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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1935

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (12:40): I want to acknowledge the member for Perth and his contribution around democratic values, and promoting, protecting and improving our democratic process. They are very important, and I'm a big supporter of an increase in—or a fairer distribution, perhaps, of—the parliamentary rebate for schoolchildren so that the kids going to schools in more remote areas of our country have the opportunity to visit our national capital, because every Australian has the right to understand more fully, participate and be fully represented. And that's what I'm speaking about today: the Northern Territory should be fairly represented in the House of Representatives into the future.

There is research from the Parliamentary Library that's shown that the Territory's population is projected to decline slightly, relative to other states, and as a result, we may lose one of our two seats in the House of Representatives at the next election. We start from the premise that the Northern Territory is underrepresented anyway, because we've only got two senators. Unlike the states with so many federal representatives not only in the House of Reps but also in the Senate, the Northern Territory has four representatives in the federal parliament out of 226 members and senators. I love Tasmania, but I look at Tasmania and they've got 17 federal representatives and we've got four. They've got double our population, but relative to them, I think it's fair to say, we are underrepresented. I know there are historical reasons for Tassie having that representation, and, again, I'm happy for Tasmania that they've got that great representation, but I would hope that all members would agree that the Northern Territory, being such a massive area, needs to retain its two House of Representatives seats.

I'm preparing a private member's bill to ensure that there will be two seats for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives into the future. This is not to try and save my seat or the member for Lingiari's seat; it's to save two seats in the federal parliament for the people of the Northern Territory. Up until 2001, it was just one seat but we've grown substantially since then. If you consider the size of the Northern Territory, the urban area of Darwin and Palmerston, the seat of Solomon that I represent, has a great chunk of people, but there is also the area out to the Western Australian border, down to the South Australian border, across to the Queensland border, Groote Eylandt, the Tiwi Islands, and even the Indian Ocean Territories, Cocos (Keeling) Islands group. So it is a very big job.

The bill will be consistent with special electoral arrangements that have been made over many years for different parts of Australia, recognising their special circumstances. The case for two seats for the Northern Territory recognises that each seat would have a population not far below the national average and significantly more than those five seats in Tasmania I mentioned earlier. The size of the Territory is almost twice the size of New South Wales. As you can see, with the amount of representation from New South Wales, it does take a lot of time to get around to every part, to every community, and I want to commend the member for Lingiari because, as I said, up until 2001 he represented the whole of the NT. Great sacrifices were made by him and his family to spend that time in every far-flung point of the Northern Territory.

Our population has grown significantly since then, and what encourages me is that in discussions I've had with senior members of the federal coalition government, they've said they also believe the Northern Territory should continue to have two seats. That's encouraging. I just wanted to let the House know that on 9 September the Northern Territory business community will be down here. The Chief Minister and the leader of the opposition will be down here in Canberra, and that will be one of the issues that we raise when we celebrate all the good things about the Northern Territory.