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Thursday, 29 March 1973
Page: 934

Mr KING (Wimmera) - Firstly may I take the opportunity to congratulate the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) on his maiden speech this evening, ff he keeps up the standard that he has presented to this House tonight I am sure that he will be keeping up with the standard of the previous members for Mcpherson, namely the Honourable Ceb Barnes and Sir Arthur Fadden. After listening to Government speakers I am sure that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) must have been very convincing indeed this afternoon. I would suggest that if anyone had taken a lot of notice of what Government speakers had to say after the right honourable gentleman had spoken they would automatically have thought that the Bill had been introduced by the Leader of the Country Party because so much comment has been made about his speech. Those comments were made on the basis that the people who made them fully realise and are very conscious of the fact that he does know what he is talking about when it comes to redistribution proposals.

In my 14 years as a member of the House of Representatives, it has always been my impression that a second reading speech introduced by a Minister, can be referred to as a document setting out the details of the Bill being introduced, lt has always been a case in which the statement refers to facts, free of personal opinions and free of party politics, lt now appears as a result of the change of government, second reading speeches by Ministers have changed; changed to include anything that will enhance the prestige of the Government and ridicule the Opposition. This Bill certainly makes changes. It completely disregards the principles as laid down in the original Commonwealth Electoral Act. Since Federation only minor changes have been made, but this Bill completely changes it to such a degree that many country divisions Wi lose their effective voice in this Parliament. In other words, they will be disfranchised. If the Government is sincere in its desire to achieve a true one vote one value, then it should commence to alter the constitution whereby each State shall have equal Senate representation. Earlier this afternoon the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said that it was impossible to do so. This Government has not tried to do it.

According to the figures as presented b> the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), Tasmania in January 1973 had a voting population of 221,951 people, returning 10 senators, while New South Wales had 2,612,304 people enrolled. It also returned 10 senators. Tasmanian senators in theory represent 22,195 electors per senator, whilst New South Wales senators represent 261,230, more than 10 times as many. I ask the Minister if this is what he refers to as equal voting, ls this one vote one value? Australia is a very large continent and therefore a very large electorate. Two-thirds of our population reside in a very small portion of it geographically. It stands to reason that some electorates must of necessity be larger in area than others, but these people all are entitled to similar privileges. Each elector should have equal rights and be able to meet his member. In turn, each member should have th : right to meet his constituents. Some honourable members opposite on the Government side do not seem to appreciate what distance means.

Under the proposals in this Bill the bulk of the larger geographical electorates will become larger and the smaller ones will become smaller. The reasons are because, firstly, the 20 per cent variation in quota, either above or below, will be reduced by 10 per cent. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) implied that we would have 20 per cent. Of course there will be 20 per cent if you take 10 per cent below and 10 per cent above. Before that it was 40 per cent. But do not try to confuse the issue. The other instructions given to the redistribution commissioners arising from remoteness, population density and so forth will be removed, according to this Bill, from their considerations. Indeed, this Bill virtually tells the commissioners that all electorates will be as nearly as possible the same numerically. The honourable member for Mcpherson a few minutes ago explained how the number of electors in the electorate of Mcpherson expands. Other electorates throughout the Commonwealth demonstrate a somewhat similar situation.

Having said that, I turn now to that provision in the Bill which states that when one quarter of the electorate varies beyond the 10 per cent quota, a further redistribution can take place. A study of population movements reveals that it is most likely that a redistribution would be required every two Parliaments and in some States it could be after one Parliament. If one remembers the figures quoted by the honourable member for Mcpherson, a redistribution might be needed every 2 or 3 months if a quarter of the population of an electorate moved to another area in a State. If there is one thing that the Australian people want, it is stabilty, whether it be in politics or anything else. They have a great dislike of continual change. This can be proved by the illustration of past major redistributions which often have been followed by a change in government or a swing against sitting government members. This occurs because of the very factors that I have just mentioned.

I turn now to the principles governing the number of Federal seats in a State as laid down by the Constitution in accordance with the population of a State. New South Wales at present has 45 members. Victoria has 34. In Queensland there are 18. South Australia has 12. Western Australia has 10 and in Tasmania there are 5. According to its population Tasmania is entitled to only 4 Federal members in the House of Representatives. But the Constitution provides that it must not have fewer than 5. Do Government members from Tasmania agree with this provision? If they do they must of necessity agree that the principles in the new Bill are completely wrong. Tasmania has the privilege of an extra member in the House of Representatives because, I believe, it is a small State and it is isolated. If this principle is good enough to be included in the Constitution why should we not consider isolation in other parts of Australia? If the Northern Territory is ever declared a State will it be entitled to 10 senators and a minimum of 5 members in the House of Representatives, making a total representation of 15? According to the Constitution that would be the correct representation. Today the Northern Territory is represented by one member of this House.

