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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) . - The amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is aimed at obtaining equal representation. No objection has been raised by the Government to the content of the amendment. Indeed, no objection could be raised-, because the amendment aims at obtaining equal representation by ensuring that the quota shall be the basis of distribution. Then the amendment provides for a margin of allowance where necessary and sets the limit of that margin. The margin of tolerance arises from the fact that in a changing population one cannot get exactly equal representation. If one must have regard to physical boundaries in the drawing of electorates, it is only common sense that there should be some departure from exact equality. But such departures are, one might say, accidental departures; they are quite different from deliberate departures. Senator McKenna's amendment is designed to achieve equality of electorates so far as numbers are concerned. It may be that at one point of time a country electorate will contain fewer persons than the average. The same thing might happen in a city electorate, because of one of these accidental factors. But the Government will not accept the amendment, because it is designed to achieve equal representation.

What is the Government's reply to the amendment? The Government says: " Look at our proposals. It is possible to have democracy under them. It is possible to have equal representation under them." Yes, it is possible, if the Distribution Commissioners do their duty, if they apply the equal representation principle, if they ignore the instructions that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) has said he intends to give them, if they ignore all the pressure that will be brought to bear upon them, and if they ignore the intentions of the Government in putting forward its current proposals. If they do their duty then democracy is still possible. But if they listen to what is told them by the Minister for the Interior, if they listen to what the Government tells them, if they yield to the pressure that is brought upon them, then it will be possible to have a departure from democracy in this community and there will be more representation given to some sectional interests than should be given.

There ought to be equality of representation as is designed in the motion moved by Senator McKenna. There ought to be no distinction between the country and the city. Each section plays its part. We ought never to introduce distinctions such as are sought to be brought into the electoral system by the practice which the Government envisages will be operated under this Act and in its pressure upon the Distribution Commissioners. I favour the amendment.

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