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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2806

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I do not intend to delay the House unduly in devoting my attention to this conglomerate of electoral Bills. But T want to give some support to the argument that was put forward here tonight by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who very satisfactorily demolished the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill as the most serious threat yet to State rights. The Senate, of course, is the chamber that has been regarded as the States House and I see this Bill as a very serious threat to the federal system of Australia. In the last few months, or at least since this House met earlier this year, we have seen one Bill after another come into this place that obviously is intended to achieve this unitary form of government that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is so hell-bent on achieving in this country.

Mr Whan - He is doing it for the people.

Mr HUNT - Well, I do not think the people of Australia are anxious to find themselves with all power centralised and centred in the Australian Capital Territory. It will be a very serious thing for Australia and for the Australian people should this ever happen because it would open the door to all sorts of totalitarian actions of government. We have prided ourselves on having a federal system of government, a system that has protected the rights of the individual. So every effort must be made by the Australian people to ensure that we do not allow the central government to whittle away the authority of the States and the rights of the States generally, as it appears to be doing.

We are discussing tonight a BDI which in fact does that - a Bill, as the honourable member for Moreton has said, which would give the right if extended to every Australian terri tory to have Senate representation. Of course, if this were done we would end up with a hotchpotch Senate representation which would take away the power of the Senate to protect the rights of the States. The Senate is a States House and a House of review and I think that this move must be resisted for that reason. I am not opposed to trying to give more representation to the Northern Territory. In fact, the former Government over the years extended greater powers to the member for the Northern Territory who today has full voting rights in this chamber, as he should.

Mr Killen - And a very fine member he is.

Mr HUNT - That is correct. I do not think there has ever been a parliamentary representative who has worked harder for a larger area or slice of Australian territory than has the honourable member for the Northern Territory. But are we to allow the federal system to be prostituted in this way by a Bill of this nature?

Moving closer to the Australian Capital Territory we are also discussing the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill which provides for an additional member for the Australian Capital Territory. An amendment will be moved at a later stage to this piece of legislation. I am very concerned about one aspect of it because 1 believe that the Government is attempting to by-pass the present provisions of the Electoral Act that require a redistribution providing a margin of one-fifth above or below the mean for each electorate. Yet we see in this Bill an attempt to once again get to the onetenth margin that this House and the other place have dealt with already. I believe that we cannot allow the Government to try a piece of clever footwork with respect to the Australian Capital Territory. Therefore I will give my support to the amendment which will be moved during the Committee stage that will protect and preserve a principle that has stood the test of time since Federation - the principle of giving a margin of 20 per cent to the Distribution Commissioners when drawing the boundaries for electorates throughout Australia.

Other provisions in the legislation also are not altogether consistent with the Electoral Bill that was introduced earlier in this session. I refer to the criteria that are outlined in the Bill for the electoral commisisoners in drawing boundaries. Clause 10 of the Australian

Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill states:

(1)   The Distribution Committee shall make a proposed division of the Territory into two Electoral Divisions in accordance with this section.

(2)   In making the proposed division the Distribution Committee shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Electoral Division, to:

(a)   community or diversity of interests;

(b)   trend of population changes; and

(c)   physical features,

I understand that in committee the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) will move an amendment seeking to alter the wording of Clause 10 (2) (a) to read: community of interests within the Division, including economic, social and regional interests'. I believe that the provisions of the Bill should be changed so that they accord, at least, with the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which was introduced into this House by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). Therefore, firstly I oppose the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill for the reasons I have outlined. I see it as a very serious threat to the constitutional rights of the States. I see it also as eroding the principles of the States House, the Senate. Secondly, I believe that we should resist the moves of the Government which has been trying, as it were, to sneak into the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill a provision allowing a 10 per cent variation above or below the quota in the Australian Capital Territory. The Opposition opposed in this House the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which has since been opposed in another place. 1 believe that in order to be consistent we certainly must oppose that section of the legislation now before us.

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