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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 923

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - We have heard a speech which ill befits an honourable member who represents a party which begins all its electoral speeches by professing its belief in the principle of one vote one value, but in practice it is demonstrably in favour of a principle which elects conservative members to Parliament, irrespective of how necessary it is to rig electoral boundaries in order to do so. The House should consider the record of the parties which are opposing this Bill. There is an upper House in every Parliament in Australia with the exception of Queensland. Elections for upper Houses in Australia are carried out in a manner which prevents the majority of the electorate from electing the majority of the members. This principle is protected to the death by the conservative members of this Parliament. When did one Liberal Party member of this Parliament stand up and outline the situation in the Upper House of South Australia where a party able to obtain 35 per cent of the votes is able to obtain 80 per cent of the seats? That is not a bad gerrymander for a party which claims that every vote should be equal.

Mr King - I thought this was a Federal matter.

Mr SCHOLES - It is a Federal matter. 1 will deal with the honourable member in one moment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) have both professed that they believe that electors are equal, with some reservations. I am merely pointing out the records of the parties which they represent. If the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) believes that the actions of his party, supported by members of his party in other States, are not relevant to this debate then I suggest that he has no idea of what is relevant in a political situation.

In order that the honourable member for Wimmera will not feel left out I should like to point out that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country Party have said that there is no need for a redistribution at this time. I point out to the House that at the time of the next Federal election, if there is not a redistribution before then, the honourable member for Wimmera, together with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), will represent fewer electors in this Parliament than the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). In other words the honourable member for Wimmera is supporting a proposition where every elector in his electorate has 2 votes in this Parliament to the one vote of the honourable member for Diamond Valley.

Mr King - But still more than the honourable member for Bass.

Mr SCHOLES - The honourable member is well aware that the electorate of the honour able member for Bass (Mr Barnard) is under the quota because of a situation created at the time of the framing of the Federal Constitution at a convention from which the Labor Party was excluded. We must get it clear in our minds that it was fixed by conservative parties to protect conservative parties.

Mr King - You have had an opportunity to try to change it by referendum.

Mr SCHOLES - I suggest that the honourable member is childish if he believes that such a referendum would even get off the ground. We could not even carry a referendum to limit the size of the Senate.

Mr King - You have never tried it.

Mr SCHOLES - We tried, and I think it was carried in one State. This Bill concerns the representation of people in this Parliament. I do not believe that this Parliament or any other Parliament has a mandate, a charter or a responsibility to decide that a person shall have a vote according to the size of his backyard. That is what is being proposed at the moment. God help us, if we accept that proposition. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) will have 100 votes in this place. The Country Party wants the size of a man's backyard to be the real criterion of electoral boundaries. The Country Party has said that it is necessary to have electorates of a size which will enable the member adequately to represent the electorate. I should like to agree with that proposition, but unfortunately the record of redistribution under Country Party Ministers does not support that principle.

I shall now deal with the redistribution for New South Wales, the legislation for which was passed through this Parliament in 1968. In looking at the size of the various electorates I find that the electorate of Richmond, which just by chance happens to be the electorate of the Leader of the Country Party whose position in this Parliament is of some special significance, as we found out last night-

Mr Daly - The Leader of the Country Party thinks he is still Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr SCHOLES - If the Country Party were given the right to draw the electoral boundaries there is no doubt that he would be Prime Minister. It would be similar to the position in Queensland where the Liberal Party - which at least receives about 30 per cent of the votes - cannot obtain more seats than the Country Party which has 19 per cent of the votes and has a Country Party Premier imposed on it by a rigged electoral system and not by the will of the people. I return now to my remarks concerning the electorate of Richmond, which is one of the outback electorates covering 2,600 square miles. Members of the Country Party say that it should have a smaller number of electors. It is not a small electorate and it is not a big one. The enrolment of the electorate at the last redistribution was 49,460. I ask honourable members to remember that figure. The seat of Macquarie, which just by coincidence happens to berepresented by a Labor member, was thought not to need the same facilities for a representative to enable him to attend to the needs of a far spread out electorate, an electorate which because of its terrain is extremely difficult to traverse. The then government gave the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) not 49,500 electors as happened in the case of the Leader of the Country Party, but 56,000 electors, which is 4,000 electors over a quota.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Twenty thousand of them live in Bathurst.

Mr SCHOLES - How many of the electors in the electorate of Richmond live on the southern half of the Gold Coast? Practically all of them. The honourable member should go there and have a look. There were 56,000 voters in an electorate covered by a Labor member - 4,000 voters above the quota. That electorate covers 5,600 square miles, which is more than double the area of the electorate of the right honourable member for Richmond.

Before I tell honourable members why that was doneI point out that the electorate of Macquarie has grown at twice the rate of the electorate of Richmond in the number enrolled since the last redistribution. This was not a declining area but a growth area and it was growing faster than the electorate which the Country Party conveniently made small for its leader. I will explain why it was done: To have brought the electorate of Macquarie into line with the electorates which immediately adjoin it - those electorates had under 50,000 voters - would have upset the balance of the Country Party electorates in the area and several of its electorates would have been threatened with a Labor member. That is why it was done. There was no other reason. Let us not kid ourselves about what is going on when members of the Country Party try to justify the claim that a redistribution is on the basis of area.

Mr King - Can you prove that claim?


Mr King - Well, prove it.

Mr SCHOLES - The time available to me in this debate does not allow me to traverse a whole series of electoral matters.

Mr King - That is a reflection on the people who--

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member for Wimmera will cease interjecting. I ask the honourable member for Corio to address the Chair.

