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, 11 November 1948


Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) (Acting Leader of the Opposition) . - It is necessary for me to speak on this bill because the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) might convey the impression that the Opposition is opposed to the measure. That, of <.-i>ii rae, is not, correct. The Opposition welcomes the bill. As a matter of fact, we shall try to make it a better bill, and r.u ensure that the member for the Aus.tralian Capital Territory shall enjoy more power than it is proposed to give liim. I do not think that we shall have much success in our efforts, but we shall try. I suggest that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) and the honorable member for Fremantle should get together in an attempt to reach a common understanding about Canberra. The honorable member for Fremantle said that Canberra was not a socialist city but that it was, in fact, con- trolled by monopolies, and he cited examples to prove his point. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may, of course, have his own reasons for expressing a different opinion, but he said that the conditions which existed in Canberra should be a warning against the disabilities which flowed from totalitarian governments. The two honorable members cannot both be right.


Mr Beazley - Is there any inconsistency between totalitarian government and monopoly?


Mr HARRISON - A socialist State is, by inference, a totalitarian State, because in a socialist State everything is controlled by the central government. The speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro came rather strangely from him because he is trusting that the selection committee may ultimately succeed in getting him the job as the nominated candidate. He reminds me of the maiden " who wouldn't and then who would ". He now finds that owing to the dispensation of providence and the Electoral Act he may be forced to take some other attitude with regard to Canberra than that which he had shown before. I shall have something more to say about that as I proceed. I repeat that the remarks made by the honorable member came rather strangely from a. member of the Labour party, who has signed a pledge to work for the socialization of production, distribution and exchange.


Mr Calwell - What has that to do with the bill?


Mr HARRISON - Only -this, that Canberra and the disabilities from which as a socialized city it suffers, is a warning to all of what may obtain under totalitarian government. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has signed a pledge to support socialism and now will have to protest against the things that socialism is likely to bring about. Honorable members generally can see therefore the horns of the dilemma on which the honorable member is poised. The honorable member alleged that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) had made a false statement. His first two phrases pointed to the honorable member as one who deals with veracity lightly. He said that the honorable member for Henty was reading a speech. All honorable members know full well that the honorable member for Henty did not read his speech.


Mr Conelan - He read only threequarters of it.


Mr HARRISON - The honorable member for Henty did not even do what other honorable members do with the approval of the Chair - refer to copious notes. The honorable member for EdenMonaro said that the honorable member for Henty's speech had been prepared by Mr. Ulrich Ellis. Both I and other honorable members know the honorable member for Henty well enough to know that because of his long experience and his interests in Canberra he was giving the House his own opinions. But when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro seeks to put his case to the selection committee any avenue that may lead to success is the right avenue for him. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) stated that the member who will represent the Australian Capital Territory will be of great assistance to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson). Although it has been supposed that, by proxy, all honorable members of this House are members for the Australian Capital Territory, the Minister has sat in the blissful peace of retirement on the treasury bench with scarcely a question directed to him about Canberra and, in fact, with scarcely any mention being made of the disabilities of Canberra. He has reposed in a sort of golden atmosphere on the front bench. I am afraid that that blissful state will be rudely shattered when the member for the Australian Capital Territory takes his place in this Parliament, because I can see that honorable member " needling " the Minister to a very great degree. I am interested in the bill itself because it sets out exactly what are the advantages that will accrue to the member who will represent the Australian Capital Territory and also the disabilities inherent in his representation of that electorate. It might be as well for us to consider those disabilities, because I suspect that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory will find himself in a similar position to the honorable member for the Northern Territory. He will find himself absolutely frustrated in giving expression to the views of the electors of the territory, or indeed in taking any active part in the machinery of government. We have only to look at the circumstances surrounding the electors in Canberra and compare them with those of other cities to obtain some idea of the disabilities that are likely to flow from the measure. I understand that at the time the last census was taken there were about 17,000 people listed in Canberra. The Minister informs me that that figure represents a voting strength of from 9,000 to 11,000. In the Northern Territory, where there is a similar get of circumstances and an elected representative who suffers under disabilities similar to those that T propose to enumerate shortly, there is a population of approximately 10,000 representing a voting strength of about 5.000 to 6,000. Those figures mean that the representation of the Northern Territory is entirely different from that to be provided for the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra has double the number of voters and approximately double the number of people that the Northern Territory has. Let us pursue this aspect further, because it is interesting to try to obtain some idea of the relative value of the vote of a resident of Canberra and that of a resident of Tasmania. In Tasmania, after the next general election for this Parliament, that State will have approximately fifteen parliamentary representatives including ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives. The number of electors in Tasmania to-day is approximately 158,000. A simple sum on the part of honorable members will show that Tasmania will have a representative, with full powers in this Parliament, for every 10,600 of its electors, whilst the Australian Capital Territory--


Mr Conelan - Tasmania will not have fifteen representatives in this chamber.


