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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- This is really a very important bill, but there is not the interest taken in it that is taken in other measures which, I believe, are not of anything like the same importance. I have listened carefully to the debate and of the many points that have been made I have agreed with some and have disagreed with others. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) spoke about the arrangement of the names of candidates in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. The honorable member's name starts with " C ", yet he advocated a change in the system. My name starts with " T ", and is usually to be found towards the bottom of the ballot-paper, but I do rot care very much whether the procedure is changed or not. There is no doubt, I agree, that the person whose name is at the top of the ballot-paper has an advantage, but I am not going to worry about that to-day. It is obvious that the advantage lies with the person whose name is at the top of the paper. In a horse race the horse drawn near the rails is generally favoured to win, or at least to have a better chance than a horse of equal ability drawn on the outside. Every one knows that this is so, especially the sporting gentlemen in this chamber. I can see from the smiles on their faces that they agree with my contention.

I listened carefully to the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who is in the chamber at the present time. 1 thought he commenced his remarks on one aspect of the matter in a rather strange way, when he said, " I do not want to annoy members of the Australian Country Party ". In saying that he must have had in mind that he was about to make a statement that was not quite right, and which would, therefore, annoy the members of the Country Party. To an extent he was quite correct in his assumption, because although he did not annoy us, we were put on our guard. The honorable member said -

I do not want to annoy members of the Australian Country Party, but I would point out that in the cities, since the abolition of Saturday morning work in many industries, a great many people who used to vote between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. now vote in the morning. That is what happens in my electorate. Before we had Saturday morning closing, there was a terrific rush between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the booths. Now, however, you could fire a cannon down the street outside any booth in my electorate after 6 o'clock and you would not hit anybody. They would all have voted before 6 p.m.

Mr Stewart - A very intelligent statement!

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for Lang suggests that it is a very intelligent statement, but to my mind it is not a very convincing argument that the honorable member has put forward. If the honorable member for Batman is correct in his description of the state of affairs at polling booths in the cities, surely he has some thought for the rural areas of Australia. I would remind the House, further, that at least one of his colleagues did not agree with him. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said during the course of his speech -

I represent one of Melbourne's industral areas.

Of course, the honorable member for Batman also represents one of Melbourne's industrial areas. The honorable member for Wills continued -

My electorate is one in which some polling booths are teeming with people throughout polling day.

These statements by the two honorable members show diametrically opposed points of view. The honorable member for Batman says that you can fire a gun down the street outside the polling booths without hitting any one, while the honorable member for Wills says that polling booths in his electorate are teeming with people throughout the whole of the day. I hear many honorable members opposite interjecting and saying, " He is right ". Which one is right?

Mr Bird - I am.

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for Batman says he is right, but unfortunately the honorable member for Wills is not here to say that he is right. They cannot both be right.

But I am not very concerned about which of the two honorable members is right. I am concerned about the fact that because the honorable member for Batman has found that people in his electorate vote on Saturday morning because no work is done these days on Saturday mornings in the industries in his district, he has got the idea in his head that the whole of Australia's work force ceases to operate at that time. That is not so, of course. During recent years, federal elections have taken place in the months of November and December. I. represent a rural electorate, which is the largest in Victoria.

Mr Bandidt - And a good one!

Mr TURNBULL - A very good one, and a highly productive one. At that time of the year many of my constituents are engaged in harvesting operations, taking in the harvests of wheat, oats and other products. They very much appreciate the fact that they do not have to rush in to the towns and vote before 6 p.m., and can wait until after halfpast seven to cast their votes. I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) who said that there is no need to worry about those voters, because if they are more than 5 miles from a polling booth they can cast postal votes. Surely to goodness it is not expected that primary producers situated 5 miles from a polling booth should have to go to all the trouble of casting postal votes.

For these reasons, I repeat what I have advocated on many occasions in this House, that we should maintain the present polling hours, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I congratulate the Minister for not having interfered with those hours in preparing the bill that is now before the House. In this regard, he has my sincere support. The members of the Labour Party represent mostly metropolitan areas. Very few of them represent country electorates. In fact, so far as Victoria is concerned, not one member of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party is dependent on the votes of rural electors for his return to this House. However, the members of the Labour Party must realize that the primary producer deserves a fair deal, especially on this one most important day that comes round about every three years. At every election we hear people saying, " This is the most important election we have ever had in the history of Australia ". They are quite right. If I asked the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), for instance, what are the three most important years of a man's life, he would be quite right if he said, " The next three ". Every time a person goes to a polling booth to vote, he does so on a day that is most important, because the result of the poll has a tremendous bearing on that person's life for the following three years. That is why each election is the most important one. Earlier elections may also have been important, but they are in the past, just as the earlier years of a man's life are in the past. Let me say again that I appreciate the Minister's refusal to alter these times.

