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
Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 502


Mr DALY (Grayndler) - Minister for Services and Property) (8.4) - 1 move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Free elections are basic to a democratic society. But free elections by themselves are not enough - the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation. If the electoral laws do not result in the Government desired by the majority - if they are manipulated to reflect the political interest of persons or parties - it would be a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process. The Government, mindful of its mandate and responsibility, is determined to ensure that the Australian electoral laws embrace those fundamental principles of human rights and democracy in this nation. With this objective in mind, on 1st April 1971, I stated in this Parliament:

The fact of the mailer is that the Commonwealth Electoral Act is outdated and outmoded. This applies not onlyto the actual drafting of the Act. but also to many of its provisions. To amend it completely both for Senate and House of Representatives elections is a major undertaking. On the election of a Labor Government next year, immediate steps will be takento redraft the Electoral Act to meet the changing needs of our time and to bring it into line with what has been found necessary in other fields of national legislation.

And now it's time. It's time for action. Already I have introduced on behalf of the Government a Bill to provide for the reduction of the age for voting and candidature to 18 years. A comprehensive review of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is being undertaken at the present time and further legislation covering many other important proposals, including additional representation for the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory will be submitted to the House later this year. I am hopeful that they will be passed into law before the next elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. A notable feature of the Liberal-Country Party Government's term was its reluctance to debate electoral legislation. On 31st March 1971 the Country Party Minister forthe Interior introduced a Bill covering amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act but. like so much else initiated by the then Government it was never debated and withered on the vine. On 1st April 1971 I introduced an Electoral Bill on behalf of the then Opposition providing for certain important reforms. The debate was adjourned and it also disappeared with the dissolution of the Parliament. The reason was obvious. At that time the Queensland Parliament was debating proposals for the redistribution of State electorates introduced by the Country Party Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, which was described by the Liberal Party State President, Mr E. Robinson now the honourable member for McPherson, as 'electoral injustice at Country Party insistence' and by others as the 'worst gerrymander the world has ever seen'. With a State election pending and Liberal and Country Party members at each other's throats, the State Parliament in turmoil, discussion of electoral legislation had to be suppressed at all costs.

The result of the census on 30th June 1971 established that Western Australia is entitled to another seat in the House of Representatives, making a total of 10 seats. This matter was repeatedly brought to the notice of the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who was then Leader of the Opposition, but nothing was done by the previous Government. Nor was the general practice followed of having a redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries following a census. The Western Australian situation therefore makes a redistribution not only necessary but urgent and, if the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act relating to distributions are to be changed, appropriate legislation must be submitted urgently to the Parliament. The proposals in this Bill are therefore introduced in order to allow the redistribution in Western Australia to proceed with the maximum speed, as, generally speaking, the formalities take about 28 to 31 weeks. Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the House to incorporate a timetable prepared for me by the Chief Electoral Officer.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 

 

 

 


Mr DALY - In accordance with the usual practice, following the taking of the census, it is proposed to proceed with a redistribution in all States to remove the malapportionment of electorates for the House of Representatives. From reports it would appear that the Country Party is fearful of what changes the Government might make to the redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act but I will relieve their anxiety by informing the House that in fact the changes will be minimal. The title of the Bill, namely 'A Bill for an Act - Relating to the distribution of States into Electoral Divisions' - clearly indicates its limitations. The Bill changes only sections 19 and 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is intended to retain all the other provisions of Part III (sections 15 to 25) relating to the appointment of Commissioners, displaying of maps, submissions, comments, objections, etc., the majority of which were inserted by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965.

We believe in open government - let me repeat that for disbelievers; we believe in open government - and it is an indication of the Government's desire to be fair, open, just and reasonable in the important field of electoral reform and redistribution. We seek only to introduce and perpetuate, as far as possible, the principle of 'one vote one value' and to ensure that the result will reflect the opinion of the majority. These principles are enshrined in the platform of the Australian Labor Party and our intentions were published for all to see before the last elections.

