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Thursday, 24 February 1977

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am indebted to the honourable gentleman's interjections because, as I showed last week, he made 2 quite lively and helpful interjections when I was speaking on the referendum Bills. Now he has done so again. He just highlights the point I was making. As I said last night- at a time approaching midnight- we put through without debate the amendments to the Representation Act and the Census and Statistics Act because while they were not necessary to permit a distribution to proceed they were rational amendments. They were incontrovertible. We put them through forthwith so that the distribution could go forward straight away.

The present Bill is a very different proposition. It is not only not required by the Constitution or by the High Court, it in fact is seeking, as far as a government dares now in the light of these 2 recent High Court judgments on the Representation Act, to bypass or defer a proper form of distribution. To show the scandalous position into which the Parliament has been allowed to drift in terms of our distribution, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard 2 answers which I have received, one on 4 March last year giving the enrolment in every present division at the time of the general elections in 1969, 1972, 1974 and 1975, and an answer which I have received today from the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) giving the enrolment in each of those electorates as at 28 January. I seek leave to incorporate these 2 tables together because I am told that the processing of the answer which I have received today cannot be done in time for it to be incorporated in today 's Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted?

Mr Ellicott - Yes. The Leader of the Opposition assures me, I understand, that what he produces is a copy of what came from Senator Withers.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. I certainly give that assurance.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - As there is no objection, leave is granted.

The tables read as follows-



Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will be observed from these answers which the Minister has given me that the enrolment in New South Wales divisions varies between 90 276 for the division of Mitchell and 47 970 for Darling; in Victoria between 94 580 for Burke and 50 331 for Wimmera; in Queensland between 108 830 for McPherson and 46 644 for Maranoa; in South Australia between 91208 for Bonython and 51 671 for Wakefield; and in Western Australia between 82 684 for Moore and 57 496 for Kalgoorlie. I do not draw attention to the Tasmanian figures because, as honourable members will appreciate, under the Constitution Tasmania, being an original State, is entitled to a minimum number of 5 divisions even if its population would not entitle it to that number. Accordingly, Tasmania is the most evenly distributed of all the States. Western Australia is more evenly distributed than the States other than Tasmania, because it was distributed in 1974 when my Government proposed that it should have the number of divisions to which the 1971 census had shown it was entitled.

Whilst we expedited the 2 Bills to amend the Representation Act and the Census and Statistics Act, we oppose this Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The amendments being made by this Bill are designed to distort and frustrate the amendments which were made to the principal Act at a Joint Sitting of the Parliament in July 1974 after the double dissolution of April 1974. This was one of the Bills which was the occasion for the double dissolution. This and the Medibank legislation were put through at the Joint Sitting.

The amendments which are being made now are essentially twofold. First, it is proposed that the divisions in a State should be separated into large divisions, that is divisions having an area of 5000 square kilometres or more, and small divisions, that is divisions having an area of less than 5000 square kilometres.

Mr Lusher - A very proper division.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is proposed that no large division should have a larger enrolment than the smallest enrolment in any of the small divisions. This has some charm for simple souls such as the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), who interjected. The proposition I put, the proposition that the people accepted at the election in May 1974 and the proposition that the Parliament accepted in July 1974, was that all electors should be much more equal than they had previously been regarded and, in particular, that the permissible divergence from the quota, from the average enrolment for the divisions in any State, should not exceed 10 per cent above or below the quota. That was in substitution for the earlier provision that the divergence should not be more than 20 per cent above or below the quota. As everybody knows, during the last election campaign no member of the Liberal or National Country Parties proposed that there should be any reversion to the 20 per cent divergence. Everybody silently accepted the 10 per cent.

That was not a novel proposition. It was a proposition which had been recommended to the Parliament in 1958 and again in 1959 by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review composed, as I pointed out on the referendum Bills last week, of equal numbers of members from the then government, the Liberal and Country Parties, and the then Opposition, the Labor Party. There were 6 members of the Labor Party, 4 members of the Liberal Party and 2 members of the Country Party. There were 8 members of this House and 4 senators. They all agreed, including the experienced members of the Country Party, Mr Drummond and Mr Hamilton, nearly 20 years ago that the proper thing and certainly the feasible thing was to have a distribution of our electorates so that there should never be a divergence of more than 10 per cent above or below the quota in any State.

A requirement is now being inserted in the guidelines for distributing the divisions in any State to ensure that the smallest enrolment in any small electorate will be larger than the largest enrolment in any large electorate. The minimum enrolment for a small electorate will be the maximum enrolment for any large electorate in the same State.

