Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 491

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It gives me great pleasure to join in this debate and to oppose clause 7 as strongly as I can. It has been very touching to be mentioned so often in the debate tonight. Following the last election, it was my privilege to move from one small compact electoral division, the division of Wentworth, on the basis that it was less than well represented, into another small compact division, the division of Grayndler, there to give representation to the electors. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who has just resumed his seat, argues for the representation of what are sometimes called non-numerical factors in the Parliament. As my friend the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) interjected, that means effectively the representation of sheep, babbling brooks and mountain peaks. I am reminded very much of what was said by my predecessor, Mr Fred Daly, that only sheep would ever vote for a Country Party candidate.

Mr King - They pull the wool over your eyes.

Mr KATTER (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) - No wonder there is no Labor held country seat.

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am delighted to have these interjections because they serve to underline the most important thing that we are sent her to do, and that is to represent people, not inanimate objects, not the products about which Country Party members may know something. We never hear a Country Party member in this place talking about the problems of rural health, about which the Hospitals and Health Services Commission established by the Labor Government brings down reports. We never hear them talk about those sorts of issues. The Parliament exists to serve people, and if one looks at the Constitution, it provides that this House, the House of Representatives, is to represent people, not simply electors. There are a great many people resident in Australia who, because they do not come from countries which confer British nationality or Irish citizenship, have not had the opportunity to register to vote in this country as soon as they might. I represent one of those divisions, and the vast bulk of my constituency work is concerned with representing the very great needs of persons who have come from overseas to make new lives in this country for themselves and their children.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-I wonder if the honourable member would tie his remarks to clause 7.

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will endeavour to do that. Clause 7 is the most infamous clause in this wretched Bill. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) will be more embarrassed about clause 1 1, because no decent lawyer could support that piece of legislation, but in principle clause 7 is the one that is most objectionable. It seeks to override the very fair provisions of the existing section 19 of the Electoral Act. Section 19 of the Electoral Act lays down very fair considerations to which the Distribution Commissioners have regard when they draw up new electoral divisions. It talks about community of interests, including economic, social and regional interests. It talks about means of communication. It does not talk about means of communication as meaning that people are to be compensated because the distances they travel are much greater. That is a job for the Remuneration Tribunal, and as every member on this side of the House has made clear, we support in every way giving every piece of extra assistance that is necessary to assist those people who represent physically large electorates. Most of them are represented brilliantly in this House by Labor members of Parliament- by the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), by the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick).

Mr Corbett - That is two out of forty-seven.

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) -We are talking about the representation of people and people's needs. I make no apology for standing here and saying that I choose to be an urban dweller. That does not make me in any way superior to people who live in the country but it does not make me in any way inferior. I do not for one moment propose that we should be regarded as having a vote that ought to be worth less than the votes of rural dwellers. If members are presented with problems in representing these electorates in terms of the facilities that ought to be made available, then let us finance them. Let us give them extra staff assistance, let us give them greater electoral allowances, as we have done, and in some cases more staff.

Mr Cohen - Travel allowances.

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Yes, and greater travel entitlements. Those sorts of things are proper compensation, but no single member can get up here and argue that that is a democratic principle. When this measure was debated in the Senate last night one of the more fearlessly honest members of the conservative parties, Senator Wood, said that he did not believe in democracy, he believed that we ought to have tribunes who stand up in the Parliament and represent industries or production figures or something like that. He was being honest. Why do not the conservative members in this House do the same thing and stand and say that they do not believe that people ought to be represented here, because that belief is quite apparent.

One of the most extraordinary things is the idea that in some way electors represent the sum total of people's problems. In my own electorate a huge number of persons are not citizens. They are not eligible to register and to vote. Statistics are very hard to come by, and the Government does not possess any statistics on this question after 1971. It is very hard to find them, and I am indebted here to the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), who had a question on this matter answered the other day. The answer shows that there are tens of thousands of people in inner city electorates who are not electors. They place a considerable strain -

Mr Baillieu - Get on to the clause.

Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) -One of the advantages that I have in this House is being able to understand every piece of legislation on which I speak. In that respect I have an advantage over the honourable member for La Trobe from whom I have never heard an interjection nor a single substantive speech in which he has exhibited the slightest understanding of the matter about which he is speaking. His own colleagues realise that and realise what a clown he is. Proposed new section 19 concerns matters to be considered in a distribution in a State. The factors that I think the distribution commissioners ought to have regard to are the needs of people and not the needs of inanimate objects which Country Party supporters and their stooges in the Liberal Party, like the honourable member for La Trobe, talk about.

I never thought I would come into this Parliament to talk about ears of barley corn or dead cows. I came to talk about the needs of human beings not all of whom, as I stressed, are yet citizens of this country, but many of whom want to become citizens and want their children to become citizens. Those children are educated under the migrant education programs- programs which honourable members opposite know nothing about and programs which they oppose at every turn. That is why this proposed new section 19 (2) that the Government seeks to insert into the Act is a most disgraceful section. It will in many ways, I believe, operate to the detriment of urban areas much more than the pre-existing 20 per cent tolerance did.

One. of the things the distribution commissioners have to have regard to is the trends in population. No honest Distribution Commissioner will be able to disregard the fact that the outer metropolitan seats in metropolitan areas expand in population very quickly between redistributions. They will therefore have to exercise a tolerance of 10 per cent below the quota for outer metropolitan seats. That means that the inner metropolitan seats, which will have to be larger because all country seats have to be smaller than outer metropolitan seats, will then have the tolerance exercised against them. So it will be the quota plus. This means that an already disgraceful position in which people are under-represented in the Parliament- people who have not yet had the chance to become citizens- will be exacerbated and their position will be that much worse. This will not operate in the electorate of Wentworth. The electorate of Wentworth has fewer people than the electorate of Grayndler. It is a much larger area. The reason for this is that it has more open space recreational areas and it has fewer people who have not yet become citizens.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections