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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1794


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) -We have listened to some of the views expressed by Senator McLaren about a Government Bill which proposes to give the territories representation in the Senate, in addition to that in the House of Representatives, by 2 senators for the Northern Territory and 2 senators for the Australian Capital Territory. I listened with great attention to what Senator McLaren said. It gushed through like a rush of ill-considered thought. He suggested that just because the Northern Territory had been conceded representation in the representative House it followed logically that it was proper to give representation in the Senate. The honourable senator was good enough to refer to the fact that I was a contributor to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959. 1 put in a dissenting report in which I put forward views in which the independence of the Senate was maintained. It should be recalled that that report was made midway in the 23 year period from 1950 to the present. At that time the Senate was in the position of striving to maintain the purpose of its constitutional existence as an independent expression of Australian thought, quite distinct from the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives shares with us one factor. It is directly elected by the people, its members on a provincial basis of electorates and we on a basis of States.

What Senator McLaren did not reflect upon and did not take into account is that we, instead of representing the people according to the numerical numbers of the population or electors, represent the people according to States. Even though Tasmania has 400,000 people and New South Wales has 4 million, it is part of the original fundamental compact upon which the Federation of Australia was founded that New South Wales and Tasmania have a representation in the Senate of equal potency. There are 10 senators to represent each State, and 6 States with equal representation constitute the Senate as a States House and a House of review.

I ask honourable senators to consider this immature intrusion presented to us tonight. The first thing that we ought to reflect upon is that when the Australian Labor Party came to Government in December, the mortification that its members have not yet learnt to assimilate was that in the Senate the people had put a sufficient number of representatives to require review and revision of some of the impulsive, illconsidered, thoughtless, extravagant and damaging program that we have seen avalanching through this place. They resent it. Impulsive people with little knowledge resent the suggesiton that there should be second thoughts. In dealing with the whole of this program, as the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Byrne, so thoughtfully put to us this afternoon, we stand as the chamber that will insist upon a proper and thoughtful review of this impulsive and thoughtless program that the Government is completely incompetent to manage. The politics of the situation are that, by the unvarnished device of trying to get territorial members into the Senate, the Government is trying to upset the equilibrium which the populations of the States have in this place to safeguard the people from the thoughtless, extravagant, impulsive, malicious, ideological motivations of the Australian Labor Party, exalted by the thought in Gough 's mind when he said: 'I am the greatest'. And when he conceives the idea that he is the greatest, he expects all of us to wither back into our seats and say nothing. But that is not the humour of the Senate.

Having revealed the primitive, immature, political device whereby Gough should have 2, 3 or 4 territorial accretions in this place to overcome the democratic majority which has been established in this place by an electoral vote, let us examine the reconciliation which can be made between this proposal and fundamental constitutional conceptions. In 1900 and the decade before, the thoughtful and responsible people of Australia, then numbering 2 million to 3 million, saw that unity of government in this continent was essential to its development. The first and foundational agreement which was made by the prudent men who crusaded for the creation of a new nationhood was that there should be equal representation in the Senate for the 6 States. Without that fundamental, prescient and prudent agreement we would never have got to the beginnings of federation. Rudyard Kipling said when he visited Melbourne in 1894: 'I see that your cause of federation is dawdling.' In his manuscript letter, which is in the basement, he states: 'I suggest that you get a German gunboat into Melbourne and give it a few shots one night, and a fortnight later get it into Sydney and give them a few shots there. You will have federation within a month'.

I remind these Johnnies-come-Lately of the fundamental influences which forged federation in this country. Unless we had had people wise enough to agree that the 6 States should have equal representation in this chamber we would never have had the nation of Australia. I say to those who are prepared to forfeit that heritage: Let it be upon your escutcheons of irresponsibility'. I for my part stand here in my twentyfourth year in the Senate- some will scream 'too long' but that I am prepared to put to a votehaving seen a terrific development of this chamber on the basis of equal representation of the States. To think that we would agree to this immature, politically devised intrusion whereby 2 territories should be given an adventitious vote here, each not of ten but of two honourable senators! When we come to think of it, we find that the Australian Capital Territory- the Territory which lies within the environs of this budgetary organism- can, through Senator Willesee who represents the Treasurer, expand its overflow of government appropriation in one year from $10,000m to $12,000m. Of course those who live near the bakehouse get the best, the warmest and the freshest bread. Now we are asked to believe that the citizenry of the Australian Capital Territory, who were rejoicing in their emoluments until we exposed the avalanche- fabulous in any conception- in addition to their riches and in addition to their representation in another place through Kep Enderby- God forgive them for the quality- want representation here among men who represent the States.

Now I come to the Northern Territory. One thing in which I rejoiced as a Minister was that I was presiding over a program of works which, as a community develops, is much more important than turtles, sea doves, crocodiles, daubed 'Blue Poles', or other nonsense of socialist politics. We had a program of works for roads, railways, sewerage development, housing estates and hydro-electric performance. After 4 years the Northern Territory was receiving about 60 per cent of the total Commonwealth appropriation for capital works. That is the degree to which we rejoiced in developing this Territory. Let them ask for representation according to their contributionno taxation without representation or no representation except commensurate with taxation- and then let them have their American revolution, if you like. But we gave them 60 per cent of the Commonwealth capital works program. Those are the realities as compared with this tendentious, piddling, socialist nonsense whereby the Government tries to fiddle a vote for the Northern Territory by asking for 2 seats in the Senate. That is entirely incongruous with the Constitution, lt is entirely destructive of the fundamental basis upon which the Senate was constituted, and it reflects the complete idiocy of the proponents.







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