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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2802

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has some endearing characteristics and mannerisms, and I am sorry that tonight I do not have his spectacles to wind up my argument in the way he twirls them to wind himself up. However, let me draw the attention of the House to the parallels that he has drawn. The question before the House tonight is whether people should be represented. The parallel that has been drawn is whether the Australian Capital Territory and its population of 180,000 people should be compared with the Antarctic and its population of 180,000 penguins. Whom do we represent in this place? Half way between here and Antarctica is the State of Tasmania, with 609 representatives at either the local government level, in the State Parliament, in this place or in the Senate. Tonight we are talking about representation of a population half as large as that of Tasmania, which has long been carried by one member for the ACT, a member for many years denied full representation rights and the opportunity to vote on issues affecting the Commonwealth of Australia. The people of Canberra were denied the opportunity of democratic representation in this place for a great deal of the time that they had a member here.

I have a very strong interest in this subject. Firstly, I live in Canberra. I was one of the people who had to depend on the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory to represent them, but more importantly I represent an electorate which cradles Canberra and provides the warmth and the background for this place to survive. The ACT, with its population of 180,000 people, has more than a passing bearing on my electorate. It is in one way related to the electorate of Eden-Monaro. I feel that without proper representation in Canberra the people in the area will fail to drink Bega milk for the rest of the time that we are in Government.

There are issues such as this in which I have a vital concern. I recall my very close and friendly relationship with the previous member of the Australian Capital Territory. I can tell this House right now that if Jim Fraser had run at another election or had stood behind a candidate for this place one of the things that he would have been saying from the platform in that election campaign would have been that the job of representing the ACT is too big for one man. Anybody who knew Jim Fraser knows that he gave his very life to the representation of this electorate in this place. That job was far too big for one man. He was the only person in the whole of this country who could have made that point emphatically and in a way that nobody would have disputed. The job is far too big for one man.

Compare the 609 local government, state government and federal representatives that Tasmania has to represent it. Why should we be discussing such an issue in such a way in this place tonight? Why should people who live in Canberra, many of whom after all have come from electorates that honourable members in this place represent, suddenly, upon coming to the ACT, cease to have the privileges that other Australians enjoy, the privileges of democracy and representation which we all so correctly support for the people in other areas of Australia? The Northern Territory has its unique problems. Again, it is expected to be represented here by one person. How can this be done? How can anybody argue against the fundamental democracy of giving people proper representation? We need to have a proper recognition of people's rights in this place tonight.

Mr Viner - That is begging the question.

Mr WHAN - There is only one question. Are these eople Australians and are they going to enjoy the democratic advantages that other Australians enjoy? What is unique about the people of the ACT and the Northern Territory? Do they get some special privilege which allows them to be cocooned without proper representation? Where is the great honour that we hear about from the Opposition on the hustings, this great privilege that is given to the individuals of the country in defence of their liberty and in defence of their right to be represented properly in this place? Where is that great thing tonight? I ask this individualist laissez-faire Liberal Party which pays such tribute to the rights and privileges of Australian citizens: Where is this great thing tonight? It seems to be completely swamped in the analogies that we have been expected to swallow in the arguments that have been presented.

What sort of parties do we find confronting this Government on the Opposition benches tonight? Can there be any question that the Australian Capital Territory is underrepresented? Can any objective person who applies himself to this problem say that both the ACT and the Northern Territory are properly represented? Can anybody deny this in the face of the facts? Even if we accept the proposition that we should have a fraction of the representation that Tasmania has, the request that 4 people should represent the rights of the people of the ACT is a very mediocre request when we are confronted with 609 representatives for twice the population of the ACT. That would work out at 300 for the ACT on an equivalent population basis. It is a mediocre request indeed. Now we find that the Opposition goes through the farce of going back to 1870. We know that it lives in the past. The Opposition quoted the conditions of 1870 as a reason why people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory cannot be properly represented in this place.

There are objective people in this community. The population of Australia, in the main, are reasonable people, objective people who vote for common sense. There cannot be any doubt about the outcome of this Bill tonight and its worthy objective. There is undoubted unanimity among the 180.000 people, the growing population of the ACT, that they must have proper representation ;n this place. As I said earlier, I had the unique experience, among those 180,000 people, of knowing the previous member of the Australian Capital Territory on a very close and personal basis. I know the present honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) in a similar way. I also represent an electorate which, as I have mentioned, cradles this electorate of the Australian Capital Territory.

There is a close and proper association between the 2 areas. The interdependence was not recognised by the previous Government. It is absoluetely essential for a proper spirit of development of the region that we have good representation in the Australian Capital Territory. That is in the interest of both EdenMonaro and Hume, those 2 electorates on the flank of this area. There is an interdependence between the areas. The problems that those electorates suffer are created by the A.C.T. At the same time, the opportunities that will give those 2 electorates the chance to develop and expand are created again by the A.C.T. We are confronted in this area with either disaster or success. In order that this opportunity to capitalise and become successful is taken, in order that the roads that connect the areas are made capable of handling the tourist trade and do not impinge on the economies of those other ,2 electorates, in order that market outlets in this place are capitalised on and in order that the hospital and educational facilities that the Australian Capital Territory offers can be used to the benefit of the total region it is absolutely essential that we have proper representation in the A.C.T. and that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has time to get past getting the odd cat out of the tree and looking at the wider issues that affect the total area. The electoral representation work that is involved in the office of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory would leave most honourable members in this place staggered.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - .He has extra staff.

Mr WHAN - We hear, quite correctly, that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has extra staff to help - one extra person in his office. There is one extra person in his office. My wife worked for the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory on a part time basis because of the overwhelming amount of work that he had to do. We saw one member for the Australian Capital Territory killed by this job. Yet we have this begrudging attitude from the Opposition. It begrudges the fact that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has one more person on his staff than any other member of the House of Representatives. Yet the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has to do the amount of work that is done by 300 parliamentary representatives in other areas. This is the level of appreciation that the Opposition shows for the problems of the Australian Capital Territory. I could not conclude, on a better note than this display of ignorance of the problems which exist in these 2 Territories.

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