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Wednesday, 3 May 1961


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (1:44 AM) . - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- " 3b. Section twenty-five of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - (1a.) Not more than ten years shall elapse between the making of one such proclamation and the making of the next following such proclamation.'; and

(b)   by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (2.) the word ' one-fifth ' (wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the word ' one-tenth'.".

This is an amendment to section 25, which enacts the circumstances in which redistribution of elecorates shall or may be made. The first half of the amendment provides that there must be a redistribution of electorates at least every ten years. The second half provides that there may be a redistribution when one-quarter of the divisions in any State differs from the quota by onetenth as distinct from one-fifth, for which the act at present provides. The arguments in favour of the second part of the amendment are the same as those for the amendment which has just been dismissed by the committee, and I do not add to them.

The arguments in respect of the first half, Sir, were dealt with by the Constitutional Review Committee. The two halves of this amendment are designed to incorporate in this statute the recommendations of that committee. The committee's recommendation on the decennial review is contained in paragraph 338 of its report, in these terms -

The Act does not, at present, require a review of electoral divisions at fixed periods, but it is important, in the Committee's view, if the objective of avoiding disproportion of numbers in the electoral divisions is to be achieved, that there should be some machinery requiring periodic review. Otherwise electoral divisions originally fixed in conformity with the requirements which the Committee has recommended could, over a period of years, become seriously out of adjustment and yet nothing be done about it. Under the Committee's proposal it would be necessary upon redistribution to bring all divisions within a one-tenth margin of the quota in a State at least once every ten years.

The gerrymander between country and city has been quoted by honorable members.


Mr Freeth - What gerrymander?


Mr WHITLAM - The gerrymander in South Australia. There has been no allegation of gerrymander in respect of federal distributions, but much reference has been made to the electoral gerrymander in South Australia flowing from the distortion between the city and country quotas in that State. One can find in the same State an instance of the gerrymander which can arise from sheer neglect to redistribute. For some twenty years there was no distribution in South Australia, and the distortion became just as marked within the one-third of city seats and the two-thirds of country seats as the distortion between the city electorates on the one hand and the country electorates on the other hand. There were city electorates which were three times as populous as other city electorates.


Mr Thompson - There were only 84,000 electors in my division.


Mr WHITLAM - Then they were more than three times as populous. The same position can arise within quite a short space of time with present population shifts occasioned by migrants and young couples settling in the outer suburbs of the State capitals. For example, in New South Wales at the next election the divisions of Mitchell and Hughes will each have the same population as the combined divisions of East Sydney and West Sydney. Already in Victoria the divisions of Bruce and Lalor each have at least twice the population of the electorates of Fawkner,, Isaacs, Melbourne,. Melbourne Ports, Scullin and Yarra. It is an affront to democracy that one member who represents more than twice as many electors as does another member should have the same vote in this place as that other member.

I realize that before the 1964 election there will probably be a distribution based on the census to be held on the last Thursday in next month. But there is no. guarantee under the act that there shall be periodic redistributions. There is an option to- redistribute whenever there is an alteration in the number of members of the House to be elected for each State, or whenever the- present margin of one-fifth is exceeded in one-quarter of the divisions, in any State, or at such other times as the Government thinks fit. That is, it is entirely up to the Government to decide when there will be a distribution. There should be some statutory prescription on this matter. We are dealing with the relevant act. We should make this amendment. It would ensure that such distortions did not continue indefinitely and it would be in keeping with the unanimous and strong recommendations of all members of the Constitutional Review Committee.







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