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Wednesday, 20 March 1968

Mr GILES (Angas) - Mr Deputy Speaker,initially I wish to congratulate briefly the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General. In passing, might I comment on the fact that the seconder of that motion, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), is to be given full voting rights in this House for his electorate. I add my congratulations to those already offered in this respect. I am sure that this has come about for many reasons, including the high respect in which the honourable member for the Northern Territory is held by members of all parties in this House.

Mr Deputy Speaker,I suppose that I must try to comment on some of the remarks - I had a job keeping up with them - made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). His speech was one of his best fruit salad addresses that I have heard for some time. Not only did it contain ordinary fruit but also it included tropical fruit including bananas. Quite frankly, I find grave difficulty in understanding his train of thought, no matter how excellent he is in other fields, but he denigrates himself, I think, by making such statements as he did to the effect that the 'Voyager' disaster was absolutely avoidable and that aeroplanes should not be allowed to crash. I do not quite know whom the honourable member for Wills thinks he is or whether indeed he can walk on the water but the fact remains that these sorts of statements are surely out of touch with reality. I think it rather unfortunate that these remarks should be thrown into the middle of other comments some of which were quite successful in making his points. These other remarks rather detracted from his speech.

I wish to make a few remarks tonight, some of which some honourable members may find provocative because I am going to refer to the South Australian electoral position - the redistribution of boundaries there - and I will endeavour to correct if I can some of the anomalous and direct misstatements which have been made and referred to over the last few months. I start off my remarks by saying this: It seems to me a very poor thing indeed when the Premier, the leading citizen of the State, decides to put himself in a position where people might well think that he is leading a demonstration against the law of the land and against the law that he, as Premier, is responsible for upholding. He is responsible also for amending that law.

I do not suppose that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) would agree with me if I said that this was unconstitutional or illegal in any way. But I do say - and I do not retract one word of this statement - that the Premier of South Australia has put himself into a position where he is guilty at least of amoral action and of unethical action when he as the senior citizen of South Australia becomes involved to the extent possibly of leading a demonstration against the law of that State.

I suppose that one can forgive the natural heat of someone who has lost power to a degree. But it seems to me important that people should recognise what is going on and understand that, even though legally the South Australian Premier may not be culpable, morally and ethically in terms of bad taste he certainly is doing the wrong thing in his position as upholder of the law of South Australia and as senior citizen, if I may put it that way, in that State. If any other national leader or any other State leader took advantage of these situations and acted in this way, 1 suggest, the country would run into a state of anarchy very quickly.

There must be responsibility. There must be proper actions by people in high places. I deprecate the action of the Premier of South Australia insofar as he has offended sensibilities in this matter.

I would like to have a look next at the historical position which is responsible for the state of affairs that has arisen as a result of the recent South Australian elections. I introduce my remarks by saying that I personally do not know of one South Australian, or indeed one Australian, who would agree with the present balance of country and city votes in South Australia.

Mr Bryant - The Legislative Council does.

Mr GILES - 1 am glad the honourable member reminded me. I will come to that later, but meanwhile I will keep to my train of thought. I want to be quite insistent that I do not know a South Australian who agrees with the current position. For proof of this I think we need to go back over the last few years. Originally - this goes back many, many years - the South Australian Liberal Party and South Australian Country Party got together and formed the Liberal Country League. The position has remained firm and relatively unchallenged over the years. This single action has meant a great deal to South Australia's industrial growth and well being and this has, of course, continued for many years.

My own Party - in South Australia that would be the Liberal Country League - started to alter its thinking in terms of conditions set down by the formation of this League, which contained a clause providing that there should be 26 country and 13 city seats. This was administered honestly and accurately. There were no gerrymanders by way of unusually shaped electorates and this was accepted over this period by most South Australians. This policy continued until probably the late 1950s. The reason why my Party and probably every other person in South Australia started to change away from this proportion was, of course, the tremendous growth of Adelaide at that time. The growth was so astounding in some areas that individual electorates immediately got out of balance. It became painfully obvious that no matter to what degree one believed in one vote one value something had to be done in a hurry to correct these unjustifiaable conditions.

