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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (1:34 AM) . - We cannot achieve a better distribution of population by distorting the distribution of electorates. According to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), a 20 per cent, margin would permit the country areas to be better settled. I would have thought that that argument had been sufficiently demolished by reference to the 200 per cent, margin which is allowed in South Australia and the 100 per cent, margin which is allowed in Western Australia, where, respectively, the country electorates have one-third and one-half of the populations of the city electorates. It is perfectly possible to give representation to an electorate as large as any which are at present represented in this Parliament. The electorates of Grey, Darling, Kennedy, Leichhardt, the Northern Territory and, normally, Kalgoorlie, are represented in this Parliament by Labour men. They are well able to represent those electorates, which are the largest in this country. They have never complained that they cannot represent them adequately.

The Minister quoted the evidence given by the Surveyors-General of the various States to the Constitutional Review Committee. The committee considered their evidence and was not convinced by it. It is astonishing that the Minister should presume to reject the advice of twelve parliamentarians, eight from this place and four from the other, equally divided between Government and Opposition parties, who heard evidence on this subject, not only from State officials, not only from bureaucrats, but also from a great number of distinguished citizens, many of them experts in their fields. If we are democrats and not bureaucrats, we will amend the distribution machinery in accordance with the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee.

The Committee acknowledged that the preponderance of official opinions was clearly in favour of retaining the present marginal allowance of one-fifth. However, in paragraph 346 of its report, the committe said -

Undoubtedly, it would be easier to apply a onefifth margin than to work within the limits of a one-tenth marginal allowance from quota. Nevertheless, the committee is satisfied that the problems of applying a one-tenth margin are quite manageable.

If the Surveyors-General and electoral officers are competent and diligent, they can do this quite readily.

Mr Freeth - Being manageable does not make it desirable.

Mr WHITLAM - It was considered desirable, urgent and just by the twelve members whom this parliament appointed to consider the matter. This is not something which has to be dealt with jointly with all the other recommendations of the

Constitutional Review Committee. It is a completely severable matter. It is not a matter which requires a constitutional amendment; it is something which can be done by statutory amendment. We have this amendment before us now. The views of the twelve members of this Parliament who went into this matter thoroughly with all the experts, in a dispassionate manner, over very many sitting days should be respected. I am confident that the colleagues of the twelve persons who were on that committee will respect the conclusions to which they came after expert assistance and due deliberation.

Question put -

That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr.Whitlam's amendment) be so inserted.

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