Mr SCHOLES -I would like also to draw attention to the situation in Victoria. The electorates represented in the Upper House in Victoria became so far out of balance that one electorate had 300,000 electors and another electorate had 46,000 electors, and it was quite obvious, even to a conservative government, that this sort of situation could not continue. It just happened to be convenient to the Liberal Party to get another couple of seats in the Upper House to give itself a majority and rid itself of the Country Party, which the Country Party, because it was a little bit naive, let the Liberal Party do. But in order to get a Bill through the House to approve the appointment of commissioners for a redistribution the Liberal Party allowed to be extracted from it by the Country Party an undertaking that Country Party electorates would not be redistributed, so that in Victoria we had the situation that the Upper House metropolitan electorates were redistributed, thus giving the Liberal Party 2 more seats and a majority in the House. The country electorates, predominantly represented by the Country Party, were not subject to redistribution. So we now have the situation again where we have electorates of 40,000 people and electorates of 200,000 people represented in the Upper House in Victoria. The unfortunate thing for the Country Party was that it was not half as shrewd as Sir Henry Bolte. He did the Country Party like a dinner, because he had inserted in his Act approving a redistribution a provision that the proposed redistribution to be presented to the Parliament had to be passed by only one House of the Parliament. The Country Party's majority was in the Upper House and the Liberals, with their 35 per cent of the vote in Victoria, had an absolute majority in the Lower House. They still do, and they still have only about 55 per cent of the vote.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, just before he sat down, made a claim that in every election except the 1954 election the party which has obtained the majority of votes has won the election. That statement is not true. In 1961 the Australian Labor Party obtained a greater percentage of votes than did the combined Government parties and their supporters. I note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the parties supporting the Government, amongst which I assume he includes the DemocraticLabor Party. He claimed thai the. Government parties obtained a greater number of votes than did the Australian Labor Party in every election except the one in 1954. That also not true. In 1969 the Labor Party, with the parties which supported it-

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The Communist Party.

Mr SCHOLES - The Communist Party gets so few votes that it is the most insignificant party in Australia.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It still supports you.

Mr SCHOLES - The Nazi Party supported you too, but I do not think you are proud of it and I do not think you welcomed the support. The Australia Party has received a significant number of votes in elections it has contested and it has directed its preferences to the Australian Labor Party. If it is good enough for the Liberal Party to claim that DLP votes are Liberal votes, it is reasonable for us to claim that Australia Party votes were votes in support of a Labor government. On that criterion in 1969 we had a substantial majority over the Government parties. We did not win the election.

No electoral system can be perfect. No system of redistribution can be perfect. We all are aware of that. But I think it should be the responsibility of a House of Parliament to seek, to the extent that it is within its control, to ensure that persons who are elected to this Parliament represent fairly equal numbers of people. It is not the problems of social services, the problems that someone has with the Rural Bank or the problems of getting jobs or these things that Parliament is all about. Attending to these problems are jobs which members do because it is part of their electoral work. The Parliament is all about the government of the country, deciding the laws of the country. It is absolutely essential that every person has the right to an equal say in the election of representatives to the Parliament. As I said earlier, if a redistribution does not take place before the next elections we will have a situation where in one electorate a vote will be worth more than twice as much as a vote in another electorate. 1 am not having a shot in any way at the members concerned. Al the time of the last redistribution one of those electorates was represented by a Liberal, and I do not think anyone, except the honourable member who won the seat and his campaign committee, even dreamt there would be a change of representative, f am pointing out that represented in this Parliament we will have 2 electorates which together will be numerically smaller than another electorate.

There has been during the course of the debate so far as a lot of pointing of the bone at various allowances, tolerances, in the number of people who may comprise an electorate. The proposals which are before the House would allow a tolerance of 20 per cent in the number of electors - 10 per cent up or 10 per cent down on the number deemed desirable in one electorate. It would be necessary for 25 per cent of the electorates in any one State to exceed that tolerance of 20 per cent before a redistribution would become necessary. I do not think that is likely to happen every 3 years. Even though under the tolerance of 20 per cent up and 20 per cent down that was applied to the last distribution no redistribution has become necessary in any State other than Western Australia at the moment, by the time the next election is held it is almost certain that in some of the

States enough electorates will have gone outside the 20 per cent tolerance either way to make a redistribution necessary.

One other remark made in this debate is worthy of comment. The Leader of the Country Party made the claim, and the Country Party regularly makes it, that it is representation of country areas that is necessary for the development of those areas. He also stated that at the time of Federation twothirds of the members of this House represented country areas. The record speaks for itself. Eighty per cent of them now represent metropolitan areas - more than two thirds. So it is not representation - in this or in any other Parliament - which provides for balanced population throughout the country, lt is the will to achieve balanced population which will achieve it. There is no evidence whatsoever that in the last 23 years, during which time the Country Party is accused of having dominated the Government - if that is true it is io the eternal shame of the Liberal Party - any greater growth took place in country areas than took place in the 10 years prior to the Liberal-Country Party Government coming into office. In fact. I believe the reverse is true. I believe it is significant that very little growth has taken place in country areas under a government of which the Country Party was a part. 1 support the Bill. I believe that it is not unreasonable that a person should have the expectation that when he goes to the place where he casts his vote that vote will be of the same value as the vote of another person. 1 think it is unreasonable that when a person goes to the ballot box he shall have a vote which is valued according to the electorate in which he lives, not the country in which he lives.

Mr SPEAKER - Before I call the honourable member for Mcpherson I remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech and ask them to extend the usual courtesies to him.

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