This Sir Thomas Playford proceeded to do in - I think - 1963. He introduced a Bill into the State Parliament which instead of providing for 26 country seats and 13 city seats provided for 20 country seats and 20 city seats and, from memory, one country industrial seat to give an odd number. This was a pretty fair departure from the traditional method of Sir Thomas Playford in looking at electoral boundary redistributions at that time. In fact, the change from 26 and 13 to 20 and 20 is a change that would probably be considered quite enough for the time being. This piece of electoral reform would have gone through except that at that point of time the parties were in balance with nineteen each, with an independent in the chair. This will probably happen again. The key to the situation was that with the parties being in balance with nineteen each, the Speaker's vote had to be exercised before a constitutional majority could be gained. In other words, to alter the South Australian Constitution there had to be a majority of the whole. This would be twenty votes. So we could have a constitutional alteration quite easily if both sides were nineteen all and the Speaker gave a casting vote. But all that the new look Labor Party at the time had to do to dodge this position was to pull out a man sick or accidentally and thereby get rid of one from that side. The Government at the time would win 19 to 18 but it would not have a constitutional majority. I think I am being quite unbiassed but historically this was the reason why at that time no electoral reform could be brought in. Whom do we blame for this? No doubt the Australian Labor Party, which was the Opposition at the time, had its eyes fixed on certain electoral redistributions that would give it a nice electoral advantage. It did not want to accept what in those days was a very extensive piece of reform

Mr Beaton - That is not really fair.

Mr GILES - Does the honourable member think it would be a little fairer than 26 country and 13 city seats?

Mr Beaton - Would you regard it as democratic?

Mr GILES - Might I ask the honourable member for Bendigo what percentage of votes the Liberal Opposition had to obtain in order to oust the Australian Labor Party Government in New South Wales some years ago? From memory it was 54%.

Mr Stewart - No, be accurate. The honourable member's memory is not good enough.

Mr GILES - All right; it was 53.71968%. However, the point is that this percentage was necessary for the New South Wales Government to be beaten. I am not concerned with whether there was half a percent here or there. At any rate a greater percentage was required for the Australian Labor Party Government to be beaten in New South Wales than that which the Australian Labor Party Government has in South Australia today, in spite of all the screaming that has been going on. I would offer this by way of suggestion to the honourable member for Bendigo because I think he should look at it.

I have dealt with the Playford attempt at electoral reform. I went back to those years and explained what happened and why the legislation was not passed. I now would like to move on to the fact that even in 1962 or 1963 the 1955 electoral boundaries still applied. Let us face the fact that these were getting a trifle out of date at that stage in a rapidly expanding metropolitan area. While I am on the subject I would like to go over what happened in the lower House in South

Australia at the time. The formal motion that the Bill be read a third time was put. There were no dissentient voices and the Bill was read a third time and passed. It is an historical fact that the Labor Party, up to the attempt by Sir Thomas Playford to introduce his 20/20 House, had never opposed any electoral boundary bill brought in by the Playford Government. 1 do not really think that this is known or acknowledged in Australia or that anyone is very interested in it. But if South Australia is to be condemned and if Premiers are to try to whip up demonstrations against the law of the land, then we want to remember that that Labor Party never dissented on any electoral bill brought forward by the Playford Government.

I have not checked my facts on individual instances in this respect, but the only occasion I can remember on which a voice was raised in protest was when Sir George Jenkins, the Liberal Minister of Agriculture, vociferously objected to the change in the boundaries of his electorate. But according to my memory no Labor member of the Opposition objected at all. At any rate, on divisions there were never any dissentient voices from the Australian Labor Party. I ask honourable members therefore to keep these matters in mind, because I think they are important.

On 1st July 1965 the man whom I think is the Premier of South Australia brought in his amendments to the Constitution Act. Naturally they went further than a 20-20 city-country redistribution. With a great fanfare of trumpets he announced that there was to be. on vote one value, and so it seemed until one studied the facts. The amendments protected the smallest electorate in South Australia - the electorate of Frome - which has been held marginally for some years by the Australian Labor Party. Even if the statements with which the Premier introduced his electoral reform to provide for one vote one value were accepted generally, the fact was that he took no account of the principle of one vole one value when he examined the electorate of Frome, represented by Mr Casey, which contains 5,000 electors.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Which is the largest electorate in South Australia?

Mr GILES - 1 think the largest electorate would be Enfield, and I thank the honourable member for Hindmarsh for reminding me of this because it leads to my next point. I am not cross with anyone over this but I point out that even much respected journals like the 'Bulletin' and the 'Sydney Morning Herald' have been commenting that the LCL vote in the 1962 election represented 35% only of the total vote. I suppose this can be said to be true, but let us look at the biggest electorates in South Australia, because this reveals an important feature. The Playford Government did not provide a candidate in the electorate of Edwardstown, which has almost 30,000 electors; nor did it have candidates in Enfield, with about 33,000 electors; Hindmarsh - and this electorate should not be confused with the Federal electorate of Hindmarsh although it also has a most admirable representative - with about 23,500 electors; Port Adelaide, with 23,800 electors; Semaphore, with 23,000 electors; Stuart, with just over 8,200 electors and Whyalla with almost 10,000 electors. These were seven scats that were not contested and there were two other seals also not contested by the Playford Government. The Press added up the LCL votes at the time and concluded that they represented 35% only of the total vote. This has been bandied about throughout Australia, but it is an inaccurate conclusion and is a deliberate attempt to misinterpret the position. I regret that this was done and 1 am glad that I have had the opportunity to point this out to the House.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Did the LCL run candidates in every seat this time?

