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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8103


Mr LINDSAY (8:30 PM) —I reckon I have a fair dinkum grievance, and it is on behalf of my community in Townsville that I express to the House this particular grievance. From time to time the Australian Electoral Commission is required by this parliament to redistribute electorates around the country as numbers change. We have seen in New South Wales the population reducing. They have all been moving to Queensland, and that is not surprising. We have seen the population of Queensland grow and the population in New South Wales shrink. That has caused the AEC, as required by law, to rebalance the electorates so that throughout Australia electorates have a similar number of voters, plus or minus a tolerance.

In New South Wales they have lost a seat. In Queensland we have gained a seat. But of course that has meant a redrawing of boundaries, and there has been a terrible outcome for Townsville. Townsville is Australia’s largest tropical city. It is the capital city of Northern Australia, effectively. But what we have now is one of our premier suburbs having their federal member, under the proposed redistribution, located 400 kilometres away. It is like, if you were in Kenmore or Chapel Hill in the seat of Ryan in Brisbane, your federal member being in Gladstone. That would never be allowed, but it is now proposed under what the AEC is suggesting in the draft redistribution for Queensland.

Looking at the overarching problem, in the last parliament there was a redistribution in Queensland as well, where we gained the seat of Flynn. What is happening is that seats are being pushed further north. Let me tell you how that has affected seats in Queensland. In the seat of Capricornia my colleague Kirsten Livermore now finds that, on the southern boundary of her seat in Rockhampton, her local community in fact is not in Capricornia but Flynn, because Flynn has been moved north. She has lost local Rockhampton communities like Mount Morgan and Gracemere. Flynn is 10 kilometres from the GPO of Rockhampton, so that seat has come north into Rockhampton. That is unfair for the member for Capricornia, the people of Rockhampton and their community of interest.

That has caused the flow-on whereby Capricornia has pushed into the southern areas of Mackay in the seat of Dawson. So we now find that Sarina and Mirani, for example, whose community of interest is with Mackay, are now in the seat of Capricornia, and the federal member is in Rockhampton. That has caused the flow-on whereby the seat of Dawson, based on Mackay, now comes right into Townsville, where the community of interest is with Townsville, not Mackay—but their federal member is in Mackay. That is wrong. That has to be sorted out. That is why my community is very angry. I have copies of hundreds of individual objections that have gone to the AEC. I ask the AEC and their Redistribution Committee to look at what has happened in the northern part of the state. There are many reasons why it is not appropriate to have the premier suburb of Townsville in the electorate of Dawson, with afederal member 400 kilometres away.

In the report on the draft redistribution the AEC said:

We have included Lavarack Barracks in Townsville in the seat of Herbert because there is an affinity and a community of interest between the soldiers and the garrison city of Townsville.

Dead right—there is. But there are more soldiers and their families living in the suburb of Annandale, which has been excluded from Herbert, than at Lavarack Barracks. How bizarre is that! That is just wrong. And there are other things that are wrong. For example, the people of Annandale, who are being excluded from Herbert and put into Dawson, do not receive the news from Mackay—they do not see the newspapers, they do not see the television, they cannot hear the radio—so they do not know what their proposed federal member stands for and what is being discussed. They are not interested in Mackay issues; they are interested in Townsville issues. But the AEC is suggesting that they should be in Mackay. That is wrong. There are no economic ties between Townsville and Mackay. Mackay is coal, sugar and some tourism; it is basically coal and sugar. But there is no coal and sugar in Townsville. The economic issues in Townsville, the capital city of North Queensland, are much different from the economic issues in Mackay. So on the grounds of economic issues, this does not stack up.

In terms of regional interests, Townsville is the communications centre for North Queensland. We deal with everything west of Townsville and out to the border. It is only 800 kilometres out to Mount Isa, but that is what we deal with. Mackay has no interest in that, and the federal member in Mackay has no interest in that. Moreover, there is no community of interest between Ayr and Townsville in the sense that the state member for that particular area is in Ayr, not Townsville. Recently the two councils in Townsville—Thuringowa City Council and Townsville City Council—were amalgamated by the state government. The reason they were amalgamated was to bring the community of interest together. But we now have the AEC pulling that apart, and that is wrong.

I note that, when the draft boundaries were released, the member for Dawson indicated that he would not be establishing an office in the northern part of the electorate. As members of parliament, we understand why: he is not funded for that. I certainly understand that, but how does a pensioner in Annandale or Townsville get to see their federal member with an 800 kilometre round trip? How does that happen? The answer is: it does not. The residents of Annandale have effectively been disenfranchised. That is dead wrong; it really is wrong.

I guess Annandale has no community of interest with Mackay; the community interest is with Herbert. I happen to live in Annandale. My federal member will be 400 kilometres away. Where I live, in the new seat of Dawson, is two kilometres from my electorate office. In fact, it is two minutes and 45 seconds away by car. How bizarre is that! I will not be able to represent myself because I will not be in my electorate! I am hoping that common sense will prevail. When the electorate became aware of what was proposed—and I certainly helped them to understand that—there was a lot of emotion. Often constituents do not understand the formal processes. They do not understand how to deal with something like this; they just get angry. I understand that. If I were a constituent, I would feel that way, too. With the many hundreds of objections that will come from constituents and the formal objection that will come from my office, and understanding the legislative requirements of the AEC, I am hoping that the AEC will take note of this and common sense will prevail—because it must. We cannot allow this situation, right along the Queensland coast, to go the way it has gone. I appeal to the AEC commissioners to redress this particular issue.