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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2518


Mr HUNT(5.22) —While the National Party of Australia has many reservations about aspects of this legislation, it welcomes two very important policy decisions by the Government. These policy decisions are very important to the people whom we represent and to our Party. Firstly, we are pleased that the Government did not proceed to reduce the tolerance for electorate redistributions from 10 per cent to 5 per cent as was forecast by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) when he was Special Minister of State. It was in accordance with the Australian Labor Party's former policy. There are a number of submissions to the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform, particularly from the National Party, opposing that reduction. Secondly, we are pleased that the Government has abandoned the optional preferential concept for voting. This concept was a first step towards first past the post voting. As recent events have proved in the United Kingdom, it would make a mockery of an election system and it fails to give a real expression of the voters' intention. So I do hope that the Committee, in its deliberations, has put paid to that concept and to the views held by people who apparently have some attachment to the principle of first past the post, or a system that would ultimately lead to it.

This substantial piece of legislation is like the curate's egg. As the minority report indicates, neither I nor the National Party supports all the majority recommendations of the Joint Committee. Therefore, we support a substantial number of amendments, amendments that have been outlined in the House by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall). The National Party is strongly opposed to many of those provisons in the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill. However, I must say that a rewrite of the Electoral Act was long overdue. Indeed, the thrust of some of the amendments in this legislation was incorporated in a Bill which I presented to this Parliament as Minister for the Interior as far back as 1972. The legislation also takes into account much of the work undertaken by other Ministers in the Fraser Government who were responsible for the Electoral Act.

As a member of the Joint Committee, I can assure the House that the review of the Electoral Act was a massive task. I give full credit once again to the Chairman of that Committee, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), for his chairmanship; and to the Electoral Office for the advice, co-operation and the hours it gave to members of the Committee enabling it to make the effort that was necessary to get the report to Parliament early in September. It was a massive task indeed. There is no doubt a complete review and a complete rewrite of the Electoral Act were essential. I believe that members of the Joint Committee approached their task as co-operatively and as objectively as they could, against the background, constraints and policies of their respective parties. When consensus was possible, it was achieved on many issues. Notwithstanding this fact, the National Party supports a great number of the amendments that will be moved in Committee and will be referred to in the course of this debate.

I thought in the limited time available I should devote most of my attention to those policy areas to which my Party is very much opposed. Firstly, the National Party is absolutely opposed to direct public funding of political parties, groups and candidates. We believe that the principle infringes upon the very principles of the parliamentary democratic system. Direct government funding of political parties and disclosure of private donations to parties are forms of bureaucratic regulation that will ultimately lead to a form of nationalisation of the political party system. It places the party system at the mercy of governments and in the hands of the bureaucracy. I never thought I would see the day when this Parliament would agree to the virtual nationalisation of the party system. I never thought I would see the day when we would place our party political system in the hands of bureaucratic regulators of the Public Service. This is precisely what public funding and disclosure do to the political system.

So often one hears the complaint that political parties when in government will implement only those of its policies that are acceptable to the chain of bureaucrats that give advice to the governments of the day. We hear that said time and again outside and we are hearing it now about the Hawke Labor Government, particularly from those people who voted Labor in the last election. If that perception is around, this legislation takes the polical system a step further. It makes the political party system a victim of bureaucratic regulation . In any event, surely it is presumptuous to require taxpayers to provide additional money directly to help politicians to get elected to office. Public funding, which means funding by taxpayers, large and small, whether they want to or not, will not strengthen the democratic system; it will weaken it. It will lead to even more cynicism about our political and parliamentary system. No political party or political cause should be able to force its greedy hands into the pockets of the taxpayers to survive. Surely if a political party has the right policies it should have moral and financial public support. No political party worth its salt should have to force its hands into the public till or into the taxpayers' pockets.

I am proud of the National Party's self-help approach in New South Wales. We have over 50,000 subscribing members to our Party in this State and 80 per cent of our funds come from party membership. That is how all political parties in this country should operate. This is how a political party should survive. If a political party cannot sustain its membership and live on its financial support and the financial support of its membership, it should not have recourse to direct taxpayer support.

I do not support the Labor Party's claim that public funding will strengthen the democratic process. It will ultimately lead to a loss of party membership, voluntary contributions and effort and a falling off of grass roots involvement in the political processes. Is that what we really want in our political system? In time it will lead to further demands by political parties, propped up by public funding for election campaign purposes and further demands for funds for day to day administration. I do not think for a moment the public funding of political parties will stop where it began. I am not impressed by the argument that because Denmark does it we should do it. Public funding will divorce parties from their rank and file, the people who should provide the mainspring for commitment to worthwhile policy objectives. Without rank and file support, parties will be encouraged simply to seek to attract votes and will lack any deep commitment to worthwhile policy objectives consistent with the aspirations of the people.

