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Monday, 9 November 1964

Senator WEDGWOOD (Victoria) .- Mr. Acting Deputy President,I desire to speak briefly in support of the Bill and against the amendment. The Representation Act, which we now seek to amend, is a simple Act which determines the number of members in the House of Representatives. It has not been altered on many occasions, the last amendment, I understand, being in 1938. The reason for the infrequency of amendment is easy to understand. For many years there were no violent fluctuations in the growth of the Australian population. It has been only in recent years that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of persons residing in Australia. The result has been greatly increased enrolment figures over Australia as a whole, with a more rapid increase in some States than in others.

I should like to join issue with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when he says that the Representation Act and the Electoral Act should be considered together. They have not always been considered together in the past. I find a notable difference between the view expressed by the Opposition in its amendment and the views expressed in 1962 when the proposals for redistribution adverted to by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) were before the House of Representatives. The purpose of the amendment now before us is to defer consideration of the Government's proposal until we are considering redistribution as a whole. On 4th December 1962, Mr. Calwell expressed the view that a fresh distribution should not bc made until the Representation Act had been amended, so as to restore at least the seat lost in each instance to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia under the present distribution and to provide an additional seat to South Australia. So I suggest thai evidently at that time the Opposition was not concerned at the constitutional aspects of any alteration to the

Representation Act. In the words of its own leader, it was suggesting that the Act should be altered before there was a redistribution. Senator McKenna's proposed amendment does not commend itself to me. It does not accord with my opinion, nor with the submission made by the leader of the honorable senator's party, to which I have referred.

Section 10 of the Act requires that a quota shall be determined by dividing the number of people in the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators, and that the number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the population of the State by the quota. Therefore I submit that the main purpose of the Bill before us is to give a State an additional member for any fraction of a quota, instead of for a remainder greater than half the quota. It does that and no more than that.

As I have said, over the years there has been a remarkable increase in the numbers of people who enrol and vote. This increase will continue. I do not believe that the proposed legislation will give real satisfaction to all the States. It is true that one or more States may gain, but that does not mean that the gain necessarily will benefit a State for all time. It may be that over the years one State may benefit comparatively more than other States because of increases in population. In the past Victoria and New South Wales have gained the greatest numbers of people, but as time passes they may lag behind the other States.

I believe that the measure before us is a simple one and should be so regarded. Many of the matters referred to by Senator McKenna fall more appropriately within the terms of the Electoral Act. I have pleasure in supporting the Bill and rejecting the proposed amendment.

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