The purpose of this Bill is to bring down legislation which will establish equality of representation as the paramount objective in redistribution of a State into electoral divisions. It is therefore proposed firstly to reduce the permissible variation from the quota specified in section 19 (1) from onefifth to one-tenth, which is a reduction from 20 per cent to 10 per cent; secondly to revise the factors in section 19 (2) to which the Distribution Commissioners are required to give due consideration by deleting the references to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of the division, and the area of the division; and, thirdly, to vary section 25 (2) (b) to provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever in one fourth of the divisions of a State the number of electors differs from the quota by one-tenth - 10 per cent in lieu of 20 per cent.

Exact equality in the number of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable. Some degree of variation from the quota or average must be allowed. At the same time, equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic State and these rights must be indisputably safeguarded by the legislature. To this end we intend to amend the law so that, as far as may be practicable, the value of the vote of one citizen shall be equivalent to the vote of another. Do honourable members opposite object to that? The existing law allows Distribution Commissioners to depart from the quota of electors by 20 per cent either way and it is a simple mathematical fact that this margin, in application, allows a division to have up to 50 per cent more electors than another division in the same State.

In 1965 the Liberal-Country Party coalition amended section 19 and added certain factors to give a distinct weighting to country electorates. I refer particularly to such things as 'the area of the division', 'the density and sparsity of population' and the 'reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance'. As a result of the insertion of these factors the Commissioners were obliged to depart from the quota of electors to a much greater extent than hitherto. Some of the examples of the departure from the quota, which ranged from 16.08 per cent above to 18.65 per cent below are as follows:

Division:

Darling - 18.65 per cent below the quota.

Grayndler - 14.01 per cent above the quota.

Brisbane - 15.44 per cent above the quota.

Griffith - 16.08 per cent above the quota.

Kennedy - 17.95 per cent below the quota.

Kalgoorlie - 18.65 per cent below the quota.

Swan - 15.76 per cent above the quota.

A law which permits such variations is not good enough for this country. If equality of representation means anything at all we must not tie the Commissioners' hands to the area of divisions and the like.

The redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which, until 1965 - remember this, those in the Country Party who criticise - had stood virtually unchanged since Federation were altered in such a way that the principle of substantial equality of representation between electoral divisions was almost eliminated. In general, the 1965 amendments diluted the value of the vote in metropolitan areas and weighted it in favour of rural areas. Equality of voting power became a secondary consideration. The Labor Party strongly opposed the 1965 amendments. We never accepted them as providing a proper basis for redistribution, nor do we accept the proposition that the relative value of a person's vote should depend upon his geographical location.

It is proposed to revert largely to the factors which applied prior to 1965 and restore the emphasis to the quota by repealing the references to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density of sparsity of population and the area of the division. The redistribution provisions are set out in Part III of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918- 1966. They are contained in section 15 to 25 inclusive. For the benefit of honourable members I seek leave to incorporate those provisions in Hansard.


Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Part III of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918- 1966 (Redistribution Provisions)

PART III- ELECTORAL DIVISIONS

15.   Each State shall be distributed into Electoral Divisions equal in number to the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State, and one Member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen for each Division. 16. (1) For the purpose of the distribution of a State into Divisions in accordance with this Act the Governor-General may appoint 3 Distribution Commissioners, of whom one shall be the Chief Electoral Officer or an Officer having similar qualifications, and, if his services are obtainable, one shall be the Surveyor-General of the State or an officer having similar qualifications.

(2)   The Governor-General may appoint one of the Distribution Commissioners to be Chairman.

(3)   The Distribution Commissioners shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.

17.   At all meetings of the Distribution Commissioners the Chairman, if present, shall preside, and in his absence the Distribution Commissioners present shall appoint one of their number to preside, and at all such meetings 2 Commissioners shall be a quorum and shall have full power to act, and in the event of an equality of votes the Chairman or presiding Commissioner shall have a casting vote in addition to his original vote.

