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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2666

Senator VIGOR(3.21) —Quite a deal of effort has gone into the production of this annual report for the Department of Territories. It has an excellent layout and there is indeed a lot of very interesting material in it. I would like to commend those responsible for its general presentation, as this is really one of the better presented reports. However, when we examine the subject matter closely we find that there are a number of errors of omission and of commission, and the most glaring of these relates to the self-government legislation which this Government has failed to bring on for debate in the Senate.

Echoing the Government's publicity efforts, the Department of Territories seems to confuse the moving of amendments to legislation with opposing the legislation. It mentions the extraordinary proposal that the Attorney-General vet all laws made by the Australian Capital Territory Council and the power of the Commonwealth Government to dismiss the Council without any safeguards at all. These were two most obnoxious elements in the Government's original proposals for self-government and were indeed condemned universally within the Australian Capital Territory.

There is also a great deal of apprehension about the future financial arrangements, given that the promise was made by the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) to have some type of financial guarantees and that this Minister has broken quite a number of promises during this saga of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory. The terms of reference of the Commonwealth Grants Commission involve allowances for the national capital role for Canberra in the making of various calculations. They do not specifically pick up the regional role that Canberra plays in the provision of health and other services to the surrounding regions of New South Wales. In fact about a quarter of the hospital bed use in the Australian Capital Territory is by people from the surrounding districts and by visitors to the national capital who might come here on public business or as tourists. These are matters which people of the Australian Capital Territory quite rightly want to be taken into account properly in terms of calculating what moneys they should get. The Department omits such points in its glossy treatment of the future financial arrangements under self-government.

The Department also blunders badly when it comes to electoral matters. This is a matter that I wish to mention in some detail. Some honourable senators will recall the Department's earlier efforts in this regard in trying to justify the 13 single member electorate system, which was proposed by the Government. In the annual report the Department maintains that the amended proposal, which has never been put to this Senate or to any other parliamentary House, is similar to the West German system. The only similarity between the West German system and the system which has been proposed is that we have one of the groups of people elected at large and the other group elected on single individual electorates. The West German system goes to enormous pains to ensure that there is a fair distribution of the seats among parties in accordance with their vote. That is exactly what it is all about. It says: `We will elect all these people in single member electorates and then we will go through and top up so that the parties get what they really deserve'. The West German system is very effective in doing this and sometimes even produces more people being elected than were expected because of the distortions of any single member system. It does not give much choice to voters.

In the system proposed by the Government we have the worst possible iniquities of both systems. The proportional representation part of the system-not on the very fair Hare-Clark model anyway-is completely swamped by single member electorates, which means that the Labor Party can control with less than 40 per cent of the vote. This is quite comparable to the iniquitous system which exists in Queensland, which was set up by the Labor Party and which is exploited by the current Queensland Government. It seems very strange that the Government should be worried about this and support a similar system in the Australian Capital Territory.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.