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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1732

Senator ROBERT RAY —Under standing order 98, I direct my question to Senator Macklin as the sponsor of the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill 1985. I ask Senator Macklin: If, as a result of his legislation, a constitutional amendment were carried, would it have the effect of eliminating such blatant malapportionment and gerrymandering as occurred in the recent Queensland redistribution? Secondly, would such a constitutional change have inhibited in any way recent redistributions which have occurred in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and nationally? Finally, would such a constitutional change prohibit placing a community in an electorate with which it has no analogous boundaries, such as occurred with the Wujai Wujai Aboriginal community in the recent Queensland redistribution?

Senator MACKLIN —The Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill, which I introduced on 17 April this year, is aimed at providing two things: One is a guaranteed right to vote and the second is that every citizen's vote should be treated equally. With regard to the Queensland redistribution, the method occasioned if a referendum under my Bill were carried by a majority of people in the majority of the States would be that an objection would be lodged with the appropriate court and there would be a court hearing as to whether it met the constitutional requirements. I believe that in any such court hearing the blatant operation that has just occurred in Queensland would undoubtedly fail any test and hence there would be a requirement passed by the court back to Queensland to redraw the boundaries in keeping with the Constitution.

The second part of Senator Ray's question deals with recent redistributions in three States-Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales-and, of course, the Commonwealth redistribution. I am unfamiliar with the details of those and I have only looked at the State redistributions in general terms. I have looked in more detail recently at the New South Wales redistribution with regard to what has happened in Queensland. Each of the State redistributions could have some objections raised to them but I doubt whether any of those objectives could be sustained in court since each redistribution was done by a relatively similar method and each has been done at a 10 per cent variation or less. I believe that any court would uphold that as being a reasonable redistribution. Of course honourable senators know of the Commonwealth redistribution. I am sure that all will claim it as being one of the fairest redistributions in Australia's history. Almost every Commonwealth redistribution has been fair; and it is to the credit of the Commonwealth Parliament, whether it be with a Liberal-National Party government or a Labor government, that there have been fair redistributions and fair electoral laws.

The third part of the question refers to the situation in the particular part of the State electorate of Barron River and the Aboriginal community of Wujai Wujai which probably voted, in local polling booth terms at least, about 60 per cent for the Labor Party. This has been made into a small island all on its own and it has no boundary connecting it to the electorate of Cook. The Cook electorate is a Labor electorate, so this is a fairly interesting and blatant example of rorting the system of which everyone in this country should be ashamed. Recently I was overseas at the European Parliament and was bailed up by some person who, when I was talking about South Africa, mentioned to me: `Well, you can't talk. What about the State of Queensland?' I did not tell him that I was a senator from Queensland because at that point I was ashamed to do so. I took the course, as I always do when I am overseas, of not criticising any part of Australia and I managed to turn the conversation on the subject to a different point. However, I do not believe that we can continue with some part of the Commonwealth suffering under such rorted democratic laws.