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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2810

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) made some interesting points, but when he took as his reason for the granting of representation to the Territories the enlightenment of non-Labor governments there was a certain degree of interest in the fact that he was omitting, for instance, that in 1922 the Northern Territory was given representation because it had been in a state of rebellion in 1921 and the Administrator of the Northern Territory had been put under constraint. So although they did not put a voting member in this Parliament they gave the Northern Territory a voice. The honourable gentleman referred to 1968 and the conferring of voting rights on the present honourable member for the Northern Territory. In doing so he referred to one of the most disgraceful episodes in this Parliament. It was not easy to vote against the measure and no one voted against it but it was utterly unprincipled that throughout the time when Mr Jock Nelson was a member of this House there was a steel determination on the part of the then Government not to confer voting rights on him. The present member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) should not have had voting rights conferred upon him in mid-term. He should have remained throughout that term without a vote and then should have gone to election when we would have had a member elected who had voting rights, that matter being determined by the Northern Territory. It was a piece of absolutely unscrupulous practice on the part of the Government which the honourable gentleman supported to confer on a man rights to which he had not been elected. If Jock Nelson bad continued as a member of this Parliament the honourable member for Mackellar knows very well that the democratic sentiments of the Government of 1968 would not have conferred voting rights upon him. So do not let us talk about that as an episode in constitutional nicety on the part of the side of politics which the honourable gentleman supports.

Mr Wentworth - That is not worthy of you, and you know it is not correct.

Mr BEAZLEY - It is entirely correct. Mr Corbett - It was confirmed at the next election, anyway.

Mr BEAZLEY - That does not give you a constitutional argument at all and it would not have happened, as you very well know, if Mr Nelson had continued to be a member. The Country Party has a very sound instinct for protecting its members, in altering boundaries or doing anything else. The other serious misrepresentation by the honourable member for Mackellar was in making the disparities between the States on the question of one man one vote. When normally one objects to departures in principle from one man one vote, one objects to deliberate malapportionment which is intended to favour a party. It does not matter much in the party sense in the Parliament that New South Wales has 12 times the population of Tasmania and that New South Wales and Tasmania are equally represented in the Senate as part of the original compact. Tasmania is not an arranged boundary to favour the Country Party, the Labor Party or the Liberal Party, nor is the State of New South Wales. So the point that is being made by the honourable member about the disparity in representation between the States has no party significance whatever in the Parliament. It is not a gerrymander; it is not a malapportionment. It is not anything other than a compact which all the Australian people voted for when the Federation was originally formed.

Mr Giles - That destroys the principle.

Mr BEAZLEY - Yes, but when the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value is departed from it causes damage and a lack of faith in the body politic, not if it is done to equalise the States but if it is done to ensure that the Australian people do not get the government for which they voted; when it is an arrangement to ensure that a minority can stay in power. That is the point that is objected to. We do not have to go over that.

Mr Wentworth - Oh!

Mr BEAZLEY - The honourable gentleman comes from a State which does not even have an elected upper House, and his side of politics has deliberately contrived that situation. I say to him: Do not give us lectures in democracy. I would much rather have his ancestor's bunyip aristocracy. His proposition was for a House of baronets. At least you can create baronets. When a government was in power without a majority h would have been able to create baronets. Instead New South Wales has an upper House the elections to which are usually accompanied by rumours about buying seats. But we will not discuss that. I think in this respect the ancestor of the honourable member for Mackellar, with his House of baronets proposal, was much more democratic than the honourable member.

The honourable member, astonishingly, danced over section 122 of the Constitution.

He did not read the section. He said that this, which is a piece of the utmost simplicity in writing, had all sorts of tortuous implications. The section provides:

The Parliament may make laws for the government of any Territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth-

The Northern Territory was surrendered by South Australia to the Commonwealth - or of any Territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may. allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.

It states 'either House of the Parliament'. In some odd way the honourable gentleman suggests to us that 'either House of the Parliament' somehow or other excludes the Senate. As to the extent of representation the honourable member said that the High Court would probably find that that was the degree to which voting rights could be conferred. But if that is the meaning of 'extent', if it can give it to any extent or in the terms it thinks fit, then any extent or terms it thinks fit would include full voting rights. I do not think the honourable gentleman can impose upon us his rather odd interpretation of the meaning of these words especially when in the preceding paragraph of the Constitution the very expression extent of representation' is included, not just the extent to which a man may be representative, but the extent of representation.

The honourable gentleman, of course, knows very well that the proportional representation system applying in Senate elections for the 2 Territories probably would simply cancel out in the Party sense. As I recollect, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) had a reasonably handsome majority in a small electorate, but reproduce that as a Senate vote if 2 senators were standing and the result would probably be a split one and one. Similarly I think that would be true at most times of the Australian Capital Territory. Although the present member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) enjoyed a handsome majority, if the votes of a whole lot of minor parties were added together and regarded as a non-Labor Senate vote it would probably have returned a nonLabor senator. The point is that the Territories which the Constitution does envisage as being represented in both Houses of the Parliament could very well have additional representation and have representation in the Upper House.

Anyone who travels over that ocean of land which is the electorate of the honourable member for the Northern Territory would recognise that he has a most onerous task of representation. My impression of his electorate is that it has rather, high feelings and that there may be many people who disagree with him politically and who would not wish to use his services. When I have travelled through the Northern Territory I have always found electors of the Northern Territory rather more vehement than most people in expressing their opinions. I am not suggesting that this is a bad thing but I think people who live in isolation often develop very distinctive opinions. They do not have much clash with other minds and often the disagreements in politics in the Northern Territory are very wide divergences indeed. One of the interesting things about the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is how, over a period of time, when people meet one another they do have changes of view which in their electorates they do not have.

I do not think that the honourable member for Wentworth can give us lectures in democracy when it comes to discussing the conferring of voting rights on members of this. House. I repeat that the conferring of the right to vote in this House on the member of the Northern Territory when it was done in mid-term and not as a condition of the election in which he was originally elected was one of the most disgraceful episodes in the electoral history of this country.

Mr WENTWORTH(Mackellar)- I rise to make a personal explanation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Doesthe honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr WENTWORTH - Yes, on 2 counts. First I did not say, as the honourable member for Fremantle, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) stated, that it was impossible under section 122 of the Constitution for the Territories to be represented in both Houses. I stated that that representation did not necessarily carry voting rights. I cited, as an example, the fact that for many years the representative of the Northern Territory in this House did not have voting rights. I was quite clear in my remarks concerning the extent of representation. That means the number of members, and the Minister for Education misrepresented what I said. The

Minister spoke also of my motives in regard to the 1939 conferring of voting rights on the member for the Northern Territory and, incidentally, the member for the Australian Capital Territory at the same time - a matter which he most conveniently forgot. But I stand by what was done. It was done for both at the same time and I ask him to remember that.

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