Opinion Number. 443

Subject

ELECTORAL DISTRIBUTION WHETHER PROPER FOR DEPARTMENT TO ADVISE COMMISSIONERS INDIVIDUALLY : WHETHER MAY ACT BY MAJORITY : POSITION OF MINORITY

Key Legislation

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT 1902-1911, ss. 13,14

Date
Client
The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Mr Graham, one of the three Commissioners appointed to redistribute the State of Queensland in Electoral Divisions, has written the following letter to the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs:

With reference to your [letter] dated 22 December last, I have the honour to request guidance in the following circumstances.

The Commissioners have projected the proposed Divisions and maps for exhibition are now in course of preparation. Except in the case of two Divisions I regard the proposed boundaries as being utterly undesirable and cannot agree to the proposals.

I do not propose to sign the maps to which I do not agree. Should I also refrain from signing the two with which I do agree?

The Secretary to that Department has forwarded the letter to me with the following minute:

Mr Graham is one of the three Commissioners appointed to redistribute the State of Queensland into Commonwealth Electoral Divisions. I shall be glad of your views as to whether advice should be given to any Commissioner otherwise than through the Chairman of the Commission, and also as to what course should be followed by any Commissioner who dissents from the views of the other members of the Commission.

I think that as a general rule advice should not be given to a Commissioner otherwise than through the Chairman. This however is not a matter of law, and the Department can in each case do what it thinks right.

It seems to me to be clear that the Act contemplates a decision by the majority of the Commissioners.

Therefore when the Commission has come to a decision on a point, that decision is the decision of the Commission, whether it is arrived at unanimously or by a vote of the majority.

A Commissioner in a minority is under no legal obligation to take any action to mark his dissent from the decision of the Commission, but he may do so if he chooses. Whether he ought to do so or not in any case is a matter for him to determine.

[Vol. 9, p. 481]