If people think there is expediency in politics today, they should wait until this legislation becomes law and parties grow fat on public funding. When public funding is guaranteed, ruling cliques are likely to evolve, independent of party membeship and aspirations, and their contributions will be able to manipulate party policy, candidate preselections and the parliamentary members. The cost of electioneering these days, as the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) claimed , is high. But why should the public be asked to pay the cost? I firmly believe that too much money is allowed to be spent on the national electronic media. How often do honourable members hear members of the public saying that they are fed up to the teeth with the television advertising that goes on during election campaigns? Why should their taxes go to finance those sorts of advertising programs? No doubt, public funding will mean many more of them. One wonders whether they should be prohibited. Indeed, in the United Kingdom television advertisements for electioneering as we know them are not permissible. Yet we are here debating public funding. The Minister in his second reading speech stated:

The cost of electioneering these days . . . would have been unthinkable to the politicians of, say 1949 . . .

Why are they unthinkable? They are unthinkable because of the high cost of television advertising and television production costs. Yet the Labor Party does not address itself to the reasons for the greatly accelerated cost of electioneering. It simply goes to the public till in characteristic fashion to make the taxpayer pay for these unthinkable costs.


Mr Lusher —Snouts in the trough.


Mr HUNT —That is a good expression. The Labor Party concerns itself with its obsession that public funding should replace the so-called 'big donor' who is supposedly giving a donation for a corrupt reason. It does not concern itself with the reasons for the high costs of electioneering or the likely damage public funding can do to the political system and the consequent diminution of the influence and importance of the rank and file membership. The Labor Party presumes to be worried by the undue influence of private or corporate donations to parties. Yet the Party admits that it is the recipient of a great number of them. It does not accept that its pecuniary affiliation with trade unions is morally wrong. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most incredible inconsistencies in the present political scene.

Surely, it is morally wrong for a party that purports to be a national party concerned with the national interest to be affiliated financially with a sectional group. The incestuous relationship between the Labor Party and the trade union movement is morally wrong, indeed improper, in this day and age. Why should non-Labor trade union voters pay a levy to the Australian Labor Party? How can the ALP claim to represent the national interest when it is financially bound to the sectional demands of the trade union movement? My party was also affiliated with farmers' associations until the 1940s. But fortunately, it decided to break this incestuous financial affiliation so that the party could broaden its base and sphere of interest and concern. It was the best thing that the former Country Party ever did. Indeed, there should be a law preventing national political parties from having a pecuniary relationship with any sectional organisation, if we are serious about untoward influences of political donations or financial contributions.

If the ALP is concerned about donations and the influence they may have on political parties, it should be consistent and break its pecuniary affiliation with the trade union movement. It should not accept such donations from the trade union movement as the one it received from the Australian Teachers Federation.


Mr Howard —Some $750,000.


Mr HUNT —It received $750,000. It served to achieve the destruction of the bipartisan support for state aid in this country. That is what that $750,000 did . That is what that pecuniary affiliation with the trade union movement has achieved. The National Party is also opposed to disclosure because of the expensive and complex bureaucratic processes that will be required to make it work. I do not believe any system will effectively stop those who seek to avoid disclosure. It will not stop those groups in the community who wish to support a party and its policy from doing so and avoiding the disclosure processes.

Disclosure can also lead to intimidation and retaliation by unscrupulous people , groups and associations in the community. As a consequence, it will undoubtedly lead to fewer donations being made to political parties because of a fear by some that, if they support one party, they will have to support the lot, and support them equally, or run the risk of overt or covert intimidation. Indeed, this could be the very motive of the ALP. I see disclosure as an intrusion into people's civil liberties and privacy. There are some who value dearly the right to the secret ballot. Indeed, it is law. Yet here we are forcing people by law to disclose to the world at large donations over a certain limit.

Having made the National Party's views known on these two major issues, I say that the Party believes that, if the Government makes public funding and disclosure the law, it has no alternative but to abide by that law. To do otherwise would place National Party candidates, organisations and members at a disadvantage compared with other parties and their supporters. Therefore, if the Labor Party is determined to introduce public funding, the Party accepts the fact that it cannot and will not give the Labor Party a multimillion dollar election advantage. The principle is wrong. But if Labor enforces its principles by law, we will accept our share of public funding.

There are other areas of concern to me and the National Party-I will not have time to deal with them all-such as the provision to allow ordinary voting within a division. I am firmly opposed-and the Party is firmly opposed-to the decision by the Government to permit such voting, which we believe will result in greater attempts by people to achieve multiple votes and therefore it will encourage electoral abuse. In a large rural electorate, an elector can travel large distances and cast an ordinary vote more than once with very little likelihood of recognition under the provision that the Government has made in this legislation.