18.   For the purposes of this Act the Chief Electoral Officer shall, whenever necessary, ascertain a quota for each State as follows:

The whole number of electors in each State, as nearly as can be ascertained, shall be divided by the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State. 18a. (1) The Distribution Commissioners shall, by advertisement published in the Gazette -

(a)   invite suggestions in writing to be lodged with the Commissioners, within 30 days after the date of advertisement, relating to the distribution of the State into Divisions; and

(b)   invite comments in writing to be lodged with the Commissioners, within 14 days after the expiration of the period referred to in the last preceding paragraph, relating to any suggestions received by the Commissioners in pursuance of that paragraph.

(2)   Immediately after the expiration of the period referred to in paragraph (a) of the last preceding sub-section, the Distribution Commissioners shall make available for perusal at the office of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State copies of any suggestions lodged with the Commissioners in pursuance of that paragraph.

(3)   The Distribution Commissioners shall consider any suggestions and comments lodged with them in pursuance of sub-section (1) of this section before carrying out the functions referred to in the next succeeding section. 19. (1) In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall so determine the proposed Divisions that each Division contains a number of electors not exceeding, or falling short of, the quota of electors by more than one-fifth of the quota.

(2)   For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to-

(a)   community of interests within the Division, including economic, social and regional interests;

(b)   means of communication and travel within the Division, with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance;

(c)   the trend of population changes within the State;

(d)   the density or sparsity of population of the Division;

(e)   the area of the division;

(f)   the physical features of the Division; and

(g)   existing boundaries of Divisions and Subdivisions.

20.   Before reporting on the distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall -

(a)   cause a map with a description of the boundaries of each proposed Division to be exhibited at post offices in the proposed Division and invite public attention to that map by advertisement in the Gazette; and

(b)   make available for perusal al the office of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State copies of any comments lodged with the Commissioners in pursuance of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of section 18 A of this Act.

21.   Suggestions or objections in writing may be lodged with the Distribution Commissioners not later than 30 days after the advertisement referred to in the last preceding section, and the Commissioners shall consider all suggestions and objections so lodged before making their report.

22.   Except as provided by section 18 A of this Act or by the last preceding section, a person shall not, by writing sent to a Distribution Commissioner, or by words spoken to or in the presence of a Distribution Commissioner, seek to influence the Commissioner in the performance of his duties under this Act.

23.   The Distribution Commissioners shall, immediately after the expiration of the period of 30 days referred to in section 21 of this Act, forward to the Minister their report upon the distribution of the State into Divisions, the number of electors residing in each proposed Division, as nearly as can be ascertained, a map signed by the Commissioners showing the boundaries of each proposed Division, and copies of the suggestions, comments or objections (if any) lodged with the Commissioners in pursuance of section 18a or 21 of this Act. 23a. A copy of the report and map, and of the suggestions, comments or objections (if any) shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within 5 sitting days of that House after the receipt of the report by, the Minister. 24. (1) If both Houses of the Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution the Governor-General may by proclamation declare the names and boundaries of the Divisions, and such Divisions shall until altered be the Electoral Divisions for the State in which they are situated:

Provided that, until the next ensuing dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives, the redistribution shall not affect the election of a new member to fill a vacancy happening in the House of Representatives; but, for the purposes of any such election the Electoral Division as theretofore existing, and the Rolls in respect of those Divisions, shall continue to have full force and effect, notwithstanding that new Rolls for the new Divisions have been prepared.

(2)   If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribulion, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Distribution Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the State into Divisions.

(3)   The Distribution Commissioners shall thereupon reconsider the matter, and forthwith propose a fresh distribution, but for that purpose it shall not be necessary to cause the action provided by section 20 of this Act to be taken. 25. (1) A redistribution of any, State into Divisions shall be made in the manner hereinbefore provided whenever directed by the Governor-General by proclamation.

(2)   Such proclamation may be made:

(a)   whenever an alteration is made in the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the State: and

(b)   whenever in one-fourth of the Divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from a quota ascertained in the manner provided in this Part to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less: and

(c)   at such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit.


Mr DALY - Section 19 was altered quite substantially in 1965 and I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of that section as it existed prior to the 1965 amendments.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as existing prior to the 1965 amendments -

19.   In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -

(a)   Community or diversity of interest,

(b)   Means of communication,

(c)   Physical features.

