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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 490

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) -A lot of comments have been made with regard to the size of electorates and the effect of clause 7 on them, but in the main a large amount of the debate has developed around the advantage to a particular party. I refer particularly to the Australian Labor Party and its approach to electoral redistribution. We hear a lot of discussion about the problems of large electorates or small electorates. In the United Kingdom, for example, the larger and smaller electorates are more evenly distributed between the parties. Therefore there is not the amount of haggling that goes on in this Parliament with regard to redistribution.

I heard the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) say that we do not trust our Distribution Commissioners. I trust them up to 20 per cent tolerance. I would not restrict them to 10 per cent tolerance. I would rely on their good judgment, taking into consideration all the factors available for them to consider. I would be much more impartial than those speakers who perhaps want to help themselves or their party. There are a lot of angles to this situation.

I refer to electorates getting out of kilter under the 20 per cent tolerance. In my State, Queensland, the last distribution was in 1968. Let me mention the average enrolment for the 9 electorates of Capricornia, Darling Downs, Dawson, Fisher, Kennedy, Leichhardt, Maranoa, Wide Bay and Herbert. They are the non-metropolitan seats, with the exception of McPherson. The figures would have been a lot better with McPherson included, but I have left it out. The average enrolment of these 9 electorates today is 60 450. It is not far from the permissible average of 64 000, which it is suggested will be the average in Queensland if 19 seats are allocated. In the other 9 seats in Queensland, including McPherson, which is the one which has grown out of all proportion, the average is some 76 000. The tolerance of 10 per cent will mean a variation from 57 000 to 70 000. 1 would like a 20 per cent tolerance and an allowance for all the disabilities of large electorates. I emphasise that there are disabilities in representing large electorates. I refer to no less an expert than the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), who said:

The problems of the geographically large electorates vis-a-vis small electorates have long been acknowledged.

The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) in another place used the same words. They are not the words of people who are supposed to be benefiting by putting up a case for the problems associated with the representation of large electorates. I hope that the people listening to this debate consider the fact that a lot of the debate- too much of it- has centred on what might affect a political party to advantage or otherwise. I hope we can get away from that. The way to get away from it is to give the Distribution Commissioners the opportunity to use those considerations. The fact is, and it has been acknowledged in many other countries, that there is a difference between electorates. Someone spoke about everyone having an equal opportunity to influence the Government. To have an equal opportunity to influence the Government you also want an equal opportunity to discuss with your member the problems of government. That is what the people in the large outlying electorates do not get. The fact that a member gets more funds or travel facilities simply reduces the cost to the member servicing a large electorate. It does not save him the great amount of time he spends travelling. When travelling by air in my electorate I fly over a large number of settlements on my way to larger centres. I like to give all the people an opportunity of seeing their member, so I travel a lot by car to the smaller centres. So let us not run away with the idea that simply getting travelling facilities enables a member to represent his electorate as well as a member in an electorate where people have an opportunity to go and see him or where, as one of my colleagues said, members do not even have to drive a car. However, that is their business and I have no doubt that their electorates are as well represented as any other because of the small distances.

Let me look for a moment- again I take my own State of Queensland- at the type of redistribution that was proposed to this Parliament by the Labor Government and rightly rejected by this Parliament. Let me quote from memory a statement which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail.

Mr Bryant - That favours your Party.

Mr CORBETT - It does not. It is not a paper which is regarded as leaning particularly towards the National Party in that State. The expert the newspaper asked to consider the electoral redistribution in that State, and he was well qualified to do it, when referring to the electorate of Flynn, which took in a large part of the electorate I have the honour to represent, called it nothing less than a monstrosity. That is what members of the Labor Party would like to have in a redistribution in this country. They would like to have a monstrosity imposed on people outside the metropolitan areas. The reason they do not worry about the people outside the metropolitan areas is that so many of their members are elected in the metropolitan areas. Those who are elected outside such areas do not have an opportunity to influence decisions to the extent that I feel they probably would influence them if they had the numbers to do it. Clause 7 of this Bill takes into consideration -

Mr Young - Cows, trees, long roads, sheep, cattle.

Mr CORBETT - As I said today, the honourable member is very young and inexperienced in many things in this Parliament. That is just another illustration of that fact. The fact that clause 7 includes a provision relating to electorates over and under5000 kilometres does bring a degree of justice and, as my friend the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) said, the parties are in accord on that issue. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the redistribution can be effected quite adequately under the Bill the Government has brought in. I heard some talk about mathematicians, but I do not think that some Labor members are as good mathematicians as they think they are. As a matter of fact, the provision contained in clause 7 does ensure by mathematical operation much closer numbers in the electorates with the 10 per cent tolerance than without it. If the Labor Party wants to get a more even distribution of numbers in electorates then it should be supporting clause 7 and not opposing it. I support the Bill before the Committee. In my view, it would have been a better Bill if we could have had the 20 per cent -

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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