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Thursday, 10 March 1966

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I wish to make just a few remarks on the measure under consideration. First, I congratulate the honorable member .or the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) on this important occasion. No member of this Parliament has pressed more for full voting rights for the representative of the people of the Australian Capital Territory than he has. The people of this Territory should be grateful for the fact that the honorable member has consistently pushed this Government, which is so very reluctant to take any forward steps, to give them what is their right - representation in this place by a member with full voting rights. The honorable member must be very proud that the Government has at last answered his pleas for full representation for his constituents. 1 am sure that he had doubts that the Government would do so. I cannot help thinking that the people o; the Australian Capital Territory must be pleased to know that they are no longer in the category mentioned by our present Ambassador to Greece, who said -

.   . it is just as well to remind ourselves that the people of Canberra will still be classed with lunatics, criminals, children, Aborigines and, of course, aliens, as people without an effective voice in the national affairs of this country . . .

Tonight we celebrate the great occasion when the people of the Territory are recognised as citizens in their own right, with an effective voice in the Parliament. The honorable member who now represents them is entitled to their unfailing support for the constant efforts that he has made to force a very backward and out-dated Government to grant them this democratic right.

At the present time about 47,000 people are on the electoral roll for the Australian Capital Territory. That is more people than are represented by almost 50 of the members in this place. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is still without a vote in this place except on some issues. That is to the eternal discredit of this Government. The electorate represented by the member for the Northern Territory covers a huge area.

The Government has been speaking of northern development, yet the member representing the Northern Territory, one of the most able members of the Parliament, cannot, by his vote here, further the interests of the people of that great district.

In the Northern Territory there are 17,000 names on the electoral roll. Australian Country Party supporters have said that electorates covering great areas should not be required to have as many people on the electoral rolls as there are on the electoral rolls of inner city districts. They have said it is right that country electorates should have 20,000 voters and that a city electorate such as mine should have 60,000. They have said that members representing huge areas have greater burdens imposed upon them. We have heard the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who is a member of the Country Party, advocating numerically smaller electorates for members of his Party, at the expense of city electorates. This is Country Party policy. Yet the Minister for the Interior, who is responsible for redistribution of electoral boundaries, said last night in his second reading speech on this Bill that not enough people were on the roll in the Northern Territory to entitle their representative in this place to a full vote. He said that the Northern Territory has not as many electors as any other electorate within the Commonwealth. I can see no justification for not giving the 17,000 people on the electoral roll of the Northern Territory representation by a member with full voting rights in the Parliament.

Far be it from me to bring politics into a debate on a national issue like this, but let me ask the Minister: If the member for the Northern Territory were a member of the Country Party, would he have full voting rights in the Parliament today? I wonder whether the Government would take a different line if he were not a member of the Australian Labour Party. If the Minister really believes in numerically smaller electorates for country districts, no man in this place has a greater claim to support from the Minister and his Party than the honorable member for the Northern Territory in his claim for full voting rights in this Parliament. I wonder why the Government, which says that it desires to do all things that are just and proper, did not give full representation to the people of the A.C.T. after the 1961 general election, when the Government had a majority of only one in this place. Evidently the Government's ideas on these matters change, depending upon who holds a seat and what the numbers are in the Parliament. Full voting rights are now to be given to the member for the A.C.T. I hope that it will not be another 10 years before the member for the Northern Territory is given the same right in this place.

I suggest to the Minister that he tell us why he does not follow the policy of his Party and give a full vote to the member for the Northern Territory. Honorable members will recall that when we were debating a bill relating to the wool industry last year we were told that a grower with only 10 bales of wool would have a vote at a referendum, and that the principle of one vote one value was to be followed. That principle was not in line with Country Party policy. But now the Minister has a chance to come right into line with Country Party policy by giving the member for the Northern Territory a full voting right in this House. That would give justice to the people of the Territory. If the Minister will not accept that suggestion, I would recommend that the people of the Northern Territory continue to vote Labour, because only in that way will they get a member who will do for them what the member for the A.C.T. has been able to do for the people of that Territory, that is, force the Government to give a real voice in the Parliament to the man who represents them.

I support the request made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I extend my personal congratulations to my colleague from the A.C.T., as I know do all of those who believe in democracy, on what is a magnificent occasion for him and also for the people of the A.C.T. This is an achievement that deserves the commendation of us all.

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