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Thursday, 10 March 1966

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - I rise to speak in this debate for two reasons: First, to congratulate the people of the Australian Capital Territory on attaining their citizenship rights and becoming equal with all other citizens of Australia except those of the Northern Territory in the political and citizenship fields. Secondly, I would remiss in my duty as the representative of the Northern Territory if I did not at the same time register a protest at the Government's failure to extend this justice to the people of the Northern Territory. The fact is, of course, that the Government is still tied to the principle that the member for the Northern Territory - like the member for the Australian Capital Territory in the past - has to represent a community with a numerical strength approximating the average Australian electorate. As the honorable member for the A.C.T. has pointed out, this has not always been so. As far back as the beginning of Federation in Australia, the founding fathers did not accept this proposition when they framed the Constitution. At that time, the size of the Tasmanian electorates was fixed at a rauch lower electoral figure than applied to other parts of the Commonwealth because it was realised that the Tasmanian electorates had special features which deserved special consideration and treatment. I, with the honorable member for the A.C.T., have always felt that not only the people of the A.C.T. but also the people of the Northern Territory were entitled to this special treatment. We believe that citizenship is a birthright and should not be governed by the necessity to belong to a community of 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000. We in the Northern Territory, like the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, are obliged to observe the requirements and obligations of citizenship as is anybody else in Australia, but we have not had granted to us the privileges of citizenship.

The Government must be thinking of altering to some extent its views on the numerical principle on which it has based its considerations in the past because it has been announced that next year, after the referendum to break the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate, the case of the Northern Territory will be considered again. This seems to me to be an indication that consideration might be given now to the special needs of this community. We could thus be brought into line with all the other people of Australia. We would not have in the Northern Territory an isolated population away out in the frontiers of Australia who feel an injustice at having to be classed, as the former member for Henty classed us at one time, as belonging to the categories spelt out by the honorable member for the A.C.T. I rise to congratulate the people of the A.C.T. and to register a protest at the failure of the Government to act at this time to extend justice to the Northern Territory. It would have been quite simple to have done this now.

If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) replies, I should like to know what the Government has in mind regarding representation in the Senate for both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The Constitution provides that Senate representation can be granted on certain conditions to an Australian Territory. The A.C.T. will have full voting rights in the House of Representatives. So far no mention has been made of the type of representation, if any, which is contemplated in respect of the Senate. I should like to know whether the Government has any views on this matter, because if the Australian Capital Territory receives some recognition of this type then in time to come the Northern Territory also will receive similar consideration. Again I congratulate the people of the Australian Capital Territory and wish them every success with their rights and privileges. I hope and trust that the work that has been done by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory will be rewarded at and after the next Federal election.

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