Let me refer now to section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which says -

For the purpose of the distribution of a State into Divisions in accordance with this Act the Governor-General may appoint three Distribution Commissioners, of whom one shall be the Chief Electoral Officer or an officer having similar qualifications, and, if his services are obtainable, one shall be the Surveyor-General of the State or an officer having similar qualifications.

This is, of course, a wise provision. The officers referred to have been tested and tried and they are the right men for such duties. But the provision goes further. This is a matter that I have brought before this House on many occasions. Of course, the only way in which one can expect to have action taken on a particular matter is to keep bringing it before the House until something is done about it. Honorable members may recall occasions when I have brought matters to the notice of this House and certain members have cried out " Rabbits!" Of course, the rabbits have just about been annihilated, and perhaps something I said in this House may have been partially responsible for that. When I talk about dried fruits in this chamber honorable members opposite say, " Dried fruits again!" We must remember, however, that the dried fruits growers in Victoria have received £300,000 as a gift. I have spoken on numerable occasions about the menace of skeleton weed, and at last we are getting some results.

Mr Ward - What has that to do with this bill?

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for East Sydney, having finally awakened, asks what this has to do with the bill. It has to do with the matter of sticking to one's point and hammering away at it in this House until the required action is taken. That is the only way to get something done by a government, whether the present Government or a Labour government. The honorable member for East Sydney has not had much success in this place because he has not followed that policy. He comes in, usually with a sheaf of papers in his hand which constitute a conglomeration of facts, etcetera, and consequently his advocacy is never very successful.

Section 17 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act says -

At all meetings of the Distribution Commissioners the Chairman, if present, shall preside, and in his absence the Distribution Commissioners present shall appoint one of their number to preside, and at all such meetings two Commissioners shall be a quorum and shall have full power to act,

Only two are necessary. The section continues - and in the event of an equality of votes the Chairman or presiding Commissioner shall have a casting vote in addition to his original vote.

That means that one man who has already had an original vote out of the two votes cast, also has the casting vote and can decide matters of gigantic importance in the electoral field and, therefore, in every field affecting the Commonwealth of Australia. I have objected to this before. If there is to be a meeting of commissioners, let the quorum be three. Do not have only one man deciding these important questions. I do not know of any other act - there may be some because I have not read all of them - which provides that one man shall make the decision in similar circumstances. I think this matter should be looked into, and I ask the Minister to consider it. I am not at all satisfied. I know that the men who comprise the commission are excellent men, but no matter how good they are, they might have certain views individually that would not meet with the approval of all three Distribution Commissioners if all were sitting at the same time.

The other point to which I wish to refer and one that I have mentioned often is contained in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which states - . . the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.

I compliment the Minister upon leaving that provision as it is. I hope that some day in the not too distant future the whole onefifth of the margin will be put into operation, but an amendment has been distributed and the Labour Party is supporting a move to make the relevant proportion one-tenth, or 10 per cent. If you have a quota of 40,000, and you apply a margin of allowance of 20 per cent., or one-fifth, the electorate could be 32,000 or 48.000. The metropolitan electorates should be 48,000 and the country electorates 32,000. In Australia, we are up against a great problem in the redistribution of population.

Mr James - Unemployment is the problem.

Mr TURNBULL - If we had a redistribution of population, we probably would not have unemployment. After all. you have to overcome certain problems to end unemployment. I am sure the honorable member will agree that we could provide permanent employment by the distribution of the population on a reasonable basis. The Labour Party wants to make the margin of allowance one-tenth so that in no circumstances would the city electorates be disturbed. But after all, the great problem in Australia is that more and more people are living in the metropolitan areas. People talk about decentralization! It has become a catch-cry. The only way to get decentralization for the population is to decentralize political representation for this simple reason: The more people over 21 years of age you get into the metropolitan areas after redistribution, the more seats in Parliament there are created. With more members of Parliament, there are more amenities available, and the population flows to the places where there are amenities. So the trend towards greater population in the metropolitan areas snowballs.

With political representation as it is now in Australia, we are in a hopeless position to decentralize population. No worthwhile suggestion towards that objective has been made except by my friend, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) who has made a plea for the creation of new States. Although I have not sone into the New State Movement very carefully, I believe it is good, but I consider that project could operate only in conjunction with a redistribution of the electorates on the basis I have already mentioned.

As the honorable member for New England has said, it is suicidal to have all these people in the metropolitan areas, chiefly Melbourne and Sydney. In this atomic age, as everybody knows, if an atomic bomb is dropped on a densely populated area not only are thousands and thousands of people killed but also the whole community is disorganized. In the electorate I represent there is a fine fertile valley known as the Murray Valley. The Murray Valley Development League has said that there is room for 1,000,000 people there. That is a modest estimate. If this area was properly organized and developed, there would be room in it for 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 before many years had passed. This is the only way that we can assure ourselves of the future peaceful occupancy of this country.

