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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2483

Senator BOSWELL(12.21) —I support the thrust of Senator Collard's arguments. I understand what the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform has tried to do but what has eventuated is that the third biggest electorate in area in Australia, Maranoa, has ended up with the most electors. So we have an electorate that I believe is three times the size of Victoria, with 71,000 electors, and one member to represent them all. I believe that everyone in this chamber would agree that the country members have so many more problems to face. For example, in Maranoa there are the problems of the kangaroo industry, communications, roads and mining. I could go on and on. The area that the member has to cover is so much greater than that which a member for, say, the metropolitan seat of Brisbane has to cover. It would probably be only five or six miles square. So in every democracy in the Western world there is a weightage.

I did not know that I would be speaking in this debate, so I have not been able to do any research and I am therefore relying on my memory, but there is an electorate in Great Britain called, I believe, the Western Isles, which has something like 20,000 people. I ask honourable senators to compare this to the inner London electorate-the name escapes me at the moment-with an enrolment of about 140,000 people. That situation does not apply only in Great Britain. It applies also in America and Canada-

Senator Robert Ray —Not in theory in America, it doesn't. It only applies in America where there is a redistribution every 10 years.

Senator Macklin —And in Britain different parties hold different seats. That is essentially the difference. Not one party holds all the seats.

Senator BOSWELL —Whoever holds the seats, that is up to the electors.

Senator Macklin —It is the way you draw your boundaries.

Senator BOSWELL —That may be the case in theory, but in point of fact it is the electors who represent the members. What has happened in this country, and I do not believe this was devised through the fault of anyone, is that the biggest electorate in Australia has the most number of people in it. That is why I support a tolerance of 10 per cent. I would have thought that a tolerance of 20 per cent would have been more reasonable. But we have now got to the stage where, to adjust that, the Government has gone back the other way and tried to develop electorates with equal numbers. In order to give equal representation, the Government has shrunk the size of the electorates. Instead of having 70,000 or 75,000 people in an electorate, the Government has shrunk their size back to 61,000, but to do that it has increased the number of members in the Parliament.

Senator Macklin —So have you.

Senator BOSWELL —I know, and I supported it because I had no alternative. If I had not supported it I would have been depriving the rural electors of Australia of representation. I was forced to do it. I did not want to support the legislation but I had no alternative, other than to disenfranchise rural electors in Australia. So I was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and I had to vote with the Australian Labor Party, which did not give me any great joy, I can assure honourable senators.

My point in this argument is that I do not want to see a system, such as that of the House of Commons, which has 500-odd members, most of whom are allowed to make a contribution to the Parliament only once a year, if they are lucky, and they may get to ask a question once every two years.

Senator Archer —It would be no good for Senator Vigor.

Senator BOSWELL —I do not know what would happen to Senator Vigor. He would get so frustrated and I do not know what he would do about it. Therefore I believe that if we do not want to continue reducing the size of the electors and increasing the number of parliamentarians in both Houses, we are going to have to go back to some form of weightage. Otherwise, every five years we will be wanting to increase the number of representatives in the Parliament to get equal representation.

Senator Robert Ray —You realise we have gone up by 23 seats since 1949? That is not a lot.

Senator BOSWELL —I am saying that in another five or 10 years, when we redistribute again to get equal value, we may have to increase the number of electorates again. That is what I am opposed to. I believe the only way out of that situation is to have some form of weightage, as is applied in every other democracy in the Western world. That is why I support the thrust of the amendments.