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Thursday, 24 February 1977


Mr HYDE (Moore) - I think it might be of interest to the Committee to look at the history of this clause. The Act was first enacted in 1902. There was a very minor amendment to the clause in 1905 which merely ensured that State electoral boundaries were considered in redistributions. The clause remained unaltered until 1972, when 4 amendments were made to it. Three might have been thought to favour rural areas and one might have been thought to favour city areas. The clause was again amended in 1 974. In 1 974 the Labor Government removed three of the 1972 amendments and retained the one amendment that favoured city areas. We are now returning to the same clause as served this Parliament and the people of Australia from 1902 to 1972, apart from the minor amendment in 1905.I am not one who believes that we ought to give heavy weightings to widespread areas. I believe that as far as is practicable each individual citizen in this country ought to have the same opportunity to influence the course of government in this country.

I represent an electorate that covers both rural areas and city areas. It is the eleventh biggest electorate in the Parliament. Probably as a result I have as much experience as anyone of both areas. I can say with certainty that rural areas are the easier to represent. This is because there is a community of interest in rural areas- small shires, small towns, small newspapers and so on. People in rural areas are also much better informed than their city counterparts. They know more about the process of government. They are more likely to know who their member is and so on.

However, there is another side to this story. The democratic process also requires that the

Parliament of the people represent the views of the people. It is a fact- a fact beyond disputethat most Australian citizens believe that it is proper that these disparate areas have some additional assistance from their member. This is not an argument that personally impresses me a great deal. However we are reflecting the will of the people when we ensure that no large electoratethat is, one that is more than 5000 square kilometres in size-should have fewer people in it than an electorate that is of less than 5000 square kilometres. This legislation is a reflection of what most people in Australia would wish us to do. Can we argue that that is undemocratic? Obviously we cannot.

I am confident that this clause will receive passage as it stands. There has been a considerable attempt by Labor Party speakers in particular to drive a wedge between the coalition parties. All I can say is that they would have to do a great deal better than they have done so far if they are to achieve that. The truth of the matter is that the Government Parties are agreed on this clause. There is no measure of appreciable disagreement between us. The nature of the Act is such that the variation from quota will only ever be small. This arrangement is acceptable to both Parties and they support the Government, I believe, without exception.







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