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A Bill for an Act to enable the citizens of Australia to initiate legislation for the holding of a referendum in relation to altering the Constitution, and for related purposes
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Registered 15 Mar 2013
Introduced Senate 12 Mar 2013

 

2010‑2011‑2012‑2013

 

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

Presented and read a first time

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen Initiated Referendum Bill 2013

 

No.      , 2013

 

(Senator Madigan)

 

 

 

A Bill for an Act to enable the citizens of Australia to initiate legislation for the holding of a referendum in relation to altering the Constitution, and for related purposes

  

  

  


Contents

Part 1—Preliminary                                                                                                             1

1............ Short title............................................................................................. 1

2............ Commencement................................................................................... 2

3............ Guide to this Act................................................................................. 2

4............ Object of this Act................................................................................ 3

5............ Definitions.......................................................................................... 3

Part 2—Process for initiating a referendum                                                         5

6............ Application to register proposal for referendum.................................. 5

7............ Electoral Commissioner to examine proposal for referendum............. 5

8............ Registration of proposal for referendum............................................. 5

9............ Notice of decision............................................................................... 6

10.......... Meaning of qualifying requirements and qualifying day..................... 6

11.......... Electoral Commissioner to verify that qualifying requirements have been satisfied  6

12.......... Minister to arrange for introduction of proposed law.......................... 7

Part 3—Holding a citizen initiated referendum                                                   8

13.......... Application of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984...... 8

14.......... Writ for referendum............................................................................ 8

Part 4—Miscellaneous                                                                                                       10

15.......... Delegation by Electoral Commissioner............................................. 10

16.......... Regulations....................................................................................... 10

 


A Bill for an Act to enable the citizens of Australia to initiate legislation for the holding of a referendum in relation to altering the Constitution, and for related purposes

The Parliament of Australia enacts:

Part 1Preliminary

  

1  Short title

                   This Act may be cited as the Citizen Initiated Referendum Act 2013.

2  Commencement

                   This Act commences on the day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

3  Guide to this Act

This Act enables Australian citizens to initiate legislation that provides for the holding of a referendum to alter the Constitution.

Part 2 sets out the process that must be followed, and the requirements that must be met, in order for a citizen to initiate the holding of a referendum.

The process involves the following steps:

               (a)     a person who is an elector may apply to the Electoral Commission to register a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution;

              (b)     the Electoral Commissioner must examine the proposal and decide whether it relates to a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution;

               (c)     if the proposal relates to a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution, the Electoral Commissioner must register the proposal and the applicant must then lodge with the Electoral Commission a document containing the signatures of 1% of the total of all electors;

              (d)     if the applicant lodges the document within 13 months of the proposal being registered, the Electoral Commissioner must undertake random sampling to verify that at least 3% of those signatures were obtained validly;

               (e)     once a proposal is verified, the Minister must cause a proposed law to alter the Constitution, in accordance with the proposal, to be introduced into the Parliament.

Part 3 sets out rules that apply to the holding of a citizen initiated referendum. Once a proposed law to alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal has been passed, by an absolute majority of one House, or both Houses, of the Parliament, in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution, the Governor‑General may issue a writ for the citizen initiated referendum to be held on the first Saturday in October in a referendum year.

The first referendum year is 2016, and every fourth year after that year is also a referendum year.

Part 4 deals with miscellaneous matters, including delegation of the Electoral Commissioner’s functions and powers.

4  Object of this Act

                   The object of this Act is to enable Australian citizens to initiate a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution.

5  Definitions

                   In this Act:

approved form means a form that:

                     (a)  is approved by the Electoral Commissioner in writing; and

                     (b)  has been published by the Electoral Commissioner on the Electoral Commission’s website.

citizen initiated referendum means a referendum resulting from a proposal that is verified under section 11.

Deputy Electoral Commissioner means the Deputy Electoral Commissioner referred to in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

elector means a person whose name appears on a Roll as an elector.

Electoral Commission means the Australian Electoral Commission established by section 6 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Electoral Commissioner means the Electoral Commissioner referred to in section 18 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

qualifying day, for a proposal for a referendum, has the meaning given by subsection 10(2).

qualifying requirements, for a proposal for a referendum, has the meaning given by subsection 10(1).

random sampling process has the meaning given by subsection 11(3).

referendum means the submission to the electors of a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution.

referendum day has the meaning given by subsection 14(4).

referendum year has the meaning given by subsection 14(4).

Roll means a roll of electors kept pursuant to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.


 

Part 2Process for initiating a referendum

  

6  Application to register proposal for referendum

             (1)  A person who is an elector may apply to the Electoral Commission to register a proposal for a referendum to amend the Constitution.

             (2)  An application to register a proposal for a referendum must:

                     (a)  be in the approved form; and

                     (b)  contain an outline of the proposal; and

                     (c)  be accompanied by the application fee prescribed by the regulations.