Dr Klugman —How often does it happen? We got evidence on it, didn't we? It does not happen at all.


Mr HUNT —It has not happened yet, but the Government is opening the floodgates for it to happen, because an ordinary vote loses its identity once the vote is in the ballot box. Postal, absentee and section votes are subject to scrutiny before the ballot paper is lodged. Needless to say, this restraint has helped to minimise abuse of the electoral system. I am also opposed to the provision that does not require the distribution commissioners to submit their redistribution proposals to the Parliament for comment and debate before finalising their determinations. There should be an obligation upon the commissioners to report their proposals to this Parliament, for there to be an opportunity for debate, and for the commissioners to take note of the views of this Parliament. They are , after all, subject to the laws and the provisions that are the product of this Parliament.

I am also concerned that the Government has adopted the majority recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform to close polling booths at 6 p .m. This will definitely be of disadvantage to 8 per cent of the Australian voters, many of whom live in country areas, and have to travel great distances to attend sporting functions, cricket matches or whatever, which at times do not end until 6 o'clock. It will be a matter of great inconvenience to many people in country areas, apart from those people who have religious convictions that prevent them from voting until after 6 o'clock. I am pleased that sensible changes have been made to facilitate the benefit of postal voting for people in remote areas. The mobile booths will be of great value to many disadvantaged people entitled to vote.

The honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) covered some other areas of concern to the Opposition parties, but the National Party applauds the restoration of 'area' as a factor to be taken into account by commissioners when drawing electoral boundaries. Unfortunately the 'area' provision was removed from the 1977 redistribution and replaced by the so-called 5,000 square kilometres provision which did nothing to prevent rural electorates from becoming larger and larger not only in area but also in population. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library which sets out the voter population of each electorate as at 4 February.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Percentage

deviation Area

Net from State (Km2)

enrolment average (approx.)

New South Wales

Banks 72,190 -4.43 47 Barton 67,422 -10.74 85 Bennelong 71,296 -5.61 51 Berowra 72,088 -4.56 300 Blaxland 72,482 -4.04 55 Bradfield 72,751 -3.69 90 Calare 72,590 -3.90 R 24,219 Chifley 79,725 +5.54 117 Cook 74,433 -1.46 74 Cowper 84,291 +11.59 R 20,069 Cunningham 79,568 +5.34 234 Dundas 71,411 -5.46 49 Eden-Monaro 78,902 +4.45 R 41,582 Farrer 74,468 -1.42 R 29,213 Grayndler 66,174 -12.40 28 Gwydir 73,111 -3.21 R 242,672 Hughes 80,211 +6.19 712 Hume 70,456 -6.73 R 52,969 Hunter 84,728 +12.17 1,947 Kingsford-Smith 70,261 -6.98 61 Lowe 69,553 -7.92 46 Lyne 84,287 +11.58 R 15,366 Macarthur 85,821 +13.61 R 8,432 Mackellar 71,093 -5.88 213 Macquarie 93,387 +23.63 1,839 Mitchell 89, 494 +18.48 2,621 Newcastle 70,446 -6.74 158 New England 70,683 -6.43 R 41,094 North Sydney 68,117 -9.82 33 Parramatta 73,929 -2.13 51 Paterson 73,110 -3.21 R 48,923 Phillip 66,933 -11.39 17 Prospect 82,219 +8.85 426 Reid 67,978 -10. 01 61 Richmond 85,388 +13.04 R 13,702 Riverina 71,959 -4.74 R 251,777 Robertson 89,385 +18.33 R 935 St. George 69,834 -7.55 31 Shortland 83,161 +10.09 414 Sydney 68,792 -8.93 72 Warringah 67,413 -10.75 47 Wentworth 65,495 -13.29 23 Werriwa 91,001 +20.47 672

State total 3,248,036 801,527 State average 75,536

Av. 13 rural electorates = 77,676 2.8% above.

30 metropolitan electorates = 74,608 1.23% below.

Australian Electoral Office.

