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Thursday, 24 February 1977


Mr LIONEL BOWEN -I was reading the Bill strictly, Mr Attorney. We will deal with that point a little later. The Attorney is trying to tell me that the Executive would make the decision. I know that it would. While ever we have the present Executive that necessarily does not impress the Opposition as to the fairness of the situation. What we are saying is this: Why not leave it to the Distribution Commissioner to determine this matter in accordance with the tolerance of 10 per cent and disregard the area consideration?

I emphasise the point that the Constitution was founded on the basis of population. It was not said that area could be taken into consideration. With the State boundaries as they are we have a disparity of distance, people and areas. For example, some areas may decline and others may grow. We can see that the Constitution says that that consideration does not matter, that we must work on a population basis. Why should the Government put so much emphasis on the area factor when there are so many electorates which are of a relatively low size of 5600 square kilometres? One-third of the electorates are of this size and the balance of the weight is to go against the other two-thirds. In the short space of two or three years many of the electorates which make up the two thirds of the total will be out of kilter. They will be well over the 10 per cent variation and nothing can be done. That is the argument against this clause. It does not matter what another provision in the Bill says. If they are out of kilter within the State nothing can be done for at least 7 years.


Mr Baillieu - That is only 2 Parliaments.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN -That is not the point. We are talking about fairness of representation and fairness under the Constitution. Distributions in the State will not be every 7 years. The High Court decision has clearly said that, wherever necessary' means within every 3 years. Wherever necessary, the Distribution Commissioner has to fix quotas or each State within every 3 year period. Why should the distribution on balance not be left undisturbed? While State quotas may be fixed every 3 years, it will not be possible readily to change the internal distribution. That is the weakness in this clause. Accordingly, it is not much good shaking your head and saying: 'It cannot happen'. It will.

The position in Australia is continually changing. The electorate which takes in the Gold Coast wm be well over quota within 3 years, and nothing will be done about it. Electorates in the city of Sydney will be well over quota and getting more enrolments all the time because that is where the migrants and others live. This is the incredible part of the Government's argument. State quotas are fixed on population- and all city electorates have enormous populations- but for Federal distributions population is ignored. It is said: 'That is just too baa. You will have to look at the internal arrangements we are going to make, and we are going to make them according to area '. By all means give the Distribution Commissioners a discretion. But why oblige them to follow this line now as though it will be fair for all time? The High Court said that the quotas for States are not fair for all time, that distributions have to be carried out wherever possible and as soon as practicable, certainly every 3 years. The Chief Justice said: 'If you do not do it the High Court will do it for you'. That is the reasonable aspect of electoral justice. The concept of the Constitution was that people really counted, and that is what we should adhere to. But by inserting this clause the Government is deviating from that concept. It is creating an injustice. Why does it not trust the Distribution Commissioners'. If it is possible to operate within the 10 per cent tolerance, why tie the Commissioners to the provisions of this clause?


Mr Baillieu -You would have a redistribution every Parliament.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - We do not want a redistribution every Parliament. If one quarter of the divisions within a State are out of kilter nothing will be done about it for 7 years. That is the significance of another clause, clause 10. We have to look at clause 7 because we can see the injustice in clause 10 also. The Constitution set the principle. Therefore we should apply this principle to the internal distribution. This opportunity will be denied if we allow clause 7 to operate.







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