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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 2249

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) (Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Civil Aviation) - I wish to speak to Appropriation Bill (No. 4) and, in particular, to Division No. 357 which deals with the Electoral Branch and with other matters such as salaries and payments in the nature of salaries to electoral officers. In doing so I wish largely to talk about elections and issues of elections because I have some concern as had the previous speaker, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), that the electorate may be confused as to what are the important issues at the next elections. There is a feeling that I hear expressed around the electorate from time to time that: 'Let the Labor Party get in next time. Let it have a go. After all, it will make such a mess of things that it will be thrown out at the following election'. I wish to underline the point that this attitude just is not a goer. I agree that the Labor Party would make a shocking mess of things but I think that once it becomes the government of this country, it would so gerrymander the electoral system that there would be no way in the world that the electorate could get rid of the Labor Party.

I would like to make passing reference to the electoral policy of the Australian Labor Party. On page 13 of the Labor Party's 'Platform, Constitution and Rules' dealing with electoral policy, item 3-

Mr Scholes - That is not a current copy.

Mr McLEAY - This is not a current copy; one needs to have one of these every 3 months to keep up with the changing policies of the Labor Party. But this is the current electoral policy of the Labor Party. I am sure that the honourable member for Corio will not deny this. The policy of the Labor Party on this matter states:

Candidates for election to the House of Representatives to be elected on the basis of the greatest number of votes to any candidate, i.e., first past the post' and on the basis of one vote one value.

Does any honourable member on the other side of the House deny that that is Labor Party policy? I think not.

The Government's policy is to support preferential voting. Surely the test of a voting system is how well it translates the will of the people. In my view, preferential voting is the better of the 2 systems. It ensures that every voter can have a say in the final result. If his first choice is eliminated, he does not lose his vote. He can exercise a choice among the candidates left in the running until ultimately the majority prevails. That is the present method of voting and I think it is near to perfect.

However, I would like to see the present system of preferential voting made voluntary. That is the criticism I would have about our present system. People say that they are compelled to vote. I claim that we are compelled to go to the voting booth; nothing can compel us to vote. In my view, if we were to eliminate that compulsion in our electoral system, we would have the most satisfactory system in the world. It would truly be a representative democracy.

As the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) happens to be in the chamber, I would like to quote what happened in the electorate of Evans at the last election. As honourable members will remember, there were 5 candidates. The parties represented were the Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Australia Party and a party commonly known as the DOGS. The ALP candidate polled 45.4 per cent of primary votes. The other candidates polled 54.6 per cent of primary votes between them. In other words, the majority of electors preferred other candidates to the ALP. After the distribution of the second choice of these voters - the preference vote - the Liberal candidate won the seat with 51.19 per cent of the votes. The ALP candidate had a vote of 48.61 per cent.

I make the point that the Opposition's first past the post system would have given the seat of Evans to the ALP candidate, even though the majority voted against the Labor Party.

Mr Scholes - What would have been the result if you had counted the ALP second preferences?

Mr McLEAY - I would like to pursue this further because I wish to help the honourable member for Corio. I have taken some figures from the last elections. In the 12 seats I was able to research, under the first past the post system of voting, the Labor Party would have won all these seats with a minority of the votes. I have already mentioned the seat of Evans. In the seat of Paterson the Labor candidate scored 37 per cent of the vote. Would honourable members opposite think that he should have won that election? In the seat of Phillip, 43 per cent of votes went to the Labor candidate, while in Holt the figure was 45 per cent. In the electorate of McMillan the Labor Party candidate polled 42 per cent of the vote, in Wimmera its candidate scored only 37 per cent of the vote, in Griffith 46 per cent, in Herbert 46 per cent, in Lilley 47 per cent, in Canning 42 per cent and in Moore 41 per cent of the vote. In the seat of Denison in Tasmania the Labor Party candidate scored only 37 per cent of the vote. The total average vote received by the Labor Party for these 12 seats at the last election was only 46 per cent and the total anti-Labor vote was 54 per cent.

