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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for the Interior) (1:51 AM) . - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has produced a proposal which would make it compulsory to have a redistribution at least once every ten years. The only reason that he adduces for that is that a state of affairs could arise in which, although electorates had become unduly disproportionate, a redistribution might not be ordered. In actual fact this evil which he fears has not arisen in the Commonwealth. We had redistributions in 1903, 1906, 1912, 1922 and 1934. Then there was a gap of fourteen years to 1948, but I imagine that the. intervention of the war with the reSUlt that the census was not taken until 1947 was the cause of that.

Only when a census is taken can there be a re-allocation of the number of seats as between the. States. If, therefore, under the Opposition's proposal a redistribution was due in the year before a census was to be taken it might be necessary to- have another redistribution shortly afterwards because of population movements disclosed by the census.

There is no great evil to be remedied here. There is no need for this amendment at this stage and there is a possibility that it could force on the electors of Australia rather more frequent distributions than they would feel desirable or than would be really necessary in the light of actual conditions at that time. This would involve unwarranted expense and could throw the electors into unnecessary confusion, because a redistribution does create quite an upheaval and electors who are affected by altered boundaries often do not know for a considerable time in whose electorate they are.

We see no need for a disturbance of the existing situation. If there had been an acceptance of the previous amendment introduced by the Labour Party, which sought a reduced margin in apportioning the number of electors between electorates, there might have been some stronger weight for the Opposition's argument. Indeed, if we had accepted that amendment we would probably have found it necessary to have a redistribution once every three years because of the present rate of population change which I believe causes a great deal of confusion and lack of stability in the electoral pattern of this country.

Question put -

That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) be so inserted. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)

Ayes . . 30

Noes . . 51

Majority . . 21

Question so resolved in the negative.

Proposed new clause.

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