may make laws6 prescribing the method of choosing the senators for that Region.

Times and places

The Council of a Region may make laws6 for determining the times and places of elections of senators for the Region.

10. Application of Regional laws

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, but subject to this Constitution, the laws in force in each Region, for the time being, relating to elections for the more numerous Councils of the Region shall, as nearly as practicable, apply to elections of senators for the Region.

11. Failure to choose senators

The Senate may proceed to the despatch of business, notwithstanding the failure of any Region to provide for its representation in the Senate.

12. Issue of writs

The Lord Mayor of any Region may cause writs to be issued for elections of senators for the Region. In case of the dissolution of the Senate the writs shall be issued within ten days from the proclamation of such dissolution.

13. Rotation of senators7

As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each Region into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.

The election to fill vacant places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant.

For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election.

14. Further provision for rotation

Whenever the number of senators for a Region is increased or diminished, the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make such provision for the vacating of the places of senators for the Region as it deems necessary to maintain regularity in the rotation.8

15. Casual vacancies9

Subject to sections eight and sixteen of this constitution, if the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Council of the Region for which he was chosen sitting and voting together, or, if there is only one House of that Parliament, that House, shall choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term. But if the Council of the Region is not in session when the vacancy is notified, the Lord Mayor of the Region, with the advice of the Executive Council thereof may appoint a person to hold the place until the expiration of fourteen days from the beginning of the next session of the Council of the Region or the expiration of the term, whichever first happens.

Where a vacancy has at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of a Region and, at the time when he was so chosen, he was publicly recognized by a particular political party as being an endorsed candidate of that party and publicly represented himself to be such a candidate, a person chosen or appointed under this section in consequence of that vacancy, or in consequence of that vacancy and a subsequent vacancy or vacancies, shall, unless there is no member of that party available to be chosen or appointed, be a member of that party.

Where:

  1. in accordance with the last preceding paragraph, a member of a particular political party is chosen or appointed to hold the place of a senator whose place had become vacant; and
  2. before taking his seat he ceases to be a member of that party (otherwise than by reason of the party having ceased to exist);

he shall be deemed not to have been so chosen or appointed and the vacancy shall be again notified in accordance with section twenty-one of this Constitution.

The name of any senator chosen or appointed under this section shall be certified by the Lord Mayor of the Region to the Governor-General.

If the place of a senator chosen by the people of a Region at the election of senators last held before the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977 became vacant before that commencement and, at that commencement, no person chosen by the Council of the Region, or appointed by the Lord Mayor of the Region, in consequence of that vacancy, or in consequence of that vacancy and a subsequent vacancy or vacancies, held office, this section applies as if the place of the senator chosen by the people of the Region had become vacant after that commencement.

A senator holding office at the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977, being a senator appointed by the Lord Mayor of a Region in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the Region, shall be deemed to have been appointed to hold the place until the expiration of fourteen days after the beginning of the next session of the Council of the Region that commenced or commences after he was appointed and further action under this section shall be taken as if the vacancy in the place of the senator chosen by the people of the Region had occurred after that commencement.

Subject to the next succeeding paragraph, a senator holding office at the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977 who was chosen by the Council of a Region in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the Region shall be deemed to have been chosen to hold office until the expiration of the term of service of the senator elected by the people of the Region.

If, at or before the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977, a law to alter the Constitution entitled "Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) 1977" came into operation,10 a senator holding office at the commencement of that law who was chosen by the Council of a Region in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the Region shall be deemed to have been chosen to hold office:

  1. if the senator elected by the people of the Region had a term of service expiring on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight – until the expiration or dissolution of the first House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after that law came into operation; or
  2. if the senator elected by the people of the Region had a term of service expiring on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and eighty-one – until the expiration or dissolution of the second House of Representatives to expire or be dissolved after that law came into operation; or, if there is an earlier dissolution of the Senate, until that dissolution.

16. Qualifications of senator

The qualifications of the first two senators of a Region shall be the same as those of a member of the House of Representatives. The qualifications of the third senator of that Region shall be determined by the Senate Permanent Committee for Indigenous Representation after approval by the Elders of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples in that Region.

17. Election of President

The Senate shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a senator to be the President of the Senate; and as often as the office of President becomes vacant the Senate shall again choose a senator to be the President.

