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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,it is interesting to note that on many occasions Government supporters in this Parliament become rather disturbed at what they regard as an attack on the rights of country people. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) - the last two speakers on the Government side of the House up to this stage - have never been practical farmers. The honorable member for Mallee was an auctioneer before he entered this Parliament, and the honorable member for Barker-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I suggest that the honorable member for East Sydney get on to the bill. Whether or not the honorable members whom he has mentioned were farmers or whether they were something else has nothing to do with the measure.

Mr WARD - Strangely enough, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I agree with you. But I remind you that discussion of amend ments which the Opposition intends to move in committee is not in order at present, because this is the second-reading stage of the bill. As you have permitted other honorable members to wander on to discussion of those proposed amendments, I intend to say something about one or two of those amendments.

The two honorable gentlemen whom I have already mentioned seemed to imply that there was something sinister about the proposal to reduce the margin above or below the quota which Distribution Commissioners are permitted to observe when making a redistribution of electoral boundaries. The proposal is that the present margin of one-fifth above or below the specified quota be reduced to one-tenth. Why did not the honorable member for Mallee direct some of his criticism on this issue at some of the members of his own party who, as members of the Constitutional Review Committee, supported this proposal? I was one of the members who represented the Opposition on that committee, which unanimously decided to recommend that the margin be reduced from one-fifth to one-tenth. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who, at least during some part of his life, was a practical farmer, supported the reduction, as did the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton).

Mr Whitlam - Another practical farmer!

Mr WARD - He is another practical farmer. If the honorable member for Mallee sees something sinister in the amendment proposed by the Opposition, he should direct some of his criticism at his own colleagues.

The contributions made by the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Barker show conclusively that they believe in the gerrymandering of electorates in order to keep Labour out of office.

Mr Bryant - They do. Tell us about South Australia.

Mr WARD - There is never raised any question about the position in South Australia, where two-thirds of the voters elect thirteen members to the House of Assembly - one-third of the number of its members - and one-third of the voters elect 26 members to that House.

Mr Forbes - That is what we want.

Mr WARD - The honorable member for Barker, at least, is honest about it. If he had his way in this matter, the industrial electorates represented by Labour would have no representation at all in the Parliament. I think that the average Australian citizen believes that the margin of one-fifth was not provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in order to give country voters greater representation in the Parliament, but was provided for because those responsible recognized that, with shifting populations, the principle of " One vote, one value " is difficult to maintain for any lengthy period. As far as I am aware, that principle has always been accepted by all those in the community who believe in democratic government, and I would hate to see the day when electorates could be gerrymandered in the way proposed by the honorable member for Barker, who approves of the South Australian system under which two-thirds of the voters elect one-third of the members of the House of Assembly and one-third of the voters elect two-thirds of the members of that House. I do not think that that system is approved by the great majority of the Australian people.

I had not originally intended to address the House at this stage of the consideration of the bill, but I could not decline the opportunity to correct the honorable member for Mallee and to direct his attention to the fact that there were on the Constitutional Review Committee, which recommended unanimously a reduction from onefifth to one-tenth of the margin above or below the electoral quota, six Government representatives, including two active and prominent members of the Australian Country Party.

In conclusion, let me address a few remarks particularly to the honorable member for Barker. Probably, he was thinking more of his own interests than of those of country people when he said that he approved a scheme under which electorates in South Australia are gerrymandered. I am quite certain that, although he has been a university lecturer and a permanent

Army officer, he does not know a great deal about the interests of country people, for he kept describing farmers as " agricultural operators ". As far as I know, they have always been referred to in this country as " farmers ". I would like to know what an agricultural operator is. I am satisfied that the honorable member knows very little about the people he claims to represent in this Parliament.

Mr Forbes - I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that, when I spoke before him, I referred to farmers as agricultural operators. I referred to agricultural operations, which is a broad term to describe the process of farming that I mentioned. Every time I referred to the gentlemen concerned, I used the word " farmers " and the honorable member for East Sydney knew that I did.

Mr Drummond - I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has misrepresented me by using the term " one vote, one value ". He is confusing the expression with " one man, one vote ". The difference, as I understand it, and, I hope, I made clear to the House, is that " one vote, one value " means that an electorate covering a country area should have fewer electors in it so that the electors in sparsely populated areas would have a reasonable chance of exerting their influence and would not be at a disadvantage when compared with electors in such congested areas as that represented by the honorable member.

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