Mr HARRISON - I am speaking in terms of parliamentary representation. There will be ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives. Canberra, with 9,000 to 11.000 electors, will have a limited representation. It seems to me that the Government has not been at all generous in giving representation to Canberra. It should give the Australian Capital Territory representation in a much wider and more generous form, because if it believes in democracy it should wish to see exercised to the full the maximum democratic value of each individual vote. Let us look at the disabilities that the honorable member representing Canberra will suffer under in this House. Clause 5 (1) of the bill reads -

Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the member representing the Australian Capital Territory shall not be entitled to vote on any question arising in the House of Representatives.

Therefore, in the capital city of Australia, with a population of 17,000, and a voting strength of between 9,000 and 1.1,000, the people are to have no voice in matters of national importance, although in Tasmania every 10,600 of the electors will have an elected parliamentary representative and a voice in matters of national importance. Clause 5 (2) states -

The member representing the Australian

Capital Territory may vote on any motion for the disallowance of any Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory and on any amendment of any such motion.

That means that the parliamentary representative of the Australian Capital Territory will be nothing but a glorified cipher. The member for the Australian Capital Territory will not be able to vote on legislation other than ordinances of the Australian Capita] Territory.


Mr Johnson - The Acting Leader of the Opposition knows the constitutional difficulties which will prevent the member of the Australian Capital Territory from exercising a vote on legislation other than ordinances relating to the Australian Capital Territory.


Mr HARRISON - The Minister has explained the constitutional difficulties in. his second-reading speech, but this House has the power to grant to the member of the Australian Capital Territory at any time- the right to vote on all matters. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 reads -

The presence in the House of Representatives at any time of the member representing the Australian Capital Territory and the fact that he is a member of the House shall not be taken into account in determining whether at that time a sufficient number of members is present to constitute a meeting' of the House for the exercise of its powers. ,

That sub-clause provides further proof that the member for the Australian Capital Territory will be only a factotum and a mere cipher in this democracy. Sub-clause 4 states -

The member representing the Australian Capital Territory shall be incapable of being chosen to be the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees of the House of Representative. or to perform the duties of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees.

Some honorable members may consider that the member representing the Australian Capital Territory will not suffer any disability through being debarred from occupying any executive position in the House.. I cannot understand why that provision has been inserted in the bill, because the member representing the Australian Capital Territory will represent as many people as each of the ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives for Tasmania mil represent.


Mr Scully - The member foi" the Australian Capital Territory will be able to move the gag.


Mr HARRISON - I agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). I have spoken most feelingly about other limitations which will be placed on the powers of the member representing the Australian Capital Territory, and the honorable gentleman does well to remind me that the new member, although he will not be able to vote on legislation of national importance, will not be prevented from moving the gag. I. sincerely hope that, in future, an honorable member who has limited voting powers' in this- chamber will not exercise his right to move the gag. Subclause 5 reads -

The member representing the Australian Capital Territory shall not be. counted for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is an absolute majority in favour of any question in respect of which an absolute majority of either House or both Houses- of the Parliament is required under section fifty-seven or section one hundred and twenty-eight of the Constitution.

Although the member representing the Australian Capital Territory will give the citizens of Canberra and, incidentally, Jervis Bay,, a voice- in this House, he will be debarred from voting on matters of national importance. He may make interesting and valuable contributions to debates, but he will be prevented from supporting his views with a vote. Canberra is reaching maturity as a city. I have, emphasized that the ten senators and five members of the House of Representatives for Tasmania will represent approximately the same number of persons as will the member for the Australian Capital Territory.


Mr Conelan - Nothing of the sort.


Mr HARRISON - If the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) believes that the Senate is of no value to this parliamentary institution, he should state his views publicly. If he considers that the ten senators who will represent Tasmania after the next election will be of no value in the functioning of the parliamentary machine, he should be courageous enough to say so. The position is that ten senators and five members of the- House of Representatives will represent 158,000 people in Tasmania or approximately one representative to 10,000 electors. The representative of the Australian Capital Territory will represent between 9,000 and 11,000 persons, but he will be frustrated in that lie will be prevented from voting on any legislation other than ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory. I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro state clearly at long last where he stood.


Mr Fraser - I have always stated my position clearly.







Suggest corrections