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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3609


Mr BLUNT(11.25) —by leave-I move:

(1) Clause 5, page 3, at the end of the clause add the following word and paragraph:

``; and (e) by omitting from subsection (10) `one-tenth' (wherever occurring) and substituting `one-fifth'.''.

(2) Clause 7, page 4, proposed paragraph 66 (3) (a), line 22, omit ``98% or more than 102%'', substitute ``90% or more than 110%''.

(3) Clause 7, page 4 at the end of the clause add the following word and paragraph:

``; and

(c) by omitting from subsection (3) `one-tenth' (wherever occurring) and substituting `one-fifth'.''.

(4) Clause 13, page 7, proposed paragraph 73 (4) (a), lines 39 and 40, omit ``98% or more than 102%'', substitute ``90% or more than 110%''.

(5) Clause 13, page 7, after paragraph (c) insert the following paragraph:

``(ca) by omitting from subsection (4) `one-tenth' (wherever occurring) and substituting `one-fifth'; and''.

(6) Clause 29, page 18, proposed subparagraph 228 (5) (c) (i), line 32, omit ``13 days'', substitute ``17 days''.

(7) Clause 35, page 24, omit the clause, substitute the following clause:

Disclosure of donations

``35. Division 4 of Part XX comprising sections 30 to 307 of the Principal Act is repealed.''.

(8) Schedule, page 33, omit-

``Subsections 93 (6) and (9):

Omit the subsections.

Subsection 96 (12):

Omit `, within the meaning of subsection 93 (6),'.''.

(9) Schedule, page 33, omit-

``Subsection 194 (3):

Omit `10 days', substitute `13 days'.

Subsection 200 (1):

Omit `10 days`, substitute `13 days',''.

substitute-

``Subsection 194 (3):

Omit `10 days', substitute `17 days'.

Subsection 200 (1):

Omit `10 days`, substitute `17 days',''.

The proposed amendments deal with the degree of tolerance between electoral divisions under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The original provisions of this Act required absolute equality of electoral divisions at what was known as the mid-point, which was the mid-point of time between the original date of the redistribution and the date specified under the Act for the next redistribution.

The legislation provides that certain factors shall be taken into account but that the redistribution commissioners shall, above all other things, achieve equality at the mid-point. The National Party of Australia believes that that is a totally unrealistic objective, and the recent figures announced by the Australian Electoral Commission for enrolments in electoral divisions throughout Australia-even some months before that mid-point has been achieved-indicate that it is unrealistic. In many cases the variations are far in excess of even the 2 per cent that the Government's amendments to this legislation propose. Divisions such as the division of Mitchell are 6.4 per cent below and the division of Richmond, my own electorate, is 6.8 per cent below. There are variations right throughout Australia which indicate that the achievement of equality at the mid-point is just beyond the capacity of the commissioners.

We are dealing with a fairly imprecise set of circumstances. There is a need when drawing divisions literally to put a line on a map to encompass a specified number of voters. Unfortunately, there is never absolute certainty at the beginning that the number of people on the roll are, in fact, the number of people living within those boundaries qualified to vote. It is very difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy and certainly to the extent of achieving equality. I do not believe from the figures that we have that it is possible within the 2 per cent tolerance that the Government is now proposing, because there are such factors to be considered as changes in residence and changes in qualification to vote. People move, people die and people turn 18. When we talk about a population of 60,000-odd over a period of up to seven years, to suggest that we can achieve equality within 2 per cent is, as I have said, unrealistic. For that reason the National Party believes that a far more realistic approach to electoral boundaries in Australia would be to allow a 10 per cent tolerance at the mid-point between electoral divisions. Having regard to the way the Act is framed, we realise that there will be a need to change some of the other provisions of the legislation to specify what then is a malapportionment. For that reason we suggest that a malapportionment should be seen to have occurred where the tolerance is exceeded by more than 10 per cent. That is the effect of the amendments that we have moved.

We believe that it is a nonsense to talk about one vote one value under the Australian Constitution when that Constitution provides that there shall be a minimum of five House of Representatives seats from all States. That means that in the less populous States, such as Tasmania and South Australia, there can never be an equality of value between votes cast in that State and votes cast in the more populous States such as New South Wales. A similar comment also applies to the Senate where there is a requirement that each original State shall return the same number of senators, currently 12. A moment's reflection will indicate that it takes a lot fewer votes in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia to return a senator than it does to return a senator in New South Wales and Victoria.

I think that makes a nonsense of the rhetoric that is used so often by some sections of the Government that there should be one vote, one value. We need not only a fair and equitable electoral system but also a realistic electoral system, an electoral system which does not, as a result of the inability of the Commissioners to achieve the parameters set down for them, render itself subject to criticism. For those reasons, the National Party supports the amendments we have proposed.