(d)   Existing boundaries of Division* and Subdivisions,

(e)   State Electoral boundaries: and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.


Mr DALY - The factors to which the Dis.tribulion Commissioners are required to give due consideration in determining proposed divisions have been revised by deleting certain factors which the Liberal-Country Party coalition added in 1965 in order to weight the vote in favour of country electorates. The amendment to section 25 (2) (b) is a natura) flow-on from the reduction in the permissible variation from the quota.

One of the main objectives of a redistribution is to restore substantial equality of rep resentation within a State where the population movement has caused imbalance in a significant number of divisions and this Bill is designed to achieve that objective. The 1965 amendments inserted by the Country Party transferred the emphasis from the quota to the factors. The changes proposed by this Bill will give some meaning to the principle of one vote one value' without unnecessarily restricting the Distribution Commissioners in application of the factors when effecting redistribution. Why should the law permit one division to have 69,000 electors and another division only 46,400? This may well happen under a further redistribution as the average number of electors per division is approximately 58,000.

The Australian Labor Party's platform providing that in electorates 'the number of people should be as nearly as practicable the same' is not a new development. Section 24 of the Constitution requires the number of members in the several States to be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. The Constitution thus ensures equitable representation of the people in the House of Representatives, State by State. Applying similar constitutional provisions, the United States Supreme Court has, for the last 9 years and more, declared any form of malapportionment within a State to be unconstitutional. We should not accept regional discrimination for or against particular regions within States arty more than the Constitution allows us to accept discrimination as between States. Honourable members will know of very great variations in the numbers of people in the different electoral divisions represented here. For example, Aborigines, migrants and electors with young children are not uniformly dispersed throughout the various regions.

Although the principle should be to base representation on numbers of people and not on numbers of electors there are practical problems in the way. Because everyone entitled to vote must enrol, precise details are always available of the number of electors in a particular area. On the other hand, the population of an area, other than a State as a whole, can be known only after a census has been taken. There must also be some delay between the taking of a census and the publication of the results. By way of illustration I invite honourable members to consider the position if a redistribution were to be held now on the basis of population. The only figures available would be those of the last census - in this case 30th June 1971, nearly 2 years out of date. It is not at present possible to obtain reliable estimates of population in particular areas. Electoral redistribution procedures, taking as their starting point the Statistician's estimates of the numbers of people in particular areas, can perhaps be devised. The Government has this matter under very close examination. The present Bill, however, does not include any proposal to change the basis of representation from numbers of electors to numbers of people.

In the light of criticism by those who say that a law which has been in so long should not be changed, let me say that in 1965 the redistribution provisions of the Electoral Act, which until then had stood in some cases totally unchanged since 1902, were amended by the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government in such a way that the principle of substantial equality of representation between electoral divisions was almost eliminated. In reply to those who say this clause, that has stood so long, should not be changed I would point out to them that on 31st March 1971, the then Minister for the Interior, the Country Party member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) introduced a Bill embodying certain changes which had stood since 1902. It is clear that the Country Party believes that it is good enough for them to change certain laws after 65 years but not good enough for the Labor Party to change them after 70 years. If it subscribes to this view, it is no wonder it is still seeking to manipulate electoral boundaries.

I now turn, in more detail, to the reasons why this legislation must be passed. The Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965 made some very significant changes to section 19 of the Electoral Act - which, as I stated, had remained unchanged practically since Federation - In regard to matters to be considered in the distribution of a State into electoral Divisions. Country Party pressure on the Liberal Party was once more irresistable Thereafter Commissioners were required to give legality and respectability to a degree of rural gerrymander formerly unknown at the Commonwealth level. It made it mandatory for the Commissioners to give due consideration to the new criteria set out in the amendments including - I repeat them - the following:

(a)   Community of interests within the division, including economic, social and regional interests;

(b)   Means of communication and travel within the division, with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance;

(c)   The trend of population changes within the State;

(d)   The density or sparsity of population of the division;

(e)   The area of the division;

(f)   The physical features of the division; and

(g)   Existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions.

