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Monday, 9 November 1964

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) . - The Bill was introduced into this chamber only a short time ago, so its contents will be fresh in the minds of honorable senators. Accordingly, I shall not traverse at any length the facts and figures that the Minister cited in his speech. On behalf of the Opposition, I move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. I move -

Leave out all words after " That ", insert: - " the Senate is of opinion that a decision on the proposal contained in the Bill should be deferred until the Government introduces other electoral legislation announced in the Governor-General's Opening Speech and until the people have been given an opportunity to vote at a referendum on the Constitutional Review Committee's proposals on Commonwealth legislative machinery ".

The Minister's speech and the Bill show that the two proposed alterations are simple in form. It is proposed that section 10 of the Representation Act be amended to enable an additional member to be provided in a State when, on division of the population of that State by the quota, there is any remainder. The present provision in section 10 of the Act is that there must be a remainder of more than one-half before the additional member is ceded to the State. The determination that was made following the census of 1961 would have reduced the number of members in the House of Representatives by a net two, from 122 to 120. There would have been a gain of one in one State and a loss of one in each of three other States. The effect of this Bill is that there will be no loss of a seat in any State and that the total number of members will be increased from the present 122 to 124.

The Opposition notes that in the course of the Governor-General's Speech when he opened the new session of the Parliament early this year two measures were forecast to deal with electoral change. One was the introduction of the Representation Bill contemplating a change of the nature now before us, and the other was an amendment of the Electoral Act. The GovernorGeneral, in announcing the Government's intentions, pointed out that the amendment of the Electoral Act would be directed towards indicating to the Distribution Commissioners the various factors that should be taken into consideration when determining boundaries within a State.

In the first place, the Opposition feels that this Bill and the proposed alteration of the Electoral Act arc linked together and that they should be considered together. It is quite certain that there would be no point in disposing now of the Bill before us and awaiting the advent of the measure containing the proposed changes of the Electoral Act. If this Bill is carried, it is perfectly certain that there will be no redistribution until such time as the changes of the Electoral Act come into effect, so there seems to be no particular virtue in proceeding with this measure by itself. Nothing would be lost and a good deal could be gained by considering the two matters as parts of one broad approach to the electoral changes that the Government has in mind.

I have indicated in the terms of the amendment that I have proposed on behalf of the Opposition that there are before the Senate at the moment four Bills proposing changes in the legislative machinery of the Commonwealth. Each of the Bills, if carried, would have to be the subject of a referendum. At this stage I make the point that those Bills were presented in ample time to enable them to be debated and dealt with by the Parliament and, if approved, to be submitted to the people at the election that is now fixed for 5th December. We of the Opposition feel that it is most unfortunate, from the viewpoint of the country, that those Bills were not debated and considered by the Parliament and that the opportunity was not taken to submit them for determination by the people concurrently with the election that is now to be held early in December. Had those Bills gone before the people, the particular matter to which this Bill is directed would have been resolved. In fact, there would have been no need for the Bill. It may well be that when the Parliament reassembles next year the Government, following debate, will feel that at least some of the proposals contained in the Bills I have mentioned ought to be presented to the people.

Senator Wright - What was the particular recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee? Was it that the numbers in each electorate should not exceed 80,000?

Senator McKENNA - I have referred to a number of matters.

Senator Wright - I know, but what was the recommendation on this particular point?

Senator McKENNA - Several matters relate to this particular point. If 1 may enumerate them-

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