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Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020

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2019-2020

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (ENSURING FAIR REPRESENTATION OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY) BILL 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senators McCarthy & Farrell)

 



COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (ENSURING FAIR REPRESENTATION OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY) BILL 2020

 

OUTLINE

 

This Bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to provide for a minimum of two divisions for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives. This has become necessary because there is expected to be an electoral redistribution during the 46th Parliament which may result in the Northern Territory losing one of its two seats, caused by its population falling below the entitlement quota for the second seat.

 

The Northern Territory first gained a second seat under the quota at the 2001 election, dividing the electorate of the Northern Territory into the seats of Solomon (the urban area of Darwin and Palmerston) and Lingiari (the rest of the Northern Territory west to the border of Western Australia, south to South Australia, and east to Queensland).

 

The Bill is consistent with special electoral arrangements that have been made over many years for differing parts of Australia, recognising their special circumstances.

 

Legislating for two seats for the Northern Territory would recognise the huge geographical area of the Northern Territory, at over 1.4 million square kilometres and which includes the remote Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands. It is six times the size of Victoria and almost double the size of New South Wales.

 

A single seat in the House of Representatives would mean one Member of Parliament representing almost 250,000 Territorians. This would make the NT electorate by far Australia’s largest by population, with approximately 30,000 more people and spread over an area more than 35,000 times larger than the electorate of Melbourne.

 

A single electorate for the Northern Territory would not recognise the Territory's unique demography, particularly its 27 per cent Indigenous population.

 

A single electorate for the Northern Territory would not give adequate recognition to the differing characteristics and communities of interest of the Darwin/Palmerston and outback/rural town areas of the Territory, and the strategic and economic importance of the Northern Territory to the whole of Australia.

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1: Short Title

1.                        Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Bill.

Clause 2: Commencement

2.                        The Bill will commence on the day after the Act receives the Royal Assent.

Clause 3: Schedules

3.                        Each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as is set out in the applicable items in the Schedule. Any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1—Amendments

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Item 1

4.                        Item 1 amends subsection 48(1)(b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (‘the Act’) by inserting a reference to a new subsection (2BAA).

Item 2

5.                        Item 2 amends subsection 48(2A) of the Act by inserting a reference to a new subsection (2BAA).

Item 3

6.                        Subsection 48(2B) of the Act provides that at least one member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory at a general election. Item 3 of the Bill omits the words ‘and in the Northern Territory’ from subsection 48(2B), as the Northern Territory’s membership entitlement will be covered by proposed subsection 48(2BAA). The Australian Capital Territory’s entitlement to at least one member of the House of Representatives remains unchanged.

Item 4

7.                        Proposed subsection 48(2BAA) inserted by this item specifies that at least two members of the House of Representatives must be chosen in the Northern Territory at a general election.

8.                        Proposed subsection 48(2BAB) provides that if the Electoral Commissioner has determined that the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the Northern Territory is inconsistent with subsection (2BAA), then that determination is to be set aside; and that if a general election is held before the Commissioner has made a determination, the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the Northern Territory will be in accordance with the Commissioner's determination of 31 August 2017, that is, two.

9.                        Proposed paragraph (c) of subsection 48(2BAB) clarifies the effect on section 86 of the Act which provides that new rolls will be created for new Divisions. Paragraph (c) states that 2 new Divisions are taken to be created for the Northern Territory.



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment

(Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

This Bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to provide for a minimum of two divisions for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives. This has become necessary because there is expected to be an electoral redistribution during the 46th Parliament which may result in the Northern Territory losing one of its two seats, caused by its population falling below the entitlement quota for the second seat.

 

Legislating for two seats for the Northern Territory would recognise the huge geographical area of the Northern Territory, at over 1.4 million square kilometres and which includes the remote Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands. It is six times the size of Victoria and almost double the size of New South Wales.

 

A single seat in the House of Representatives would mean one Member of Parliament representing almost 250,000 Territorians. This would make the NT electorate by far Australia’s largest by population, with approximately 30,000 more people and spread over an area more than 35,000 times larger than the electorate of Melbourne.

 

A single electorate for the Northern Territory would not recognise the Territory's unique demography, particularly its 27 per cent Indigenous population.

 

Human rights implications

The Bill advances the protection of the human rights of the people of the Northern Territory by ensuring:

1)                   the right of citizens to take part in public affairs and elections (Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights);

2)                   the rights of people of the Northern Territory to participate in the government of their country through freely chosen representatives (Article 21, Universal Declaration of Human Rights); and

3)         the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights (Article 3, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it promotes the protection of human rights issues.

Senators McCarthy & Farrell