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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1097


Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - 1 was most intrigued when the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) said that he got very emotional about this matter of country representation and the need for more services to be provided to honourable members from country electorates. I was here all the time he was a Minister in the previous Government and for a long time before that but I never heard him put up any fight in this House for the sort of facilities he mentioned tonight. Now that he is in the Opposition he gets emotional about such matters.

I want to answer the attack on Tasmania that has been made by some honourable members from the Country Party and by several honourable members in the Liberal Party in this debate. In trying to support their very weak arguments they dragged into the debate the Tasmanian situation and asked: 'Where is the one vote one value principle in Tasmania on a comparison with the mainland States?' Let us look at the situation. Interestingly enough Tasmania was granted 5 seats in the House of Representatives at the beginning of the Federal Parliament, back in 1901, and it is written into the Constitution, at page 8 of the copy that I have:

Notwithstanding anything in section twenty-four, the number of members to be chosen in each State at the first election shall be as follows: -

 

Provided that if Western Australia is an Original State, . . .

It was eventually- the numbers shall be as follows: -

The numbers were revised, strange to say, when Western Australia came in -

 

So Tasmania started off from scratch with five and still has five 72 years later. In other words, if the representation for Tasmania had been worked out on the same basis as for the mainland, Tasmania might have had only 2 or 3 seats in the beginning. But in their wisdom the planners of our Constitution said that Tasmania should have 5, even though it did not deserve that number at that time. But what is the position in 19737 New South Wales had 26 members to start with in 1901 and today it has 43. Tasmania still has 5. Tasmania will not get 6 until it has another 20,000 or 30,000 voters, perhaps more than that. So when we look at the situation there can be no argument. The number of members for Tasmania was fixed by the Constitution at 5. Tasmania cannot have less than that and certainly will not get more for a long time yet. Possibly it will be not until well into the 1980s before Tasmania is entitled to one more member. In Tasmania the tolerance at present between the seat with the lowest number of electors and the seat with the highest number is only 2i per cent so I do not think there will be any redistribution in Tasmania on this occasion. The last time there was a redistribution I collected an extra 1,100 square miles of territory.

Another thing which the Constitution did for Tasmania was give it the same number of senators as it gave each of the other States and all States started off in 1901 with 6 senators each, a total of 36 senators for the whole of Australia. Today there are 10 senators from each State, 60 for the whole of Australia. Why was all this done? It was done to protect the little States from the octopus strength of the large States. Of the little States, Western Australia was one, South Australia another and Tasmania was the third. So Tasmania was entitled to the same number of senators as the mainland States. What chance would these 3 States have had if they had not been given equality with the other States?

I think the early planners of our Constitution did a magnificent job. I dread to think what would have happened had the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and a few other honourable members on the other side of the House had anything to do with it at that time. I am glad that he was born about 60 years after the Constitution was first brought into being. I am glad he was born; I am just glad that he was not born way back when he might have had something to do with the Constitution. He probably would have wiped Tasmania off the map altogether and would not have given it any decent representation. We have about 203,000 voters in 5 electorates in Tasmania at the moment. Of course, this is not worked out on an equal basis with the mainland. The average in Tasmania is about 40,000 people in each electorate. But it is quite wrong to drag Tasmania into the argument against this Bill because Tasmania had its number decided by the Constitution and that number will not be altered for many years.

The honourable member for Gwydir made a statement with which I thoroughly agreed. He said that in a Bill like this it is ridiculous to separate the country seats held by the Australian Country Party from the country seats held by the Liberal Party and the country seats held by the Labor Party. We all belong to the rural community of Australia. This old fight between city and country has been going on ever since I have been in this place, and it is one of the most meaningless fights I know of. The idea of this sort of legislation is to give equality to ail sections of the community as near as it can be physically done. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) made a very statesmanlike speech on this matter a while ago and 1 congratulate him on it, as 1 have congratulated him on all his speeches in this place. He is rapidly becoming one of the real fire-eaters on this side of the House. The honourable member represents a big city electorate but he also believes that we are fighting for justice on behalf of everybody, both in the city and in the country, and should not be trying to set one section of Australia against another, i know that beneath the benign exterior of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who introduced this Bill, he too agrees with me. Mountains have been made out of molehills in this Bil! by people with great imaginations, tremendous imaginations and unbridled enthusiasm for I do not think the dangers are present which they think are present. Whether this Bill gets through the other place or not-


Mr Malcolm Fraser - It will not.


Mr DUTHIE - Perhaps it will not, but if it does not we will go on with the redistributions throughout Australia just the same, because they have to be carried out as a result of the last census. The Government has put up an honest fight in presenting this Bill. It is our belief that the 10 per cent tolerance should be introduced. If this legislation is defeated the Government will have to take its defeat in the right spirit. This legislation has been democratically put before the Parliament and it will be democratically defeated or passed.

We should cease fighting about the difficulties involved in representing country and city electorates. The honourable member who represents a city electorate has the same type of work to do as the honourable member who represents a country electorate and he has to do it for very much the same type of people. Nobody can say that he is working in a different field to any other honourable member. I believe that in some cases an honourable member who represents a large city electorate of say 50,000 electors could work harder than I do and I have to work 75 hours a week to look after the 43,000 electors in my country electorate. Of course anyone who has a larger electorate would have to work harder. By 'larger' I do not necessarily mean larger in size but larger in population. All members of this Parliament work among the same type of people for the same objectives. This Bill is designed purely and simply to bring more justice to all citizens in electorates throughout the Commonwealth.







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