Mr GILES - 1 think it did.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Then that cancels out what the honourable member said.

Mr GILES - lt cancels it out just as well as the fact that the LCL won the third Senate seat, lt is an argument that is applicable. One can look at the votes of the Democratic Labor Party, the Country Party and all manner of undoubtedly helpful splinter groups in South Australia. In the Senate election and in the State elections, particularly in country areas, they went to the LCL. 1 am glad that the honourable member agrees that there is a correlation between the result of the Senate election in South Australia - where the LCL for the first time in 20 years won the third seat - and the need for a review of electoral boundaries. Actually a 53% vote for the Labor Party in South Australia was not a very good result. It was not as big as the vote that was needed to overthrow the New South Wales Labor Government, yet it is suggested that the situation in South Australia today is extraordinary.

I repeat that there is not one South Australian who would agree with the present position, but I have given the historical facts in as unbiased a fashion as I can do. Perhaps now I may return to what I was about to say regarding the introduction by the Premier of South Australia of his electoral reform Bill, because I answered an interjection and did not make my point. This Bill passed through the House of Assembly with a constitutional majority, but the Legislative Council threw it out. The reason why the Legislative Council threw it out was interesting. It rejected the Bill, quite correctly I think, because the Premier of South Australia did not have a mandate from the people to eliminate the upper House. If honourable members examine the policy speech of the South Australian Premier they will find no mention of the elimination of the upper House. Incorporated in his Bill seeking boundary reform, which undoubtedly the Legislative Council would have passed if it were considering just that, was a proposal, rather sneakily inserted, to abolish the Legislative Council. There was no mandate for the Labor Government to eliminate the upper House. This possibly had some effect during the recent election, particularly in some country areas or nonmetropolitan areas. That is the position as I saw it, and I trust I have not been inaccurate. I have attempted to explain historically why the 1955 amendments to the Constitution Act still apply in South Australia.

No-one would wish the present situation to continue, least of all myself, but what can be done about it? It is rather interesting to note that we are in almost the same situation as that which existed when the Playford Government was in office. It could well be that an independent member will be in the chair of the House and that there will be a deliberate attempt not to let a constitutional majority apply. 1 should hope that the Party leaders in South Australia - indeed, the Parliament of South Australia - will be big enough to try to get together to resolve the situation. There has been a heavy population growth in and around Adelaide and when South Australia has twelve Federal seats it may be appropriate to divide those twelve Federal seats into quarters to provide for forty-eight State seats. This would be slightly more than the forty-five seats suggested by - and I am getting muddled as to what position he actually holds at present - Mr Steele Hall, and considerably fewer than the fifty-six seats suggested by Mr Dunstan.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would the LCL support that suggestion?

Mr GILES - I think that both Parties should get together. I do not speak for the LCL and the honourable member for Hindmarsh is not the Leader of the ALP in South Australia, so I cannot speak for him either. But if the Parties got together in a friendly fashion nobody would be more pleased than I or the people of South Australia. It would seem to me that to divide twelve Federal seats into quarters for the State Parliament would be an economic and beneficial way of overcoming the present situation without too much political haggling.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would they be equal quarters?

Mr GILES - The division into electorates is a matter for the Distribution Commissioners. I would leave it to more competent people than the honourable member for Hindmarsh or myself to decide Federal boundaries. I remind honourable members that the present LCL Leader, Mr Steele Hall, has suggested a forty-five seat House of Assembly as compared with the ALP's suggestion of a fifty-six seat House. Frankly, I think fifty-six is far too big a House to represent the importance of the State. However, that is the business of the State, and it is not my business. Mr Steele Hall has suggested that the quota for metropolitan seats be 22,300 and for country seats 9,000. This would be the simple city-country ratio. There is an interesting point about all this which might surprise honourable members. I am surprised that the honourable member for Hindmarsh did not interject more forcibly. In other States, according to my information, the quota range between metropolitan and country areas is as follows: In Queensland, 18,000 to 7,000; in New South Wales, 33,000 to 18,000; in Victoria, 30,000 to 17,000; in Western Australia, 13,000 to 2,000; and in the United Kingdom - and I presume that Prime Minister Wilson is inviolate in this matter - it is 110,000 to 23,000. So much for the utter belief in one vote one value. I believe this in principle but I would also apply proper principles to enable honourable members to give proper service to their electorates, as does every other State and the United Kingdom, as I have just mentioned. I hope that there will be some sensible thinking about this question in the future.

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