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Tuesday, 23 November 1965

Mr IAN ALLAN (Gwydir) .- The object of this Bill, as stated by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), is to make possible better representation in this place. I think we should consider what constitutes better representation. Will an increase in the number of members in this House add to the liberty of the individual in the community? Will it serve to enhance the security and prosperity of Australia? Or will it, as the Prime Minister himself hinted, simply serve to reduce the work load on members of Parliament? I do not believe that the Bill will achieve any of these ends. It is quite well established that Parliament can be maintained effectively in a country where an intelligent vote is cast by the electors. This occurs only in conditions where the processes of Parliament are understood by the people and where those processes actually enter into the day to day lives of the people. So I do not believe that merely increasing the number of members of this House will add to the liberty of the individual in Australia.

So far as increasing our prosperity and national security is concerned, I find that the Bill does not add to our present situation. Our population is concentrated in the capital cities of the States, and predominantly in Sydney and Melbourne. The effect of this Bill would be to allow a greater representation to be provided by those capital cities. Since Australia is growing rapidly, a greater representation from the cities would not serve the cause of decentralisation; it would not serve to bring about further centres of growth in the community. In fact, it would inhibit the establishment of further centres of growth in this vast continent. Nor do I agree that the provisions of the Bill would reduce the work load of members of Parliament. Anyone who is prepared to look at the situation fairly knows that a member who serves an electorate that is large in terms of numbers has less work to do than has a member who serves an electorate that is large in terms of area. People in the widely scattered areas are more sensitive to the presence or absence of their parliamentary representative than are people who live in dense congregations. This is an observable fact that may be verified by anyone. Merely increasing the number of members from our swollen cities will not serve to alleviate one iota the present burden of work on members of this House.

Is there anything good that can be said about this Bill? I believe there is. This. Bill brings to notice for the first time in many years the needs of Parliament; and the type of parliament the public needs at this stage in Australia's progress. I hope that when this Bill and the wider subject of the Parliament itself are considered, members of the public will appreciate what I have just been saying. I hope that the people will appreciate that we must have new centres of growth in the Commonwealth if we are to make a great and glorious Australia. We will have these new centres of growth only if we have new States. So we should do nothing in the Commonwealth sphere to inhibit or prejudice the establishment of new States. In fact, since we are parliamentarians and vitally concerned with the success and welfare of the parliamentary process, we should do everything we can to encourage the establishment of new States.

It is - and here I agree with the Government - a matter primarily for the States to hold referendums to test public opinion as to the desirability of new States. At the same time it is up to us to do what we can to welcome their establishment and facilitate their admission into the Federation. It is only through new States, I repeat, that we will achieve true decentralisation, lead industry away from the concentrated areas in which it is located at present, and establish new centres of growth. I trust that in all the public discussions that will follow the passage of this Bill - I am sure it will be passed - people will realise that the true wish of every Australian who believes in the development of this continent and who believes that this heritage we have should be passed on to our children in a better shape than that in which we found it, will be fulfilled only if we are game enough and prepared to get away from the original settlements of Sydney and Melbourne and the other capitals and establish new capital cities for new States in this Commonwealth.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill rend a second time.

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