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|Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a second time.|
The purpose of the Succession to the Crown (Request)(National Uniform Legislation) Bill 2013, is to provide for the parliament of the Northern Territory to formerly request the Commonwealth parliament to enact legislation, to change the laws of succession to the Crown throughout Australia consistently with changes to the law of Royal Succession in the United Kingdom.
This will ensure that the sovereign of Australia and the sovereign of the United Kingdom are the same person. The changes that the Commonwealth has requested to enact are to end the system of male preference primogeniture whereby a young son displaces an elder daughter in the line of succession, to remove the bar on a person who marries a Roman Catholic from succeeding to the throne and to repeal the Royal Marriages Act 1772 which makes void the marriage of any descendant of George II, who fails to obtain the Monarch’s consent prior to their marriage and replace it with a provision whereby the Monarch need only consent to the marriages of the first six persons in the line of succession without which, they lose their place.
Commonwealth legislation will fulfil Australia’s commitment to the agreement that was reached by the 16th Commonwealth Realm Heads of Government in Perth in October 2011 to work together towards a common approach to amending the rules of succession to their respective Crowns, and to work within their respective administrations to bring forward the necessary measures to enable the realms to give effect to the changes simultaneously.
The former Australian Prime Minister had previously consulted with the Premiers and Chief Ministers concerning the proposed changes. The former Northern Territory Chief Minister, the Honourable Paul Henderson, gave in principle support on behalf of the Territory.
The bill joins the Northern Territory and the process that was agreed at the April 2013 COAG meeting for affecting the changes in Australia. Informed by the advice of Solicitors-General, the COAG agreed to implement the reforms for a cooperative request and consent scheme relying on section 51, (xxxviii) of the Australian Constitution.
Under the agreed scheme, each state parliament and the Northern Territory parliament is to pass Request legislation for the Commonwealth to enact legislation on this matter.
Request acts have been passed in Queensland and New South Wales and bills have been introduced in Victoria and Tasmania with the remaining states to follow shortly. The bill is based on a model developed under the auspices of COAG and contains a text base reference.
The specific legislation that the states and territories have agreed to request the Commonwealth to enact, is set out in the schedule to the bill and is, or will be similarly set out in the Request Acts of the states.
By virtue of the state’s Request Acts the Commonwealth will only be authorised to enact the Succession to the Crown Bill that the state parliaments have agreed to.
The Northern Territory’s constitutional position means that it is not constitutionally necessary for the Territory to request or consent to the Commonwealth enactment, however the government considers it desirable to ensure so far as possible, that arrangements in place in the Northern Territory mirror those in place between the Commonwealth and the states.
A request by the Territory for the Commonwealth to legislate would be consistent with general longstanding practice, which ensures consistency among jurisdictions. Moreover, the Northern Territory strongly supports the reforms which remove some archaic elements of gender bias and religious discrimination from the arrangements that govern the succession of Australia’s head of state. The bill demonstrates the Territory’s support and is consistent with our active role within the Federation and with our aspirations towards statehood.
The matter of succession to the Crown does not fall within the specific matters for which Territory ministers have executive authority under the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act. That being so, assent to the bill, once passed, would normally need to be reserved for the pleasure of the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Commonwealth ministers. Given the symbolic nature of the bill going to constitutional arrangements concerning the Crown and the Territory, I have, on behalf of the Territory, entered into a formal arrangement with the former Prime Minister specifically for the purposes of the Northern Territory Self-Government Regulation 4(5)(f) which explicitly extends the Northern Territory’s executive authority to the enactment of legislation which would mirror arrangements made by the states in relation to the changes to the law of royal succession. This will enable the bill, when it has passed the Northern Territory parliament, to be assented to by the Northern Territory Administrator on the advice of Territory ministers.
I now turn to key provisions of the bill. The request to the Commonwealth parliament by the Northern Territory parliament is set out in clause 4 of the bill. It references the proposed Commonwealth act which is set out in the schedule. Clause 3 of the bill clarifies that the enactment of this legislation, or the subsequent Commonwealth legislation, is not intended to affect in any way the existing relationship between the sovereign and the Northern Territory. This is reiterated by clause 4 of the proposed Commonwealth act which will make similar provision in relation to the existing relationship between the sovereign and the Commonwealth, the states and the territories.
Clause 6 of the proposed Commonwealth act will provide that, in determining succession to the Crown, the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person or their descendants precedence over any other person whenever that person was born. The provision is expressed to have retrospective effect from 28 October 2016, which is the date of agreement on the reforms by the 16 Commonwealth realms and is consistent with the equivalent provision in the United Kingdom’s Succession to the Crown Act.
Honourable members would be aware that His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge, the newly born son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is now third in the line of succession to the Crown. Had the Duke and Duchess instead had a daughter, a practical effect of the retrospective provision would have been to ensure that the daughter would not have been displaced in the line of succession by the subsequent birth of a brother occurring before the act commenced.
Clause 7 of the proposed Commonwealth act provides that a person will not be disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from being the monarch as a result of their marriage to a Roman Catholic. Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the proposed act makes related amendments to the act of settlement and the Bill of Rights. Clause 8 and Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the proposed Commonwealth act will have the effect of repealing the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 to remove the requirement for any descendant of George II to obtain the monarch’s consent before marriage, otherwise the marriage is void, and, henceforth, only requiring any of the first six people in the line of succession to the Crown to obtain consent of the Queen before their marriage. A failure to obtain consent will disqualify the person and their descendants from succeeding to the Crown.
I commend this bill to honourable members and table the explanatory statement to accompany the bill.
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