Members of the Opposition talk of a gerrymander. If we are ever unfortunate enough to see this system of first past the post voting incorporated in our legislation, that will be the total gerrymander. The 12 seats which I mentioned and in which the Labor Party had a very much smaller percentage of the votes than the winning candidates, would have been won by the Labor Party on a first past the post system.

Mr Cope - This system operates in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom.

Mr McLEAY - I appreciate the interjection. This system operates in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom but those countries also have voluntary voting. The Labor Party spokesman on electoral matters, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who so misunderstands the civil aviation problems associated with airports as to make a tremendous number of mistakes tonight in his speech, asked a question on this matter in October 1970. 1 would say that this was preparation for the next election. He asked the Minister:

Is he able to say in which countries Parliamentary elections are conducted under the firstpastthepost system of voting.

The honourable member for Sydney says: What about Britain and what about New Zealand?' Of course there is a first past the post system of voting in both those countries but neither has compulsory voting. From the answer given to the honourable member for Grayndler it appears that 20 or 30 countries have first past the post systems. Let us have a look at some of those countries. There are Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria-

Mr Giles - I did not know they had elections.

Mr McLEAY - I appreciate that interjection, too, from the honourable member for Angas. Of course, many of these countries are communist countries. Is it all right for me to mention that word?

Mr Giles - Do they have an option?

Mr McLEAY - There is no option. There is one party. I might just mention one of the countries because I have been there and I enjoyed being there. I refer to Roumania. This is a classic case where in the Grand National Assembly 465 deputies were elected under the first past the post system. In the last election there were 465 candidates. There is no argument in the answer given to the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler about the first past the post system. Either there is voluntary voting or there is no choice at all, which is the position in communist countries. So I think we could say that the introduction of a first past the post system would create a gerrymander. It would mean the destruction of the small parties in Australia.

Mr Scholes - What a tragedy, the DLP and the Country Party.

Mr McLEAY - This is the thing. I am sure that the great defenders of civil liberties in this country, people like the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), who has been interjecting, realise that there should* be an opportunity for people to form small parties. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) or any other honourable member opposite, would not like to see the disintegration of the Democratic Labor Party; they would not like to see the extinction of the Australia Party or the Communist Party. But the introduction of a first past the post system would mean the end of the smaller parties.

I should like to give an example of what happens under a first past the post system. It destroys the true democratic processes of free voting. Let us take a hypothetical case, say, in the electorate of Bendigo where the Australian Labor Party candidate receives 10,000 votes, the Country Party candidate receives 9,000 votes, the Liberal Party candidates receives 9,000 votes, and another candidate receives 2,000 or 3,000 votes. In that hypothetical case the total Labor Party vote would be only 10,000, and the total of the non-Labor vote would be 20,000. But under the system by which the Labor Party seeks to create a gerrymander, the Labor Party candidate would win even with a very small minority vote.

Mr Scholes - What about alphabetical order on the ballot paper?

Mr McLEAY - The honourable member for Corio interjects and refers to alphabetical positions on the ballot paper. This is one area where I would be inclined to agree with him. The Labor Party suggests that there should be a ballot for places on the ballot paper. But let us remember what happened in the Senate election in 1937 with the Labor Party candidates in New South Wales. The Labor Party endorsed 4 men whose surnames began with the letter A' so that its candidates could be listed at the top of the ballot paper. I understand that one of the candidates changed his name by deed poll. So I think that the Labor Party should not be critical of the system of placing candidates' names on the ballot paper.

The question that concerns me is that people in the electorate are saying that if the Labor Party were elected to office it would make such a mess of it that the Liberal-Country Party would soon be returned. I would say that if ever the Labor Party becomes the Government we will never get it out of office for the reasons which I have mentioned; the first being that the Labor Party would introduce the first past the post system. I want to know whether honourable members opposite are sincere in suggesting the introduction of a first past the post voting system, or whether they are suggesting it just to win power.

The other issue about which honourable members opposite tend to talk about is the question of one vote one value. It is a parrot cry. This question of one vote one value appears on page 33 of the Labor Party's Platform, Constitution and Rules'. But according to the Australian Constitution - and I think that the Australian elector should know how deep run the feelings of the Labor Party in this regard - it is impossible to have one vote one value because no State in the Commonwealth can have fewer than 5 seats. Tasmania, which has 5 seats, has a quota of 40,000 electors. What would the Labor Party do if it got into power? Would it change the Constitution and give Tasmania 2 seats? Of course, it would not. Out of a total of 5 members Tasmania returns 4 members for the Labor Party. So the Labor Party has no intention of changing the system to provide for one vote one value.

