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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) (1:23 AM) . - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has argued that by giving the country areas a bigger representation, population would be atracted to country areas.

Mr Turnbull - You would get the amenities.

Mr THOMPSON - You would get the amenities and the population. Let me tell the honorable member that in South Australia we do not have any provision for 20 per cent, or 10 per cent. What we do there is this-

Mr Whitlam - You have 200 per cent.

Mr THOMPSON - Yes. In making a redistribution, the State commission in South Australia is required to give the metropolitan area half as many members as the country areas have. The country areas have two-thirds of the total representation and the city has one-third. Over 60 per cent, of the total population of the State is in the metropolitan area, which has 13 members while the 40 per cent, of the population in the country areas have 26 members. Nevertheless, the great complaint in South Australia is that people are leaving the country areas and going to the city. If the honorable member thinks that giving the country areas greater representation will stop the drift to the cities, he should have another- think.

In discussing this matter, we should consider ways of giving the people real representation. After a re-distribution is made, the variation between the electorates would not be 10 per cent, or even 5 per cent, except perhaps with such electorates as Kennedy and Kalgoorlie. After a re-distribution, the difference between electorates is very small. But the difficulty I think the Minister has in mind is this: The electorate of Bruce, for instance, has 80,000 electors. That is because of the drift of population that has taken place from the time of the last census until the present. The electorate of Melbourne, on the other hand, has about 30,000 electors. The difference between the two electorates is tremendous, but that is caused by the drift of population. At present, Adelaide has about 30,000, but Bonython and Kingston have about 60,000. That is not the fault of the committee that applies the 20 per cent, to the quota. The position is that if the percentage is reduced and made 10 per cent., there may be more divisions which exceeded the quota by the permitted percentage and that would cause a redistribution.

Mr Freeth - There would be one every three years.

Mr THOMPSON - That is what I thought the Minister had in mind. There is a certain amount to be said for that contention, but 1 still think that the figure should be 10 per cent. The Constitutional Review Committee considered this matter thoroughly and had all the figures before it. It reported that there was no need to have 20 per cent., that the figure could be 10 per cent. There might be a possibility of a gerrymander, but I do not think it would be likely. However, when we make a law we should ensure that it is a reasonable law that will operate in the best interests of the people. After the next census is taken, there will certainly be a re-distribution in most States because of the big alteration in population. But when we talk about a gerrymander we must remember that all sorts of things can happen. I know of the difficulties that can arise, because of the experience I have had in my electorate. When the number in my electorate increased, a portion of the district had to be taken away. Unfortunately for me, when the alteration was made the parts that were taken away from the electorate included many Labour voters. However, although I lost a percentage of the Labour vote I was able to win part of the Liberal vote. I do not blame the commission in that respect; it was guided by geographical features.

Mr Pollard - It was nature.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member says it was nature. The cause was that I had the ocean on two sides of me. However, I suppose that is nature. I think the appropriate figure would be 10 per cent., and I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), because it seeks to substitute 10 per cent, for 20 per cent.

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