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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (1:10 AM) . - The remarks of the Minister for the

Interior (Mr. Freeth) seem to me to demonstrate that, somehow or other, our basic political and constitutional thinking tends to be 25 years behind the times. I think that the framework of our electoral law dates back to the 1930's, when our population was extraordinarily stable. To-day the population is increasing by 1,000,000 every five years, or perhaps a little less than five years. Let me give honorable members an example of what is happening in the Australian population from evidence that came before a Labour Party educational committee in Western Australia. Enrolments in the State schools of Western Australia increased by only 400 between 1930 and 1939, but between 1950 and 1959 it increased by 65,000.

There was a long period of stagnation in population increase in Australia. It took a tremendously long time - probably nearly twenty years - for the population to rise from 6,000,000 to 7,000,000. In these circumstances a re-distribution every six years was quite adequate, but I do not think that that is true now. It is not the convenience of electoral commissioners, or the fact they would meet difficulties, as has been suggested, that should determine whether we have more rapid adjustments. Surely it is the changing nature and the movement of the Australian population that should be the determining factor. Now we have a tremendously rapid change of population.

I wish to refer to the point made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who apparently believes in electoral weighting to help in a re-distribution of population.

Mr Thompson - Do not take South Australia as an example.

Mr BEAZLEY - I think that in South Australia an average country electorate has about 7,000 electors and an average city electorate between 22,000 and 23,000. There is no State in the Commonwealth where the city is growing so fast in relation to the whole of the State. The population of the South Australian capital was much more than half that of the State areas some time ago, and population in South Australia is becoming more and more concentrated in Adelaide. The honorable member for Mallee, I understand, represents Mildura.

Mr Turnbull - Mildura is in my electorate.

Mr BEAZLEY - Do you seriously think that the city member, Alfred Deakin, when he backed the scheme that led to the development of Mildura said, in effect, "lama city member, I am interested only in the concentration of people in tha city? " Of course he did not. Do you think that Western Australian governments, irrespective of their political complexion, when they asked the Commonwealth for funds for such schemes as the Ord River - and governments of both political complexions have asked for such funds for that scheme - were thinking in terms of votes in the city? They thought of that project as an enterprise which would lead to settlement of an irrigation area right away from existing cities. I do not think that there is one scrap of evidence that any Commonwealth projects, irrigation schemes, or schemes like the Snowy Mountains Scheme depend on the country origin or city origin of members. Mr. Chifley was not concerned whether it was in his electorate or not when he initiated the Snowy scheme. No Commonwealth actions have done anything at all to de-centralize population except such basic developmental schemes.

If in a free enterprise economy investors wish to open a stocking factory, are they going to establish it in Mildura, or in Sydney near a great market? Of course they will establish it in Sydney.- That is why you get a constant movement of private investment near existing markets. Concentration of industry means concentration of population. The honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has advocated an electrification scheme on the Clarence River. Alfred Deakin advocated the development of Mildura. What Mr. Hawke was attempting to do, and what Mr. Brand is attempting to do on the Ord River will bring about de-centralization, but there is not one scrap of evidence that the gerrymandering of electorates has ever achieved it.

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