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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2575


Mr WILSON(12.20) —by leave-I move:

(1) Clause 9, page 17, lines 23-25, omit proposed section 17, substitute the following section:

Representation of Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

'17. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory shall each be represented in the Senate either-

(a) by 2 senators for the Territory; or

(b) by that number of Senators as is ascertained by dividing by 2 the number of members determined to represent the Territory in the House of Representatives, and if on such division there is a remainder, the number of senators for the Territory shall be reduced to the nearest whole number,

whichever is the greater, and they shall be directly chosen by the people of the Territory voting as one electorate.'.

(2) Clause 9, page 19, proposed section 25, line 36, after 'of the several States' insert 'and of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory'.

(3) Clause 9, page 19, at the end of sub-section (1) of proposed section 25 add ', and, in accordance with sections 25C and 25D, the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory'.

(4) Clause 9, page 21, at the end of proposed section 25C add 'until determined to be otherwise by the Electoral Commissioner in the following manner:

(a) a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth, as ascertained in accordance with section 23, by twice the number of the senators for the States;

(b) the number of members to be chosen in the Australian Capital Territory shall be determined by dividing the number of people of the Territory, as ascertained in accordance with section 23, by the quota and, if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the Territory'.

(5) Clause 9, page 21, at the end of proposed section 25D add 'until determined to be otherwise by the Electoral Commissioner in the following manner:

(a) a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth, as ascertained in accordance with section 23, by twice the number of the senators for the States;

(b) the number of members to be chosen in the Northern Territory shall be determined by dividing the number of people of the Territory, as ascertained in accordance with section 23, by the quota and, if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the Territory'.

These five amendments are directed to the representation of the Territories both in this House and in the Senate. The matter of representation of the Territories in both houses of the Parliament has in the past been under challenge. I accept the fact that the High Court of Australia has found that the Parliament has the power to grant representation to the Territories both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. I am concerned, however, that on one interpretation of clauses 121 and 122 of the Constitution it would be possible for the Parliament to increase the representation of both Territories out of proportion to their populations. In relation to the rest of the Constitution, so far as the original States are concerned, the founding fathers were very concerned to ensure that there was a proper balance of representation. So far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the numbers for each State are allocated in accordance with population. Those formulas have been laid down in the Constitution, leaving to the Parliament certain discretions operating within the ambit of the requirements of the Constitution.

For a time there was some difficulty as to how fractions of quotas were to be allocated. These difficulties have now been overcome. The Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill covers the special problems that might arise if a State were quickly, because of population change, to become entitled to an additional member. As I pointed out last night during the second reading debate, the Government was very conscious of the problem that could arise in a particular State during a federal election. It addressed that problem, recognising the importance of ensuring proper representation in this place in accordance with population. So far as the Territories are concerned, all the Government has done in this legislation is to state that the Australian Capital Territory shall have two members in the House of Representatives, the Northern Territory shall have one, and each shall have two representatives in the Senate.

The Government seems to have ignored the fact that population changes are occurring in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. It is my view that as this Bill is such a major reform of the electoral legislation it should contain a clause which directs electoral commissioners as to the manner in which the representation from the Territories is to be changed from time to time. As is the case with the Constitution, representation in the House of Representatives should be in accordance with population. In relation to the clause relating to representation in this place insofar as it affects the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, it should be clearly laid down in this legislation that electoral commissioners are to grant the Australian Capital Territory an additional member if it qualifies for an additional member under the same quota provisions as are provided for in the case of the States.

It is my resolution that this Bill should contain a formula which directs the electoral commissioners to ascertain the quotas which apply to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and to allot seats to those Territories in accordance with those quotas. That would remove any doubt that it is the present intention of the Government and the Opposition that the representation in this place from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should expand or contract at the rate at which their populations vary in proportion with the rest of the population. I am surprised that the Government was not alive to this fact because given that it is proposing in some other legislation that we will debate next week that the size of the Parliament should be increased, the population of the Australian Capital Territory will be such that it may not be so many years before it will equal what will be three of the quotas applicable to the States.

I would like to see the requirement as to how membership from the Territories will be determined to be entrenched in the Constitution, and I will continue to pursue that through the Constitutional Convention. Given that we cannot vary the Constitution without going through the rather tortuous processes of the Constitutional Convention -matters must also be accepted by government and this Parliament and legislation passed so that a referendum can be held-I suggest to the Government that it accept a provision that would lay down the formulas under which additional representation in this House should be granted to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. I accept the fact that one Territory has two members and the other has one. I am not suggesting that there should be any reduction in their representation.

I feel the same way about the Senate. There is in the Constitution at present- although in the past there has been some debate about whether it should be changed-a nexus between the number of members in the Senate and the number of members in the House of Representatives. The number of members in the House of Representatives is as near as practical to twice the number of senators. That formula applies to senators from the original States. Territories should receive one additional senator for every two members that they are entitled to under a quota formula over and above four. In other words, the number of senators that the Territories now have is sufficient until such time as territorial representation in the House of Representatives rises to six. But for the similar reasons to those that I have advanced in the case of the House of Representatives, I think this Bill should lay down the basis upon which there can be additional representation from the Senate. I would like to see that written into the Constitution as well as the requirement that representatives from the Territories be chosen by the people. Our founding fathers did not put that in the Constitution. In fact representatives from the Territories have always been chosen by the people-this Bill requires that they be chosen by the people-but there should be constitutional guarantees that this should always be so. However, given that we cannot here in this chamber change the Constitution, at least as we are expressing it in the Bill, senators and members should be chosen by the people so we should lay down the formulas under which additional representation in this House and in the Senate should be established.

I hope that the Government will recognise that these amendments are intended to achieve clarity as to the manner in which the two Territories should be represented in this House. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the proposal. I would like to see it accept it because, as I have said, I believe it would be an earnest of its good faith and desire to ensure that the people are represented in the chambers of this Parliament in a manner which reflects the numbers of people throughout the Commonwealth. I do not want to place the Territories in a similar position to that of the original States that have a special guaranteed position with regard to the minimum numbers of senators and members. I do not think that should apply to the Territories, or the new States.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired .