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Wednesday, 13 March 1968


Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for the Interior) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Last November my colleague, the Minister for External Territories informed the House that the Government had agreed to the member representing the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives being accorded the same voting rights as the other members after the next general election for members of this House. The question of full voting rights of the member representing the Northern Territory has been under notice for some years. At talks with representatives of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and Ministers in May 1967, Ministers agreed to recommend that full voting rights be accorded that member after the next general election.

The Bill now before the House follows the subsequent decision of the Government to introduce amending legislation for this purpose. The opportunity has been taken to include in the Bill amendments of a drafting nature correcting references to the Northern Territory and the Supreme Court of the Territory in the present Act. There are reasons which would justify retention of the present limited voting rights. Nevertheless, the Government's approach has been to go as far as is reasonably possible to meet the wishes and special circumstances of the people of the Northern Territory, and this has prompted the present decision.

This action does not meet all the representations of the Legislative Councillors, who are also pressing for changes in the composition of the Legislative Council, and for greater participation in the executive government. There are very real difficulties in the way of going further in those matters than the present stage, both in terms of sparseness of population and the financial position of the Territory. Nevertheless examination of the whole question will continue. In the meantime I am confident that all members will support this Bill, and that having regard to the nature of the institution of the Parliament, none of us will regret the passing into history of the special class of member with only limited voting rights within this House.

I might add - perhaps unnecessarily - that it has been the advocacy of the present member for the Northern Territory, along with that of the members of the Legislative Council that have brought this measure, which is so highly desired by the people of the Northern Territory, to fruition. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.







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