Victoria

Balaclava 67,774 -10.43 33 Ballarat 71,525 -5.47 R 7,500 Batman 71,588 -5.39 50 Bendigo 73,632 -2.69 R 15,160 Bruce 79,528 +5.11 64 Burke 81,342 +7.50 2, 580 Casey 79,990 +5.72 1,410 Chisholm 72,808 -3.77 42 Corangamite 73,209 -3. 24 R 14,170 Corio 75,850 +0.25 745 Deakin 84,763 +12.03 64 Diamond Valley 82, 699 +9.30 131 Flinders 85,855 +13.47 1,510 Gellibrand 73,485 -2.88 64 Gippsland 73,294 -3.13 R 38,400 Henty 70,829 -6.39 36 Higgins 68,403 -9.60 32 Holt 88,590 +17.08 732 Hotham 81,542 +7.76 75 Indi 71,282 -5.79 R 30,050 Isaacs 74,915 -0.99 75 Kooyong 69,310 -8.40 41 Lalor 88,273 +16.66 817 La Trobe 81,113 +7.20 435 McMillan 74,797 -1.15 R 8,035 Mallee 68,650 -9.27 R 57 ,720 Maribyrnong 78,601 +3.88 345 Melbourne 68,094 -10.00 49 Melbourne Ports 68,528 -9.43 37 Murray 72,000 -4.84 R 16,035 Scullin 82,680 +9.27 609 Wannon 68,474 -9.50 R 31,225 Wills 73,481 -2.89 36

State total 1,496,904 228,307 State average 75,664

74,100 Quota

Australian Electoral Office.

9 x Rural seats 5% under quota.

24 x Metropolitan 1.87% above quota.

24 Metropolitan seats 77,085 electors (av).

Total 1,850,041 electors.

9 x Rural 646,870 electors, (av) 71,874.

Queensland

Bowman 82,242 +6.09 600 Brisbane 69,067 -10.90 50 Capricornia 72,538 -6.43 R 25,000 Darling Downs 74,468 -3.94 R 8,350 Dawson 77,757 +0.31 R 67,850 Fadden 100,856 +30.10 4,320 Fisher 100,109 +29.14 R 7,150 Griffith 64,500 -16.79 260 Herbert 78,481 -1.24 R 8,400 Kennedy 64,728 -16.50 R 663,150 Leichhardt 74,964 -3.30 R 406,650 Lilley 66,459 -14.27 125 McPherson 95,553 +23.20 1,500 Maranoa 68,011 -12.27 R 517,400 Moreton 69,566 -10.26 60 Oxley 80,772 +4.20 R 2,575 Petrie 77,057 -0.60 140 Ryan 77,864 +0.45 270 Wide Bay 77,869 +0.45 R 14,150

State total 1,472,861 1,728,000 State average 77,519

South Australia

Adelaide 77,625 -3.07 66 Barker 78,827 -1.57R 55,600 Bonython 87,050 +8.70 439 Boothby 82,134 +2.56 550 Grey 74,884 -6.49R 890,584 Hawker 76,610 -4.34R 47 Hindmarsh 79,700 -0.48 67 Kingston 85,565 +6.84 380 Port Adelaide 79,381 -0 .88 210 Sturt 80,987 +1.13 237 Wakefield 78,173 -2.39R 36,220

State total 880,936 984,400 State average 80,085

South Australia- 4 rural seats 308,494 = 77,123 = 3.7%-

7 metropolitan seats 572,442 = 81,777 = 2.1%+

Queensland- 10 rural electorates av. 0.95% below.

9 metropolitan electorates av. 0.78% above.

9 Metropolitan seats 703,164 = av. 78,129.

10 Rural seats 769,697 = av. 76,970.

Australian Electoral Office.

Western Australia

Canning 80,329 +10.79 2,103 Curtin 63,832 -11.96 86 Forrest 70,637 - 2.58 R 41,934 Fremantle 74,663 + 2.97 297 Kalgoorlie 72,808 + 0.42 R 2,285,072 Moore 85,065 +17.32 17,918 O'Connor 65,854 - 9.18 R 177,683 Perth 68,988 - 4.85 66 Stirling 70,938 - 2.16 79 Swan 68,090 - 6.09 125 Tangney 76,377 + 5.34 137

State total 797,581 2,525,500 State average 72,507

3 Rural = 209,299 = 69,766 av. = 3.78-below

Tasmania

Bass 57,027 + 0.94 7,720 Braddon 54,231 - 4.01 21,632 Denison 55,839 - 1.16 233 Franklin 58,395 + 3.37 6,402 Wilmot 56,975 + 0.85 34,160

State total 282,467 70,147 State average 56,493

Total all States 9,178,785 6,337,881

A.C.T. and Northern Territory

Canberra 68,917 + 0.37 1,919 Fraser 68,407 - 0.37 510

Territory total 137,324 2,429 Territory average 68,662

Northern Territory 57,471 1,347,524

Total Australia 9,373,580 7,687,834

Australian Electoral Office.


Mr HUNT —In New South Wales the State average enrolment was 75,536 as at 4 February. Rural electorates averaged 77,327 electors. In fact, it is an extraordinary state of affairs that the rural electorates in New South Wales have larger average voting populations than the metropolitan electorates. Also, the National Party seats have the highest average elector populations in New South Wales. The National Party remains very much opposed to public funding disclosure and the other matters to which I have referred.