In fact, when the former Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Right Honourable Sir John McEwen, spoke in the House on this important matter he left no doubt as to what was intended - that country electorates were to be loaded against city electorates. I quote Sir John McEwen, uncrowned king of the Labor Party- (Honourable members interjecting.)


Mr DALY - I quote Sir John McEwen, the uncrowned king of the Country Party. I say something like that now and again to see whether the Country Party is still awake. I repeat this statement from Sir John McEwen, the uncrowned king of the Country Party:

There is in this measure a provision which I say unashamedly I hope will operate to bring out more tolerance towards the permitting of a smaller number of electors in the gigantic, remote and difficult electorates.

In other words he was on his horse of gerrymander. I ask honourable members to listen to what the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959 described as a form of gerrymandering. I quote from the report:

One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.

Thus the 1965 amendments were completely contrary to the 1959 views of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Some Liberal members rebelled against the proposal. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), a very distinguished and able member of this Parliament whose talents have not been recognised, was one critic in the debate. He is reported in Hansard, as early as 30th October 1964, at page 2576 as saying:

I am entirely in favour of the principle of one vote one value, and, when the relevant Bill comes before this House in the next sessional period I shall support that principle with my voice and with my vote. There can never be any doubt about that.

It was one of the finest speeches he has ever made. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on 25th May 1965 also expressed his support of the view of the honourable member for Bradfield in relation to a 10 per cent disparity from the quota.

The 1968 redistribution of electorates starkly revealed the effect of these changes and the disparities in electorate population and voting power. The provisions are in truth the complete negation of the principle of one vote one value. I quote now just a few examples of the 1968 Liberal-Country Party redistribution. Under the 1968 redistribution the New South Wales division with the smallest number of electors - not population - was Darling with 42,955. The division with the largest number was Grayndler - my own seat - with 60,205, a difference of 17,250 electors or 40.16 per cent more than Darling. Ignoring Darling, which could really be disregarded as being somewhat exceptional, the division with the smallest number of electors was Riverina with 45,637 electors. Thus, the division of Grayndler had 14,568 more electors than Riverina - that is 31.92 per cent more. Similarly, the Victorian division of Mallee had 45,218 electors and the division of Wills had 58,213- a difference of 12,995 electors or 28.74 per cent more. In Queensland, the division of Kennedy had 41,609 electors and the division of Griffith 58,868 - a difference of 17,259 electors or 41.48 per cent more.

Time does not permit me to quote further. However, I seek the leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment as at the 1968 redistribution and the population as at the 1966 census.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 

 


Mr DALY - I thank the House. A significant factor of the 1968 redistribution was the disparity between the electors enrolled and the population of the divisions concerned as revealed by the 1966 census. For instance, in New South Wales they varied between 45.15 per cent in the electorate of Werriwa and 65.48 per cent in Barton. There are some striking examples of electors and population disparities under the 1968 redistribution. The seat of Sydney, which is your seat, Mr Speaker, had 59,967 and a population of 126,430 compared with 45,751 electors and a population of 79,730 in the division of Lyne, a Country Party seat. In other words, Sydney had 14,216 more electors and 46,700 more people than the Lyne electorate. Similar examples of this disparity are available in every State. This is a clear indication of under-representation in city electorates.

Similar disparities are evident in respect of the 1971 census. For example, the percentage of enrolment to population as at the 30th June 1971 was 43.25 per cent in respect of Werriwa and 66.13 per cent in respect of Barton. For the information of the House I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement showing the enrolment and the population as at the date of the last census, 30th June 1971, including the enrolment as at 26th January 1973.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

 

 

 


Mr DALY - I thank the House. The disparity has magnified. The census of 30th June 1971 shows that Werriwa had 61,658 electors and a population of 142,568, while Lyne had 48,321 electors and a population of 80,475; and Mitchell, with 64,429 electors and 127,287 population, as opposed to, say, Gwydir with 48,737 electors and a population of 91,606. In Victoria, Diamond Valley had 65,196 electors and a population of 130,039, as opposed to Wannon with electors of 48,171 and 83,606 population. In Queensland- no State was exempt - Kennedy had 44,417 electors and a population of 96,289 as compared with Petrie with 61,266 electors and 114,918 population.

