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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 492

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) introduced a deal of humour into this debate with his description of various political parties - the great and marvellous Australian Labor Party, for instance. On the other hand his description of the Democratic Labor Party as a nonentity, I am sure, will go down fairly well across Australia. Many people will rejoice in that description. Each man is entitled to his own opinion. I am certain that times are changing, and have changed since December I might add. Government supporters should get their ears to the ground a bit more before they shoot off their mouths about the great success they had at the last election. Good luck to them, but I advise them to keep listening. I am not apologising for supporting this Bill. I am not whining about it. A similar proposal was passed in the Northern Territory Legislative Council a couple of years ago by my own Party.

I cannot agree with the honourable member for Burke in insisting that the voting age should be reduced progressively down to 17, 16 - I do not know how young his family is - 15, 14, 13 or 10 years. Has the Government referred this matter to the Northern Territory Legislative Council or to the people of the Northern Territory? 1 repeat, a similar proposal was passed by the Legislative Council. Government supporters claim to be the great sponsors of freedom for all men, but the Northern Territory represents one-sixth of Australia and several people live in it. Consideration should be given to their views. Various other pieces of legislation are proposed for introduction to this House, including a Bill to provide for abortion on demand. Will this be referred to the Northern Territory Legislative Council or the people of the Northern Territory or will it be passed by a centralist government and pushed on to them whether or not they want it? That is a contentious issue. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is sitting at the table, will find that many of his own supporters would not support that proposal. 1 think that the Northern Territory is being insulted by the Government in this matter. The Northern Territory Legislative Council has passed also a proposal for the abolition of capital punishment. The Government disregards that entirely and says: 'We will put the Bill through'. No government in the last 25 years has levelled such an insult at the Northern Territory Legislative Council. No democratic government should do this sort of thing. It should consider the wishes of the people of the Northern Territory. The Government was elected on a promise to give the Legislative Council greater autonomy so that the people could have more say in their own affairs but the Government is legislating in this House without any reference to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. Not only that, but also it has taken from the Northern Territory responsibility for the administration of the police, the Survey Branch of the Lands Department, the Abor iginal affairs authority and the body responsible for community affairs. Where does the responsibility for these services now lie? They are now administered from Canberra. This is another instance of this great, marvellous Australian Labor Party which obviously does not give one flick of the fingers for the Northern Territory. The Australian Labor Party is not concerned about the Territory because it is 2,000 or 3,000 miles from Melbourne and Sydney, or wherever the Labor members come from or get their votes in the outer suburbs of the big cities.

Or Jenkins - Are you afraid of the 18-year olds?

Mr CALDER - No, I am certainly not afraid of the 18-year olds. In fact, I will stand here and say that they would have supported me in preference to the Australian Labor Party candidate in the last election. This is because I can identify myself with people of that age.

Dr Jenkins - Resign and give it a chance after the legislation is passed.

Mr CALDER - The running commentary is not assisting me in making this speech. I turn to another aspect of the legislation. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is not in the chamber but I know that he was displaying an interest in these matters and will hear of my remarks, as also will the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant). The advice circulated to honourable members shows that 4,362 persons in the Northern Territory are in the 18 to 20 years age group. The Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) cited the figure as 6,000. I do not know whether his figures are more up to date than those supplied to honourable members. Nevertheless, the informal vote at the last election, despite a termendous effort on behalf of the electoral officers concerned, was 5 per cent. The electoral officers - Mr Lee and the men in that Department - are to be congratulated for the effort they made to educate people, mainly Aborigines, to be able to vote with preference cards listing 6 or 7 candidates. The result of the election shows that they followed the cards quite accurately. As there was a 5 per cent or greater informal vote at the last election, I ask the Ministers responsible for this matter to start now to teach not only Aborigines but also young men and women down to the age of 18, or as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) suggested, down to the age of 14 years. The teaching should start now because I know that many of these young people really do not understand the preference system. It is all very well to give them a vote, but the essential thing is to teach them what to do with it and how they can best help their own interests, whether this is to be achieved by voting for the Australian Labor Party or the Country Party.

Mr Keogh - It will be first past the post.

Mr CALDER - I think that the result would be the same. That is my advice to the Minister responsible for the passage of this legislation. I have no objection to the measure and I am not afraid of it. It was mooted in the Northern Territory 2 or 3 years ago. My message to the Minister is that the people who have to vote should be educated in the exercise of their rights.

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