Mr Lusher -They could be the same.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -They certainly could be the same. It is true that they could be the same but the guidelines, the criteria laid down for distributing a State into divisions include the requirement that the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, among other things, to the trend of population changes within the State. That has been a provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act for decades and decades- I think from the time of the First World War- and it seems a very reasonable provision. It would mean that if one expects a certain number of years to elapse between one distribution in a State and the next distribution -

Mr DONALD CAMERON (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It has been there since 1965.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought it was in the Act even before 1965.I certainly notice from the side notes in the Act that section 19 of the Act was amended in 1965.I thought that some such thing was in the Act before that. At any rate, it was not Labor legislation. The requirement that the Commissioners should give due consideration to the trend of population changes within the State was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party Government. It was supported on that aspect by me when I was in opposition and by my colleagues. So it is something we are all agreed on. It means quite reasonably, one would think, that the Distribution Commissioners should try to see that the enrolment in any division which is bound to grow in its enrolment is as far below the quota at the time the distribution is made as the enrolment in that division would be expected to be above that quota at the time the next distribution would be made.

In Australia, as we know, the big population changes occur in the State capitals and sometimes in a few other coastal cities. Whether that is a healthy sign or not is a matter of debate. I tried to do something about that form of distribution of population by promoting Albury-Wodonga to see whether it was possible to have another large inland city in Australia. Nevertheless, the fact is that the increases in population and the increases in enrolment take place in the State capitals above all. They take place in what under this Bill are categorised as small divisions. But the catch is this: If in any of the States the Commissioners set a small enrolment in a small division in the expectation that the enrolment in that division will grow before the next distribution takes place, they are automatically setting a ceiling on the enrolment in any large division. We know that generally the large divisions as denned in this Bill, that is the ones with an area of 5000 square kilometres or more, are the ones which grow most slowly. That is the case in enrolment and that is the case in population as well. It is among the small divisions that the enrolment grows most rapidly and also the population grows more rapidly.

It will be noted that I draw a distinction between enrolment and population because the enrolment does not take into account Aboriginals, who do not have to enrol, and it does not of course take into account aliens, who cannot enrol. It is not easy to get the figure for Aboriginals because those figures are collected only at the census, and until the 1967 referendum was carried Aboriginals could not be counted in the census. It is a fact that Kalgoorlie, the largest electorate in Australia and perhaps in the world, does in fact have the largest population in Western Australia. It has perhaps the smallest enrolment but it has the largest population because it has most of the Aboriginals in that State and they do not have to enrol. Similarly, Kennedy and Leichhardt have larger populations than one would think because they are the other divisions in the States where there are an exceptional number of Aboriginals.

An interjector referred to the case of some of the city seats, and there one finds an exceptional number of aliens. One can get an idea of the number of aliens in a division before receiving the census results by looking at the number of people who are naturalised in it. Here I draw attention to an answer I was given on 28 May last by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) giving the number of certificates of citizenship granted in excess of 100 in the various local government areas in Australia. I will give those in New South Wales which had the largest number of certificates granted in 1975: Botany local government area 1200; Canterbury, 3183; Marrickville, 3390, and incidentally, that is in the electorate of Grayndler to which the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) drew attention; Randwick, 1291; Rockdale, 1110; Warringah, 1203; Wollongong, 1409. In Victoria there were no areas where as many as 1000 certificates were granted, but those which had 700 or more were Brunswick 702, Springvale 760, and Sunshine 761. Those over 600 were Broadmeadows 611, Footscray 667, Moorabbin 636, Northcote 667, Oakleigh 661, Prahran 609 and Preston 639. It will be seen that the greatest number of aliens, as shown by the number of people receiving certificates of naturalisation, is in what are called small divisions. They are in the capitals or in Newcastle and Wollongong and the cluster of local government areas around Geelong. So it is true that one must distinguish between population and enrolment in looking at electoral loads. I can certify that migrants, individually or as families create very much more electoral work than people who were born in this country. It may be that a conscientious member would find that Aborigines as individuals or families also present a greater work load than Australians of European ancestry or birth.

In electoral justice, one has to discard all such considerations of population movement, Aborigines and aliens. One must take notice solely of the enrolment. If the commissioners yield to the temptation to make allowance for anticipated population changes in electorates in Australia they will inevitably have an under-enrolment, an enrolment beneath the present quota, in a great number of small electorates. They will then be setting a ceiling on every large division of that State. That would not be an unacceptable situation.