In South Australia, Bonython had 60,630 electors and a population of 128,497 as opposed to Wakefield with electors 44,972 and population of 77,195. Stirling in Western Australia had 64,317 electors and a population of 129,782 as opposed to Curtin with 54,413 electors and a population of 94,491. These, stated somewhat hurriedly, are glaring examples of inequality of electorates and representation.

The Labor Party is mindful of the difficulties of representation of electorates, both city and country, more so than any other party because we are truly a national Party - the largest single Party in the Parliament and the nation. It is interesting to note that of the designated country seats in the Parliament, the Australian Labor Party holds 22, the Liberal Party 12 and the Country Party 20. In other words, we are the largest country Party in the Parliament. Furthermore, the Labor Party holds the largest electorate in Australia - Kalgoorlie - wilh an area of 897,815 square miles, lt holds the electorate with the largest enrolment - the Australian Capital Territory (electors 85,000 and the largest population of more than 162,000) represented by the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory, the Honourable Kep Enderby. This is a reasonable answer to those who say that the Labor Party does not appreciate the needs of a country electorate, lt has the confidence of the country people, as exemplified at the last election.

The Joint Committee of Constitutional Review in its recommendations endeavoured to safeguard the people against gerrymanders either by lapse of time or distortion of population. The Committee agreed on the principle of one vote one value and recommended that the quota should not vary more than onetenth either way. The Committee further proposed not merely an alteration to the Electoral Act but that the principle should be enshrined in the Constitution itself, that the permissible variation from the quota should be reduced to 10 per cent and that this should be written into the Constitution. The Parliamentary Labor Party and the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference in 1961 decided to support the Committee's recommendations. The Labor Party has consistently supported the principle of equality of representation in a Parliament and in 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1968 when electoral redistributions were under consideration, moved amendments for the variation to be reduced to 10 per cent and give effect to the Committee's findings of one vote one value.

Every worthwhile authority supports the case for one vote one value, and equality of electorates. The Supreme Court of the United States and the Constitutional Review Committee are just 2 that come to mind. Even the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia a few years ago came out in support of this principle, although I do not know whether it can be said that it is a responsible authority. I wish to quote the words of Chief Justice Warren in giving judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States of America when it ruled that electoral districts shall bc as nearly as equal as practicable. In his judgment he said:

Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests. To the extent that a citizen's right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen. The weight ot a citizen's vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives'.

Section 24 of the Constitution ensures that representation of the States in the House of Representatives shall be in proportion to their respective populations. Therefore, the vote of an elector in any one State shall be no more or no less valuable than the vote of an elector in any other State. This principle, enshrined in the Constitution, was destroyed by the Liberal-Country Party in 1965 by its amendments to section 19, making it possible for a vote of an elector in one division of a State to be as much as one and a half limes as valuable as the vote of an elector in another division in the same State.

All men in our society are adjudged to be equal before the law. Surely they should be equal in making the law. There can be no doubt whatever that a man is entitled to equal representation whether he lives in the city or the country. The city and the contry are not 2 hostile domains; they each depend on the other. The people in each are all Australians. The vote of one person, whatever his occupation or location, should be as good as the vote of another. There is no such term in the Electoral Act as country and metropolian electorates. Why then should this disparity exist? Perhaps it was designed to perpetuate -he type of gerrymandering which occurred in South Australia where at one stage there a as no redistribution for 25 years and some electorates - city and country - were 3 times as large as others.


Mr Holten - What about Queensland?


Mr DALY - In Queensland the monumental gerrymander inflicted on the State by the Country Party has removed every vestige of democracy from the people.

The Electoral Act - the mirror of a nation's democratic image before the world - is expected to proclaim equality and not privilege. These amendments provide an opportunity for this Parliament to assert the principle of equality in our democracy - to say whether people in the city are just as equal as the people in the country - not more, not less. Only those who believe in a selective form of democracy oppose the principle of equality of voting, and the election of governments by the majority. In Australia the Country Party comes within this category. The Liberal Party unfortunately in this Parliament puts expediency before principle for doubtful support from their strange political bedmates.

