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Wednesday, 9 March 1966


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for the Interior) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide that as from the date of Che first sitting of the next Parliament the member representing the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives shall have the same voting rights as other members of this House. It will be recalled that the Australian Capital Territory has been represented in the House of Representatives since the beginning of the Nineteenth Parliament although, as members are well aware, the voting powers of the member for the Australian Capital Territory have been strictly limited. Broadly speaking, he is entitled to vote only on a proposed law which relates solely to the Territory, on a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance of the Territory, on an amendment to such a motion, on a motion for the disallowance of a regulation under an ordinance or on a motion for the disallowance of a modification or variation of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra. Over the yearsthere have been many requests that the member for the Australian Capital Territory be given full voting rights, but the Government has held firmly to the principle that this could be considered only when the enrolment for the Territory approached the average enrolment of the electoral divisions.

When the first member was elected to represent the Australian Capital Territory, the number of electors for the Territory was approximately 11,800 and most people would agree that there could be no justification for the granting of full voting rights to the member until the number of electors for the Territory approximated the average enrolment for the States. Although that stage has not yet been reached, the number of electors enrolled for the Australian Capital Territory was 43,401 at the end of January last. At that time, the average enrolment for the electoral divisions, excluding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, was 49,236. It is expected that the Australian Capital Territory enrolment will reach 47,000 by the end of this year. The population of the Australian Capital Territory at 30th June last was 88,571 and will be approximately 100,000 by 31st December next. In the normal course, several months will elapse before the next House of Representatives election but the Government believes that this legislation should be put on the statute book without delay so that the people of the Australian Capital Territory, being aware of the Government's intentions, will appreciate fully the important responsibility vested in them in choosing their future parliamentary representative.

I know that there are many members in Parliament who feci that if the member for the Australian Capital Territory is given full voting rights, then a similar right should be given to the member for the Northern Territory. However. I would again emphasise that we are only giving this voting right to the member for the Australian Capital Territory because it conforms with the principle that we have always adopted. That is that the right should be given only when the enrolment for a territory approaches the electoral quota. The population of the Northern Territory as at 30th June 1965 was 34,803 plus about 20,000 Aborigines, while the number of electors enrolled for the Territory was 17,565 as at the end of January this year. I should, however, like to inform the House that it is the intention of the Government to re-examine the question of the voting rights of the member for the Northern Territory when the size of the Parliament has been determined after the proposed referendum has been held to break the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate. This referendum is intended early in the life of the next Parliament. I feel that the Bill will receive the ready support of all parties and I commend it to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. J. R. Fraser) adjourned.







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