             (3)  The amount of the application fee must not be such as to amount to taxation.

             (4)  The application fee may be refunded in circumstances prescribed by the regulations.

7  Electoral Commissioner to examine proposal for referendum

                   Within 1 month after receiving an application under section 6, the Electoral Commissioner must examine the proposal outlined in the application and decide whether it is a proposal to amend the Constitution.

8  Registration of proposal for referendum

             (1)  The Electoral Commissioner must, after the examination, register the proposal unless he or she is satisfied that the proposal does not relate to a proposal to amend the Constitution.

             (2)  If the Electoral Commissioner is not satisfied that the proposal relates to a constitutional matter, the Electoral Commissioner must reject the application to register the proposal.

             (3)  The Electoral Commissioner may not reject an application without giving the applicant an opportunity to be heard.

9  Notice of decision

                   Within 7 days after making a decision under section 8, the Electoral Commissioner must give a written notice to the applicant:

                     (a)  if the decision was to register the proposal—setting out the following:

                              (i)  a statement that the proposal has been registered;

                             (ii)  a statement that the applicant must satisfy the qualifying requirements for the proposal by the qualifying day in order for the proposal to progress;

                            (iii)  the qualifying day for the proposal; or

                     (b)  if the decision was to reject the application for the proposal—stating that the proposal has been rejected.

10  Meaning of qualifying requirements and qualifying day

             (1)  An applicant will satisfy the qualifying requirements for a proposal for a referendum if the applicant lodges with the Electoral Commission a document containing the signatures, printed names and addresses of at least 1% of all electors.

             (2)  The qualifying day for a proposal for a referendum is the day that is 1 month after the end of the period of 12 months starting when the proposal is registered under section 8.

11  Electoral Commissioner to verify that qualifying requirements have been satisfied

             (1)  This section applies if:

                     (a)  an applicant lodges a document with the Electoral Commission that purports to satisfy the qualifying requirements for a proposal for a referendum; and

                     (b)  the document is lodged by the end of the qualifying day for the proposal.

             (2)  Within 3 months after the applicant lodges the document, the Electoral Commission must:

                     (a)  undertake up to 2 random sampling processes to verify whether the signatures contained in the document were validly obtained; and

                     (b)  either:

                              (i)  if the results of at least 1 random sampling process indicate that the signatures contained in the document were validly obtained—verify the proposal and notify the applicant, in writing, that the proposal has been verified; or

                             (ii)  otherwise—notify the applicant, in writing, that the proposal has been rejected.

             (3)  To undertake a random sampling process in respect of the signatures contained in a document, the Electoral Commission must:

                     (a)  randomly select at least 3%, or such higher amount as specified in the regulations, of the persons whose signatures are contained in the document; and

                     (b)  contact each of those persons to verify that their signature was validly obtained; and

                     (c)  undertake any procedure set out in the regulations in respect of the random sampling process.

12  Minister to arrange for introduction of proposed law

                   Within 4 months after a proposal for a referendum is verified under section 11, the Minister must cause a proposed law that will alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal to be introduced into the Parliament.


 

Part 3Holding a citizen initiated referendum

  

13  Application of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984

                   Subject to this Part, the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 applies to a citizen initiated referendum.

14  Writ for referendum

             (1)  If:

                     (a)  a proposal for a referendum has been verified under section 11; and

                     (b)  a proposed law to alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal has been passed by an absolute majority of one House, or both Houses, of the Parliament, in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution;

the Governor‑General may issue a writ for the submission of the proposed law to the electors.

             (2)  A writ issued under subsection (1):

                     (a)  may be in accordance with Form A in Schedule 1 to the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984; and

                     (b)  must be signed by the Governor‑General; and

                     (c)  must appoint:

                              (i)  the day for the close of the Rolls; and

                             (ii)  the day for taking the votes of electors (see subsection (3)); and

                            (iii)  the day for the return of the writ.

             (3)  The day appointed for the taking the votes of electors must be:

                     (a)  if a proposed law to alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal was passed by an absolute majority of one House, or both Houses, of the Parliament, on a day that falls before 1 October in the year before a referendum year—the referendum day for that referendum year; or

                     (b)  if a proposed law to alter the Constitution in accordance with the proposal has been passed by an absolute majority of one House, or both Houses, of the Parliament, on a day that falls on or after 1 October in the year before a referendum year but before the referendum day for that referendum year—the referendum day for the next referendum year.

             (4)  In this section:

referendum day, for a referendum year, means the first Saturday in October of that year.

referendum year means 2016 and every fourth year after that.


 

Part 4Miscellaneous

  

15  Delegation by Electoral Commissioner

                   The Electoral Commissioner may, in writing, delegate to the Deputy Electoral Commissioner all or any of the functions or powers of the Electoral Commissioner under this Act.

16  Regulations

                   The Governor‑General may make regulations prescribing matters:

                     (a)  required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed; or

                     (b)  necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.