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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 488

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Smith) - The whole point of clause 7 is whether it is necessary at all. That is the point the Opposition is making. The Opposition has no objection to a fair distribution within the 10 per cent tolerance. We are prepared to rely on the Distribution Commissioners to act in accordance with the tenor of the Act. But to write into the legislation the additional provision that they themselves are bound by something this Parliament determines, namely area, can well affect the justice of the situation. The Constitution, particularly as now emphasised by the High Court decision, virtually made, despite what other people have said here, a one vote one value proposition in that the population of the Commonwealththat is, a count of the heads of people- is to be the yardstick upon which we determine the quota for the States. It was not intended that we dividethe120membersintopopulationplus area. The Constitution meant us to divide the 120 into population. The quota is fixed on people. Accordingly one can really argue from the point of view of electoral justice that as the principle of one vote one value applied in the High Court determination of fixing the quota for States, would not the logical situation be that within the State itself, as far as is practicable, we should as near as possible have equal quotas?

What has been said by my colleague, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), is the mathematical result of this sort of interlineation as to what should happen when we come to the mathematics of the matter. The clause says that where the size of an electorate is more than S600 square kilometres we cannot put any more people in the lowest quota in the State. That could well be fair. But let us look at the mathematics of the situation. This clause will allow us to discard all the other factors of population and we will deal with electors. The Distribution Commissioner could then say: 'Oh well, I would think really that this area could take more people but because of the area requirements I cannot now do that. I am bound by the Parliament'. Why does the Government distrust Distribution Commissioners?

The Government knows that one-third of electorates are below the normal quota. The other two-thirds of the electorates will have to take up that balance. That is where the mathematics get out of kilter. What the Government is putting forward is not really a fair proposition. I refer particularly to electorates which have growth potential. The Gold Coast area is the fastest growing area in Australia. It would be appropriate to weigh that area on the basis that we would give it a low quota and its growth will be such that in a short space of time it would be over quota. But once we do that, we have to give every other seat in Queensland with no growth potential a low quota. The population in some country districts might be declining because of difficulties in rural production. Therefore this clause will have the effect of throwing the system right out of kilter. Another clause in this Bui which we will be discussing later will have the effect of net allowing anything to be done for over 7 years in the case of electorates that have been thrown out of kilter. Only the Governor-General will be able to decide whether this can be done, and he is not likely to make any individual decision. So there can be a lack of electoral justice.

Mr Ellicott - It is the Executive.

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