Mr Lusher - It is not statistically possible either.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The statistical feasibility was shown very readily in the distributions which were proposed to the last Parliament. They have also been shown in the United States. The United States Supreme Court has been more adventurous than our High Court up to this stage. It has been possible in the United States, and the distribution proposed in the last Parliament showed that it was possible also in Australia, to have a distribution which had an almost identical number of people enrolled in every division. That is, every citizen was regarded as equal. That is the only way by which we can have a decent distribution under the Act as it stands or under this Bill if it is carried. But this attempt to divide divisions into large and small is designed to distort and frustrate the large measure of equality which was determined at the joint sitting in July 1974 at the behest of the people at the double dissolution election in May 1974.

The other provision to which the Opposition objects is that which says that if there is a distribution then normally there should not be another distribution for 7 years. Under Federal electoral provisions there has been for many years- I will stand correction on this but I believe it has always been the case- a requirement that there could be a distribution whenever in onefourth of the divisions of the State the number of electors differs from the quota to a greater extent than one-fifth, as it used to be, or one-tenth, as it now is; or by one-fifth less, as it used to be, or one-tenth less, as it now is. That has always been the case. Where the variation in enrolment has exceeded the permissible margin in a quarter of the electorates in a State then, the Act states, there may be a distribution. The inference is that there should be a distribution. What will happen now, we have been told in this Bill, is that where there has been a distribution of a State in divisions then there will not be another redistribution of that State by virtue of a quarter or more of the electorates diverging beyond the quota within a period of 7 years after that distribution. That means that there is a discouragement from having another distribution within 7 years.

It is true that in this Bill we can no longer saythe High Court has made it plain that we cannot say- that there should be at the end of a full Parliament an election for a number of divisions which is not sanctioned by the provisions of the Constitution. That is, in the ordinary life of a Parliament there has to be a distribution of a State where the Constitution shows that that State is entitled to more or fewer divisions than it had at the time that Parliament was elected. That cannot be frustrated now. The High Court will not allow it. But otherwise, if the number of divisions in the State is still correct, it will not matter if this Bill is passed how distorted the divisions in that State become. The normal thing, the encouragement, the criterion, would be that there would be no distributions more often than every 7 years. The fact is that in the mainland States we have long had the situation where more than a quarter of the divisions exceed the permissible margin. In the Estimates debate on 23 September last year I pointed out:

Of the present 45 divisions in New South Wales there are 20 divisions in which, to use the terms of the Act, the number of electors differs by more than one-tenth above or below the quota . . . In Victoria 19 of the 34 divisions differ too far. In Queensland 12 of the 18 divisions differ too far. In South Australia 4 of the 12 divisions differ too far. In Western Australia 3 of the 10 divisions differ too far.

Those differences in all cases except Western Australia had arisen in 7 years. The figures which I was given permission to incorporate in Hansard set out the enrolment in every division at the time of the first general election on the present distribution, that is, in October 1968. They give the figures which were provided today by the Minister as at 28 January this year. It will be noticed how much the divisions have got out of kilter in 7 years and that is what this Bill encourages. It says that as long as the number of divisions in a State is still the number required by the Constitution then there should not be in the normal case another distribution for 7 years. I invite honourable members to look at the table which has been incorporated and to see the unconscionable distortions which have occurred in 7 years under the present distribution. We ought to have a distribution once a quarter of the seats which are above or below the permissible divergence or deviation. As can be seen, in every mainland State there has been an excess of a quarter so divergent. In one State over half of them have been divergent. In New South Wales there were ninethis is last September- above the permissible margin and eleven below. In Victoria there were eight above and eleven below. In Queensland there were six above and six below. In South Australia there were three above and one below. Already in Western Australia, in the course of 2 years, there was one above and two below. It is quite obviously an unsatisfactory and undemocratic principle to encourage this freezing of a distribution for 7 years. Honourable members can see what has happened in the last 7 years. I realise the burden that can exist in having such divergences as there are.

Mr Graham - North Sydney has been going down for 7 years.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -But not only North Sydney.

Mr Graham - There are 7000 people going on to the roll each year and 7000 coming off the roll each year, too.

Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is true that the honourable member's electorate, like several electorates, in fact has a big turnover. I think about a quarter or one-third of the people in my electorate change in the course of the normal three-year period. There are 14 large divisions in New South Wales. In 1968 thirteen of them were below the quota. Now twelve are still below the quota. There are 10 large divisions in Victoria. In 1968 they were all below the quota. Now they are all still below the quota. There are 10 large electorates in Queensland. In 1968 seven were below the quota. Now eight are below the quota. There are 4 large divisions in South Australia. In 1968 all were below the quota. In 1977 three were still below the quota.

It is clear that if we now make the minimum enrolment in any small division the maximum enrolment in every large division and freeze that distribution for 7 years we are automatically repeating the distortion which I have just illustrated over the last 7 years.

Mr Lusher - The Leader of the Opposition did not have his heart in that speech.

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