Distributions to electors of arguments for and against proposed consitutional change

Mark R. Diamond made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Parliamentary Services
This authority is not subject to FOI law, so is not legally obliged to respond (details).

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department of Parliamentary Services,

Despite the email heading, this is NOT an FOI request.
I am interested in obtaining copies of statements distributed to electors in accordance with s. 11 of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 and, indeed, copies of similar statements distributed in accordance with earlier (repealed) Acts.

However, I am unsure whether it would be appropriate to address an FOI request to your department, or whether there is a more appropriate department. I would appreciate your guidance.

Yours faithfully,

Mark R. Diamond

Daniel S Day left an annotation ()

Hi Mark

I think you might have more luck getting your hands on the arguments for and against a proposal to amend the Constitution by applying to the Australian Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commissioner is, at least under the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 (Cth), responsible for causing to be printed and to be sent to each address on relevant electoral rolls a pamphlet containing the arguments, together with a statement showing the textual alterations and additions proposed to be made to the Constitution.

A really useful webpage on the 1999 republic referendum is maintained on the website of the Australian Electoral Commission: https://www.aec.gov.au/Elections/referen....

Also, if you are interested in a list of all the referendums that have been put to the electors of Australia, that list is maintained on the Australian Electoral Commission's website: https://www.aec.gov.au/Elections/referen....

Finally, I note that, so far as I am aware, the earliest Commonwealth legislation relating to the "machinery" for conducting a referendum is the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906 (Cth): https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C....

Amending legislation (in respect of the (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906 (Cth)) can be accessed on the Federal Register of Legislation: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Series/C1....

These items of legislation should help you determine who might be best placed to produce the arguments for and against a proposal to amend the Constitution (or their equivalents) for the purposes of that 1906 enactment.

Best of luck mate.


Mark R. Diamond left an annotation ()

Thank you, Daniel, for the additional information. I'll have a look at the 1906 Act and also consider lodging a request with the Australian Electoral Commission.

It occurred to me that there is high likelihood that the text of arguments for and against each proposed change would have been tabled in parliament and therefore be in Hansard ... but I have yet to check.

DPS Information Requests (DPS), Department of Parliamentary Services


Dear Mr Diamond,

We refer to your email of 6 February 2023 in which you have noted your interest in obtaining statements regarding the distribution to electors of arguments for and against a proposed law in relation to a referendum. (statements)

The Department of Parliamentary Services (Department) is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth), by virtue of section 68A of the Parliamentary Services Act 1999 (Cth). The Department processes information requests according to the DPS Information Requests Policy (Policy).

As noted under section 11 of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984, the statements are compiled in a pamphlet and sent to the address of each voter no later than 14 days before the voting day for the referendum.

Therefore, the statements constitute information that is otherwise publicly available. Material which is already publicly available does not fall within the ambit of the Policy and consequently the Department will not provide the documents you have requested.

However, we note that a copy of the pamphlet from the 1999 Referendum is publicly available through the website of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The AEC may therefore be a more suitable contact to assist in your research and to respond to your request for other relevant documents.

Kind regards,
DPS Information Requests


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Mark R. Diamond left an annotation ()

I have now lodged a slightly amended version of this request with the Australian Electoral Commission. See: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/d... .