The President shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a senator. He may be removed from office by a vote of the Senate, or he may resign his office or his seat by writing addressed to the Governor-General.

18. Absence of President

Before or during any absence of the President, the Senate may choose a senator to perform his duties in his absence.

19. Resignation of senator

A senator may, by writing addressed to the President, or to the Governor-General if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth, resign his place, which thereupon shall become vacant.

20. Vacancy by absence

The place of a senator shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the Parliament he, without the permission of the Senate, fails to attend the Senate.

21. Vacancy to be notified

Whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President, or if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth the Governor-General, shall notify the same to the Lord Mayor of the Region in the representation of which the vacancy has happened.

22. Quorum

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the senators shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate for the exercise of its powers.

23. Voting in Senate

Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.

Comments

I have, today, received an important letter from Ken Wyatt acknowledging ideas I sent to him following his address at the National Press Club. I too thank the minister sincerely for his kind consideration.

A recent public statement on the need for Constitutional change was made by Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians at the National Press Club in Canberra, 10 July 2019. https://www.kenwyatt.com.au/ministerial-news-indigenous-australians/2019...

It sounded refreshing & exciting to those, like me, who have been looking for change on this issue, for decades. This was given a basic one-liner support by the Prime Minister. But the next day it was subjected to ridicule by Peter Dutton, saying it was never gunna happen. Following Dutton's statement, the PM came out to clarify what he meant. Yes, he said, Dutton is right, it's never gunna happen.

Here are some comments:

The "Third Chamber" idea is an attack by racists in the parliament, like Dutton, who would do anything to abandon anything requested in the Uluru Statement. They want to see the end of Aboriginality in this country and have moved virtually nowhere since the beginnings of the settlement. But there are reasons why it has some traction. If there is going to be overview and review of laws passed that have impact on Indigenous & Torres Strait Islander peoples, we already have written into the Constitution a place for that overview and review to occur, and that is, of course, the Senate. If we had proper representation of Indigenous Australians from across the country in the Senate, they would naturally be playing that role without the need to come to Canberra "cap in hand" and ask for "special preferences" (as the racists see it). It is what the Senate does. So I thought I would go to the relevant section of the Constitution and see what reforms would be needed to actually bring about proper representation of Aboriginal Australians across the country in the Senate.

In my reforms, https://www.bloggerme.com.au/constitutional-change-regional-assemblies-o... which seem drastic and dramatic at first sight, the basis for a new beginning is found and the place of Aboriginal Australians would flow naturally into the future. They seem costly but, compared to any other reforms one could dream up to include Aboriginal Australians, they are cheap because they rely on structures and processes that are already in place, nothing new is required, and have been in play since 1901. The key cost is purely in salaries for extra senators, a tiny difference, compared to any other way of dealing with the issue of "voice". There may be costs coming directly from review but these are policy-related and so they are probably costs that should have been included in governmental operations years ago.

The big change is that the Senate in the new Part II relies not on the States but on Regions for the election of its Senators. The States won't like it but the marginalisation and pettying of State Federal relationships has been going on for a century and the States have shown with their going along with the City Deal arrangements for local governments (reforms that are actually un-Constitutional in their impact) that they will go along with anything as long as there's some money in it.

This new Regionalism offers a new beginning that gives the Senate a key role to play going forward. And it reforms a huge mistake made in the 1860s when the Governors of the Colonies got together to divide up the continent in a meaningless way using a ruler and a pen that simply reflected political power, nothing else.

In the plan I have outlined, "regions" reflect unique and individual character of "place" because they are based on the flow of water. Water is basis of life in Australia. Australia is the poorest continent on earth, and the privatisation of water in the last 30 years has been a complete disaster, worse than any other disaster in the history of the nation, with the exception of the treatment of Aboriginal Australians by the colonies, which continues to this date.

The difference in the flow of water for each particular region reflects its unique character. The regional boundaries are natural because they describe the flow of water in the region. Each region has a capital because urban towns and cities developed naturally along the rivers because they too needed water, and they naturally coincide (often, anyway, as I have shown) with nationhood by Aboriginal Australians prior to settlement, because they too needed water to build their social, community-based, language-based, infrastructures. I have shown how clearly these align by my reference to the map of Aboriginal nationhood.