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Wednesday, 13 June 1928

Dr NOTT (Herbert) .- Some time ago, at the request of certain organizations in the Federal Capital Territory, I presented to the House two petitions signed by several thousand residents within the Territory, praying - (1) that consideration be given to their request for parliamentary representation, and (2) that they be given representation in the narrower sphere of local government or municipal control. It is felt by the people living in the Territory, and indeed by many honorable members in this House, that so far as the municipal control of the city is concerned, the present conditions cannot continue, and that in the near future the people must be given a voice in their local government.

Many of the people at present resident in the Federal Capital Territory have been compelled to come here. They enjoyed the privileges of the franchise until their transfer to the Seat of Government, and feel that a blow has been struck at their rights as citizens because the .power to vote has been taken from them. The number of these people is not very great, but a much smaller number of residents in the Northern Territory are allowed to elect a representative to this House, and there is a strong feeling, not only here but elsewhere, that no section of the people should be denied direct representation in Parliament. In the circumstances we can hardly expect the intelligent citizens of this Territory to accept meekly this denial of their rights as citizens. The people here are very much in earnest in this matter, and will continue to fight for representation until it has' been granted to them. I do not think that any one would have the temerity to suggest that there is any just reason for denying to the residents of Canberra and the surrounding territory the full rights of citizenship. It must be remembered that we have not only civil servants, but also business people and primary producers of various descriptions to consider. I have discussed this question with honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and also with persons resident in the Territory and elsewhere, and I find that there is a consensus of opinion that the people here should be granted the franchise. Although the number of potential voters is small, we have made a precedent for what they ask in what we have done in regard to the Northern Territory. We may have to consider later the nature of the representation which we should give to the residents of other territories over which this Parliament has authority by mandate or otherwise; but surely the position of no part of the community merits immediate consideration more than that of those people in whose midst we live.

The population of the Federal Capital Territory is far greater than that of the Northern Territory was when representation was granted to it, and within the next eighteen months the number of white people who will arrive in Canberra will be greater than tha total white population of the Northern Territory. The Parliament will have to face this issue either now or in the near future, and there is every justification for taking it into consideration forthwith. It has been suggested that as the district of Columbia of the United States of America is not represented in the national parliament of that country, there is no reason why we should provide for the representation of this Territory in our Parliament. The first reply to that argument is, that there is no particular reason why Australia should closely follow the political lead of the American people in that regard. A second reply is that the population of "Washington includes nearly 40 per cent, of negroes, and it is doubtless felt that if representation were granted to the people there, the negroes would exercise a considerable and perhaps a baneful influence upon, the legislative proposals which are submitted from time to time. It has also been argued by the few people whom I have met who are opposed to the granting of representation to the Federal Capital Territory residents, that the position of those in the Northern Territory is not analogous to theirs, for the reason that many big developmental problems have to be faced there, which is not the case in the Federal Capital Territory. To some extent that may be true, though we must not forget that the Federal Capital Territory, like the Northern Territory, has problems peculiar to itself. But in any case I submit that it is a basic principle of British democracy that the residents in any given area shall possess the franchise. The few arguments that I have heard in opposition to this proposal have not been at all impressive, particularly since they are contrary to the fundamental principle of the British constitution that there shall be no taxation without representation.

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