It appears to me that the Australian Labour Party believes - and of course it is natural - that self-preservation is still the first law of the universe. If each and every member of the Labour Party were to speak his mind - and I do not say that in a disparaging way - he would say that there were too many people in the metropolitan areas, but if they were moved away, it would injure the Labour movement. That is the crux of the matter for Labour members. There is any amount of evidence on that point. I have only to cite the statements of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) who is reported in " Hansard " to have said -

In my view the boundaries of electorates on the fringes of Melbourne and Sydney should have been revised long ago. This matter of boundaries could be serious-

To whom? To Australia? No! The honorable member for Wills continued - to the member representing Wills which is a small metropolitan electorate.

Serious - for himself! That is the way it is with the Labour Party. Such a move might be dangerous to the Labour movement and therefore every Labour member is prepared to put the future of this great Commonwealth aside so that the Labour Party can get most of the population into the metropolitan areas where the votes will be cast for the Labour members. That is a simple proposition, but it is one that the people of Australia should look at. I hope that the commissioners who frame the electorates for a redistribution will look into this matter and will use to the fullest extent the limits that are set each way and the quotas that are allowed.

The population of Australia is increasing rapidly and is expected to reach 10,500,000 in June, 1961, when a census will be taken. The increase between 1947 and 1954 as shown by the last census was 1,407,000 compared with an estimated increase between 1954 and 1961 of 1,500,000. The increase includes about 900,000 by natural increase and 600,000 from net migration. This will represent the largest inter-censal increase in this century. All honorable members know that this does not mean that seats will be available to the extent of the increase in population because most of the increase is represented by births, and it will be a long time before the children reach 21 years. However, a big increase in the voting population will be shown when the census is taken and there is sure to be a redistribution of electorates before long.

This will mean only an addition to the number of electorates in the metropolitan area.

Mr Stewart - That is where they should be.

Mr TURNBULL - The seats should be in the metropolitan areas! That is the Labour principle. I believe that they should be right out in Australia so that the country can be developed. We have fertile areas of country.

Mr Bryant - Sand-hills and spinifex.

Mr TURNBULL - That shows how littlehe knows. I see the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) in the House. He represents the south-east of South Australia, an area which embraces Mount Gambier, Penola, Narracoorte and Millicent. What a. great tract of land! What a great number of people could be settled in that great fertileplain!

Mr Bryant - Do you believe that people will move to an area just because they get a vote?

Mr TURNBULL - That question shows clearly that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has not grasped the situation. With greater political representation in country areas, the people of those areas would be able to exercise more power with their votes, and so would be able to bring more amenities to their districts. With those amenities would come population. People are not attracted to the country if they haveto live under a barbed wire fence. They want amenities, including good schools. Surely every member of this House knows that, in the final analysis, the only thing that counts in Parliament is votes. If the Australian Country Party had greater voting strength for the country areas it could build up amenities to attract population from the cities.

Mr Bird - What have you done about it?'

Mr TURNBULL - I have advocated this procedure ever since I came here.

Mr Whitlam - Have you voted for it?

Mr TURNBULL - Now we have an interjection from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who comes from the Sydney metropolitan area. Of course, he opposesmy suggestion.

Mr Whitlam - No. I say one vote, onevalue.

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member says " One vote, one value ". I am not asking for a new statute to be introduced. I am simply asking that the present electoral law be put into operation.

Mr Bird - Why not ask the Minister?

Mr TURNBULL - I have already asked the Minister. I have asked everybody in this chamber. It is easy to see from the interjections that Opposition members realize that what I am saying is absolutely correct, but being frightened of the effect of my proposals on their electorates, they will not support me. Is any member of the Labour Party prepared to support this proposition, even at the expense of his own seat? That is the test. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) is interjecting all the time. His electors stop work on Saturdays. Mine do not. They keep on working. That is why I am appealing on their behalf. It was the hard work of country people that built this country. Adam Lindsay Gordon said -

Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs,

To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,

With a running fire of stockwhips and a fiery run of hoofs;

Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!

But it is too hard for the metropolitan Labour areas. I say again that it was hard work in the country areas that built this nation. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is making some guttural sounds. He is a man who should know better, but having been born and bred in the city he cannot get his mind away from the metropolitan areas to give this Australia of ours a chance. He has all the theories. I have listened to his speeches ever since T came here. I appreciate his utterances, but they are more in line with theory than with events.

Mr Beazley - May I ask a question?

Mr TURNBULL - With the permission of Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may.

Mr Beazley - How can you get private investment to go anywhere else than where it has a market? If the market is in the cities, will the cities not attract the industries?

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