Would anybody say that the voting system for the Senate is one vote one value when New South Wales, with 44 per cent of the Australian population, and Tasmania with 3 per cent of the Australian population, both sent 10 senators to Canberra? Would the Labor Party change that? I think not. The other point that the Labor Party makes concerns the question of population. This is another parrot cry of the Labor Party. It says: 'We represent people, not sheep'.

Mr James - Trees.

Mr McLEAY - Not trees. So what the Labor Party wants to do is to represent not electors but people, and this goes down well; this sounds good. If I can deal with South Australia for a moment, instead of the present quota of 60,000 electors for country seats and 50,000 electors for urban seats, under a Labor Party redistribution there would be a quota of 90,000 people. It is pretty simple to work it out. The population of South Australia, including every man, woman and child, is just over one million. So divided by 12 seats, the quota would be 90,000 people. On my calculations, after a future Labor government controlled gerrymander, this would leave South Australia with a representation of 2 country seats and 10 urban seats. One of the country seats would have to include the provincial cities of Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln and Port Pirie and it would certainly be a Labor seat. So under a future Labor administration's redistribution South Australia would return one Liberal* Country Party member at the most, and 1 1 Labor members. No-one could convince me that that is truly representative democracy.

Then there are people - and unfortunately some of these people are on my own side of politics - who say: 'You will never get it through the Senate. You will get one vote one value or first past the post through the House of Representatives, but you will never get it through the Senate'. I should like to place this on the record here and I hope that in the future no-one will ever say that I was proven to be right. It is possible to get it through the Senate. At present the composition of the Senate is 5 Democratic Labor Party senators, 26 Liberal-Country Party senators, 26 Australian Labor Party senators and 3 independent senators. At the forthcoming election for the House of Representatives Senator Bonner from Queensland will have to go to the people. It is possible - extremely unlikely - that he might be defeated, in which case the composition of the Senate would be 5 DLP senators, 25 LiberalCountry Party senators, 27 Labor Party senators and 3 independent senators. I do not know where the independent senators stand. One of them has been a member of every Party, including being the Leader of the Australia Party for a short period.

This is really the question I address to people who think that they might punish the Government by voting against it just once. If there were a Labor administration and a Senate of the composition to which I have just referred, would it not be possible for someone to be appointed as ambassador to somewhere or other, or for someone to die or to be absent on account of sickness? All of these things are possible. In the event of such a possibility eventuating, the legislation to which I have referred could be put through the Senate. There is a further interesting and to us sinister overtone here. We are dealing with a hypothetical situation, but what would happen if a Government senator from South Australia or Tasmania, or from both of those States, died tonight? The governments of those States are both Labor governments. They are honourable governments. They would appoint a Liberal-Country Party nominee. But that person would have to go to the polls at the next Federal election in November. We have just seen what happened in Tasmania. It is absolutely certain that in the event of an extraordinary by-election in Tasmania for a Senate seat a Labor senator would be elected. The same thing could happen in South Australia and it could happen also in Western Australia where there is possibly a predominance overall of Labor supporters. So it is possible for the Labor Party to have control not only of this House but also of the Senate and thus be enabled to get through whatever legislation it chooses. It is interesting to note that in 1940 the Chifley Govern- ment abolished the first past the post system for the Senate and replaced it with proportional representation because- at that time it suited the Chifley Government.

I make the point that these are possibilities. It is very likely that a large percentage of the Australian electorate could be disfranchised and its voting rights taken away. This is spelt out in the Labor Party platform - first past the post voting, compulsory voting and a redistribution based on a one vote one value parrot cry. Also there is the Labor Party idea of people not electors building up the electoral quotas. To those who are thinking of risking the future of this country at the next election I say: 'Do not do it', because if the Opposition became the Government we would not get it out in a generation.

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