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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 2415

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Leader of the Austraiian Country Party in the Senate) - As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has just pointed out, in relation to the Bill now before the chamber one could be excused for saying that if ever there was any doubt that the Labor Government employs a double standard this Bill must dispel that doubt. For years, this Parliament and the people of Australia have heard Labor champion the electoral principle of one vote one value. For years, we have listened to Labor claim and complain that people in the country areas of Australia have greater voting strength than people in the cities. Yet here we have a Bill that proposes to alter the Constitution so as to ensure that members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States represent numbers of people rather than numbers of electors. One major effect of such a change would be to take our electoral system further away from the one vote one value principle. Why the double standard? Why propound one principle and follow another? Clearly, this is another attempt by Labor to fool the people, and for that reason alone it deserves to fail.

A few months ago, the Senate rejected a Labor Government Bill which sought to give the cities more representation in Parliament and the country areas fewer representatives. Now wc have a new Bill with a different title but the same objective. Its one major difference is that now the Government seeks to let the people decide by referendum. What Labor wants is not equality or fair representation for the people, or one vote one value or whatever else it might like to call it. It wants political advantage for the Labor Party- and this Bill, presented so soon after the Electoral Bill was thrown out, demonstrates its determination to get it. The motive is consistent with this Government's deep-rooted antipathy towards rural areas. I do not propose on this occasion to go through the long and growing list of decisions made by this Government that have disadvantaged country people. They are well known.

In view of the obvious aim of the Bill, I ask: How serious is the Government about its decentralisation policy? If it succeeds in having electoral boundaries determined by numbers of people, the Government will have the greatest representation where it wants it- in the heavily populated worker suburbs of the cities. I submit that it is most unlikely that Labor will set in train policies that would bring more people out of the cities into country areas: it would be defeating its own electoral purpose by doing so. To prove my point that Labor argues one principle but adopts another, I shall give figures showing how the proposal in the Bill will take us further away from one vote one value. If the present proposal had applied at the time of the 1969 election, one vote in the electorate of Sydney would have been worth 1.7 votes in the electorate of Robertson, and one vote in the electorate of Melbourne would have been worth 1.77 votes in the electorate of Diamond Valley. There are many other similar examples.

I now turn to Labor's effrontery as exhibited in this Bill's proposal to give the Federal Government the right to tell the States how they shall elect their representatives to their own Parliaments. This is just one more attack by the centralist, socialist Government on the rights of the States. It is preposterous for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) to ask the Senate-the States House- to approve a measure that would strip the States of such a fundamental right. That he had the temerity to do so emphasises, if emphasis were needed, the Federal Labor Government's determination to grab every significant State power for Canberra- a process which would lead, of course, to the achievement of the Prime Minister's ambition to abolish the States, which he sees only as an encumbrance. For these reasons, clearly the Bill should be rejected in its entirety, and the Country Party means to see that that is what happens.

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