Some advance copies of the paper were circulated among certain members of the community for comment. One set of comments relating to the suggested Constitutional Frame is presented below with the authors’ further comment in the hope of starting off discussion.
2a. Re 61, i).
Reader: A change in the present position of the leaders on the question of the electoral system will be essential if some kind of agreement is to be reached. Whether the main idea of the “Working Notes” is accepted, therefore can be seen by the leaders’ attitude to this recommendation. If this hurdle is crossed it will show that other matters promise agreement.
Authors: Indebted. Just so. See 51.
2b. Re 61, ii) and iii).
Reader: Some confusion surrounds the Senate. At 60 (i) it is a “Second Chamber” hence a part of the Legislature. At 61 (iii) and 61 (iv) it is disassociated from the Legislature. If it is a part of the Legislature, then it must have some part in Legislation. Its powers need not be the traditional ones. With a house constituted as the one proposed, the Senate should have a mere confirming power, without any powers of delay; and the power to recommend amendments to the House of Representatives. If the Senate is too detached it will not satisfy the aspirations of the politically inclined, or of the political non-party persons and it will not live. Along with its powers of confirmation it may enjoy power to initiate debates on matters of economic, educational, scientific, cultural, legal, sporting, etc., interest, and even to initiate Bills on a limited number of subjects, Bills which will be subject to the decision of the House of Representatives.
As an alternative it can be called, say, the “Council of Elders”, declared to be an “integral part of our Constitution” and the “critical arm of the Executive” and meet twice a year for the function of national stock taking. The Elders may also be given other duties – e.g. juvenile magistrates.
State of the Nation debate seems to involve the Senate in the Legislature, for debates are followed by voting.
Authors: There may indeed be some confusion arising from a desire to break away from the traditional concept of the Senate. The aim here is to make the Senate influential by way of the effect its expertise and wisdom would exercise on national opinion and judgement rather than by way of constitutional power to amend or delay legislation. Accordingly, it has to be at one and the same time attached to, but distinct and separate from the Legislature proper. Whether it is formally called part of the Legislature or not may not matter much (though it may be wise not to call it). What does matter is that:
- i) The Senate should discuss national issues openly and freely and make the discussion available to the Legislature proper and to the nation at large. In this connection, it should definitely have the right to initiate debate (subject to some rules to protect the Legislature) and the obligation to publish quickly.
- ii)The Senate should not be politicised by voting and should not be a place to accommodate non-party politicians or for that matter party politicians. (Ex Politicians, yes). The Senators must of course, as citizens, have their sympathies but their role in the Senate is to give independent points of view and to take non-political attitudes even when discussing political questions. Those who feel bound to assume political attitudes, who wish to canvass positions and mobilise support for them rather than state them as sound and reasonable (to the best of their knowledge) must face the electorate and seek places in the Legislature.
The need remains for the Senate to feel itself a part of the formal political framework in addition to being a real part in a semi-formal way. (Discussion will in any case affect the political process). Thus, the twice yearly state of the nation Convention. A delicate balance is being aimed at.