Report: Time to refresh referendums

The process for conducting referendums in Australia should be brought into the modern age, according to a report of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs released today.

In its report on constitutional reform and referendums, the committee recommends amendments to modernise the legislation setting out the arrangements for referendums. The committee also recommends the establishment of a new joint parliamentary committee to examine constitutional issues on an ongoing basis, and measures to strengthen awareness and understanding of the Constitution among school students and the wider community.

The Acting Chair of the committee, Ms Sharon Claydon, said that changes to the referendum process were long overdue.

“It has been over 20 years since the last referendum in Australia, and even longer since a comprehensive update to the referendum rules,” she said. “This inquiry has highlighted the need to modernise the referendum process to ensure that Australians can go to the ballot box fully informed about any referendum question. It is critical that these changes are considered now, and not during the middle of a referendum campaign.

‘The committee was also concerned about the low levels of understanding of the Constitution, and the lack of any established process of constitutional review. Through its recommendations, the committee is seeking to kickstart the conversation about the Constitution, both in schools and communities and in the Parliament, to help ensure Australia has a more informed and engaged citizenry.”

The report is available on the inquiry website.

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