Why does the Country Party oppose these amendments? I will state it simply: It is an established fact that of all the political parties in Australia, the Country Party at both State and Federal levels has consistently exercised ruthless control of the machinery of Parliamentary elections, both Federal and State. This extract from Don Whitington's book 'Inside Canberra' provides the political answer:

The Country Party has never polled more than 10.9 per cent of the total vote at any House of Representatives election from 1949; yet it has invariably held anything from IS to 20 seats in a House of 124 and 6 portfolios in a Ministry of between 20 and 25. In short, while polling only 10 per cent of the public vote, it exercises a parliamentary vote of between 16 and 17 per cent and a Ministerial influence of more than 20 per cent.

To bring the Country Party right up to date I state that at the 1972 elections the Country Party polled 9.44 per cent of the votes, won 20 seats and has 16 per cent voting strength in the House. In this situation, why would it not want gerrymanders? This is a totally different story to the elections of 1954 when the Australian Labor Party polled 50.03 per cent against the combined Liberal-Country Party vote of 47.07 per cent and yet was defeated. In 1961 the Labor Party polled 2,534,702 votes, or 46.76 per cent of the votes, and in 1969 polled 2,870,792 or 46.95 per cent of the votes. In these cases it was defeated at the polls, although it had a clear majority over the combined totals of the present Opposition. If Labor had followed the same pattern as Country Party it would have needed only 20 per cent of the vote to win.

The Country Party has a vested interest in a policy of giving country voters a greater voice in the Government and the Parliament than their numbers warrant. They will sup port this policy - undemocratic and biased as it is - for on it depends their survival individually and as a party. Opposition members, particularly members of the Country Party, have a guilty conscience in regard to the Electoral Act. That is why reforms have been rare and legislation has been left undebated. They have fought tooth and nail against any reforms designed to maintain democratic elections in Australian Parliaments. Who will ever forget the events in the Queensland Parliament last year when the Liberal Party and Country Party were torn asunder and were at each other's throats because of the Country Party's proposals to perpetuate the greatest gerrymander of all time in the State Parliament. In fact, even the Liberal Party could not stomach it and 8 members crossed the floor. Yet they will put up with almost anything.

The bitterness apparent when its citadel of power was invaded and the determination of the Country Party to cling to office on its unprincipled scheme of electoral gerrymandering was revealed by the shameful events in the Queensland Parliament at that time. If honourable members want examples of this I shall be pleased to read a few of them.

I turn to Queensland, this bastion of selected democracy where the Country Party reigns; where redistribution of boundaries has been the scorn of the Party since 1958; where it is possible for the Labor Party to gain 46.75 per cent of the votes, more than the combined votes of the Liberal and Country parties (42.23 per cent) and to win only 33 seats as against 47 for the Government parties. In that State the Country Party, with the lowest total vote - the lowest percentage of the votes (20 per cent) - won 26 seats to the Liberal Party's 21 with 22.23 per cent of votes, against 33 by Labor with 46.75 per cent of total votes cast. The Country Party which polled a minority of votes, and a minority of the percentage of the votes, holds the Premiership of the State of Queensland. What a gerrymander and what a mockery of democracy! Electorates must be equal and there can be no justification in the eyes of any fair-minded person to load country electorates simply to maintain Country Party representation in this Parliament or any other parliament.

This Bill underlines the Government's belief that a person's vote is of equal value no matter where he lives or whatever his occupation. All men should be equal in making the law as before the law. Electoral laws should provide equality, not privilege. These are the basic principles of this legislation. It gives to those who sit in this Parliament the opportunity to say whether they believe in these democratic principles and the equal rights of all electors, or whether they stand for manipulation of the Electoral Act to retain governments of their political colour irrespective of the vote of the Australian people.

This Act, if members of the Country Party who are interjejcting will be silent for the fleeting remainder of my speech, is a challenge to those who sit opposite to stand up and be counted on the fundamental democratic principle of one vote one value and majority rule. This is the basis on which this legislation stands - nothing more, nothing less. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.







Suggest corrections