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Monday, 9 November 1964


Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) .- I should like to direct attention to one aspect of the matter that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) with reference to the possibility of some constitutional challenge based on the legal understanding of the meaning of the word " practical ". I point out that the framers of our Constitution also made a proviso in the interests of the smallest State, Tasmania. They provided that the number of representatives from Tasmania should not fall below five and I think that this is an aspect that we should remember when we consider the meaning of the word "practical" in relation to the matter of quotas.

If we look at the practicalities of the matter we find that there is a differential effect in the application of this interpretation of the Act when the remainder is one under half a quota. The matter is not very serious in its application to a State such as New South Wales, which has some 46 members; if the number drops from 46 to 45 the effect on a quota is very small. But when the provision is applied to Western Australia, the effect on the quota is serious. A quota for Western Australia, with nine members, was 45,665 persons, but if the number of members dropped to eight, as would have happened under the proposed redistribution, the quota would have risen to 51,362. Therefore, Western Australia would have had the highest quota of any

State in the Commonwealth. If the framers of our Constitution saw fit to incorporate a safeguard in the interests of Tasmania, surely this matter of the position of a State relative to the whole is of considerable importance.

There is another practical matter to consider. With the Australian population increasing as it has increased, with each State's population increasing in a fairly steady manner relative to the population of other States, variations above and below a quota can happen at every redistribution. Every few years the number of members from Western Australia would switch from eight to nine and back to eight. It is relatively simple to make allowances when the difference is only one out of 45, but when the number has to drop from nine to eight, the practical consequence is that large readjustments have to be made to achieve the desired result. 1 think that the present proposal is a practical way of resolving what is a very undesirable slate of affairs. I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.







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