Mr Calder - He is quite capable of doing the job too.

Mr KING - I think he is too. He is a mighty capable member. I suggest that there is no merit in the argument for one vote one value put forward by the Government. The Minister for Services and Property stated in this House only recently that he appreciates the work load imposed by the larger electorates and that he will consider making extra assistance available to honourable members who represent them. We welcome this proposal. What the people in such electorates want is a member of Parliament, not a substitution for one.

This brings me to the situation in my own State of Victoria, and in particular the seat of Wimmera. Wimmera had a voting population of 45,574 as at January 1973. It is true that it is a small electorate numerically. There are very few electorates with fewer electors, with the exception of the 5 Tasmanian electorates which average approximately 44,390 electors a seat. There are far more electorates smaller in size than Wimmera is than there are electorates that are larger than Wimmera is. Wimmera has an area of some 12,000 square miles, which is comparatively small compared with some of the larger electorates. 1 wonder how many electorates have an area of less than 1,200 square miles, or if one likes, 12 square miles. Does the Government think very seriously of the work load, apart from the miles travelled, in these large country electorates. Even with modern travelling it takes me 6 hours to get to Canberra and 6 hours to return each week.

In my electorate I have 24 local municipal councils. I wonder how many the Minister for Services and Property has in his electorate. At least 16 newspapers are printed in the electorate. They all need some contribution from me on the political front. There are far too many schools in the electorate to find out exactly how many there are. The same applies to service clubs. In the view of some members of the Government, these are not important. But again they are too numerous to mention. But they are all entitled to service from their local member if the need arises.

At present the Victorian quota is running at about 57,600. Wimmera needs approximately another 12,000 to bring it up in accordance with this Bill even to equal the quota. My neighbouring electorates of Mallee, Wannon, Corangamite, Ballaarat and Bendigo are all below a quota. That is bad enough, but if we look at the amendment to section 25 (2) b, dealing with the provision for a further redistribution, I have worse news for the electorate. Most of the electorates that I have just mentioned are fairly static in population. Other electorates are far more static when we consider population growth. So that a redistribution should not take place after each election, those growing electorates would have to be brought down to a maximum of 10 per cent below the quota. In turn static electorates would thus need to be above that quota. We all appreciate that there are insufficient electors to overcome this problem in many country areas. Victorian country areas would need to lose at least 2 electorates. This in turn means a major reshuffle in Victoria.

Mr Corbett - That is the reason behind it.

Mr KING - I think you are dead right. I think it is the reason. Such a reshuffle, of course, will not worry the present Government one little bit because it realises that all country seats in Victoria are held by th Liberal Party or the Country Party. I only hope that Labor Party voters in country Victoria, as well as in country areas in other States, will remember some of these points when the next election is held, irrespective of what new electorates there may be.

In the course of various debates in the House, Government members have repeatedly said that the Government has a mandate to do this or that. I ask these honourable members this simple question: How many of you used in your policy the question of redistribution to enlarge country seats? I wonder how many did. No doubt some did in metropolitan areas. But I wonder how many in country electorates did. I saw little advertising by the Australian Labor Party on this aspect. It was all very well for the present Minister to say that he mentioned this matter prior to the election. If that story had any substance, what about the honourable member for Riverina and his promise during the election campaign that if elected the Labor Party would make available $500m at an interest rate of 3 per cent per annum for loan purposes for primary producers.

Mr Grassby - When did he say that?

Mr KING - I am glad to see that the honourable member for Riverina has come into the chamber.

Mr Grassby - I am just wondering whether you could give me the quote?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The honourable member for Wimmera will address the Minister as the Minister for Immigration and not as the honourable member for Riverina.

Mr KING - Yes. I cannot give the Minister the quote from memory. In answer to the interjection from the Minister I have vivid recollections of seeing the statement in a number of newspapers. My colleague from Murray is seeking to interject.

Mr Lloyd - It was in the 'Griffith Times' of 20th November.

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